By Patrick Avenell
SYDNEY NSW: The BlackBerry Torch has been my primary mobile phone for three months now and in this time I have developed a strange love/hate relationship with it. Much like St George Illawarra premiership five-eight Jamie Soward, it is very polarising, with the great features of this smartphone addictively lovable but its shortfalls frustratingly loathsome. Here are the four things I love and hate about the BlackBerry Torch.
The combination of a full touchscreen with a full QWERTY keyboard. Unlike most devices that make you choose one or tother for the length of your contract, the convenience of having a full keypad for tapping out long emails and a touchscreen for when you want to play around with the settings or surf the internet is fantastic.
The keypad long touch capitalises letters, rather than inserting the alternate symbol applied to each letter. One rarely uses capitals in emails anyway, and even the most pedantic only for the start of sentences and some of the more important proper nouns (the boss’s name, for example), so it would be better for long touch to bring up the dollar sign or the question mark.
The pre-installed social networking applications are the best of the devices I’ve played with (virtually all except the iPhone). On previous handsets I’ve had to download and install third party clients for Facebook and Twitter, but the BlackBerry apps are not only better but also fully integrated into the phone’s DNA, so that alerts on these networks appear in my unified mailbox (this feature can be turned off). There’s also a seamless social feeds app to post to multiple sites at once, though this is now present on almost all smartphones.
There’s no function for completely locking a phone immediately. For some strange reason, the phone lock takes one minute at the shortest setting to lock down the handset, requiring a password for re-entry. With BlackBerrys traditionally used for business purposes, it is essential that a lot of the content and settings on the device can be secured. It is very frustrating that after locking the phone you have to hold it for a minute to ensure your data is protected. What’s more, you can’t put it straight in your pocket as this will press one of the six exposed buttons, waking it up to all sorts of pocket exploits (such as erroneously emailing the boss).
The BlackBerry Torch 9800.
The camera and its associated functionality are superb. Even though it’s the current smartphone standard 5 megapixels (not taking into account Nokia’s bizarre N8 camera that is also a phone), the images captured are clearly better than comparable handsets. Furthermore, the networking of these images is the best available, with users able to resize and send images to Twitter, Facebook, on email or via SMS with only a few taps of the touchscreen. Most importantly, the firmware running this process is superfast.
The phone doesn’t ring properly. Although actually taking calls is fast becoming an antiquated function of a smartphone, it is reassuring to know that on the off chance someone does want to speak to you (your boss, for example), you will be able to take the call. Despite trying every setting available on all the different pre-set tones (and I like the phone to have a boring old ring ring ringtone), and consulting the many different BlackBerry blogs on the net, I can’t manage to get the Torch to ring loudly and consistently. At present, when I do receive a call, it makes the ringing noise only once every five seconds. A lot of people, such as my boss, aren’t patient enough wait that long.
The little hardware things are just right: there’s micro USB for charging, tethering and data transfer; a 3.5-millimetre headphone jack and mircoSD for expandable memory. At a time when the world’s most pervasive hardware supplier is taking these things away from consumers to force them into more red tape, the Torch just lets consumers run wild with hardware they most probably have inherited from their previous phones.
As a handset, you wouldn’t call the Torch the sexiest phone on the market. Smartphones aren’t just about connecting with people 24 hours a day, their also a statement about who you are. There is no doubt that people love using their iPhone 4 or their Desire HD as a status symbol, showing off their wealth, tech savvyness and fashion sense. The Torch, for all it’s good points, is as close to a modern day brick as you can find: it’s heavy, clunky and, even with the slide function (which is definitely still cool) is altogether an uncool device. This factor won’t mean anything to some people, but for a lot of smartphone consumers, it’s the smarts that only runs skin deep.