BlackBerry Torch 9800: Everything You Need to Know

With the iPhone 4, HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Captivate all shaking down smartphone buyers for money this summer, the BlackBerry stable of smartphones was starting to look a little grey – until today, that is. At a press event in New York City, Research in Motion did its best to streak in some Just for Men with the Torch, the latest member of an expanding family of touchscreen BlackBerry devices. Why is the Torch so hot? Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know.

How is the Torch different from any other BlackBerry?

It’s the first BlackBerry to offer a hybrid experience – meaning both a touchscreen and RIM’s legendary tactile keyboard. The Storm series of devices that introduces touch to the BlackBerry portfolio have never offered hard keyboards, and none of the more traditional BlackBerrys, like the Bold 9700, have ever made use of touch. The QWERTY keyboard on the Torch slides out vertically, like on the Palm Pre, and there’s an optical trackpad as well.

It’s also the first BlackBerry device to offer BlackBerry OS 6, the next major revision of RIM’s operating system, and the first to support multitouch – which allows gestures like two-fingered pinching to zoom and unzoom, for instance.

Why do I care about BlackBerry OS 6?

Mostly the browser. BlackBerry OS 6 will bring a browser based on WebKit – the same technology powering browsers on iOS, Android and WebOS – for a smoother, more powerful browsing experience. Traditionally, the weak BlackBerry browser has been one of its biggest faults, so moving that experience forward should give the brand a real boost. That’s far from everything, though. RIM will also implement multitouch, kinetic scrolling, a revamped home screen, universal search, and a brand new media player. Read more about all of them in our first look at the new features in BlackBerry OS 6.

What do the specs look like?

The Torch has a 3.2-inch HVGA+ screen (480 x 360), weighs 5.68 ounces, and measures 4.37 inches tall, 2.44 wide, and 0.57 deep, making it one of the largest BlackBerry devices in the current lineup. You’ll also get a 5-megapixel camera with flash, 4GB of built-in memory with a 4GB microSD card included (the slot can handle up to 32GB) and of course, 3G connectivity. RIM estimates it will deliver 5.5 hours of talk time on GSM networks and 18 days of standby. Hit RIM for the nitty gritty.

When will it be available? On what network? How much?

BlackBerry decided not to tease us for too long, instead launching the Torch on August 12, less than two weeks after the announcement, on AT&T. Like all next-gen phones, it will cost you $200 after signing a two-year contract.

For more pictures check out our Torch photo gallery.

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