BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review – The Aftermath

Since I only had the BlackBerry Torch 9800 for a little over a day for my review, and given how important the device is to RIM’s future, it seems prudent to update some of my impressions. My generally positive conclusions have shriveled up a bit since loading up the Torch 9800 with apps and getting used to it as a daily driver for a week. That’s not to say the Torch has gone bad, but the novelty has certainly worn off.

My biggest complaint is the inconsistent performance of the notification bar. As the first point of contact when you get a new e-mail, Twitter mention, or phone call, I expected RIM would have polished notifications to a reflective shine, but I’ve found that even when the icon shows up on the bar, the link to the notification’s respective app doesn’t always show up in the drop-down menu. It doesn’t fail 100% of the time, but it works properly about as often as it doesn’t.

A lot of the native apps have been nicely streamlined with software buttons along the bottom, offering access to common commands. For example, Tasks lets you mark items complete with one touch (no need to click through, or go into a menu), or adding an appointment in the Calendar, or saving favourites in Files. The idea is carried throughout many native apps, and provides even more convenience than the short menus that pop up from clicking the trackpad.

The Contacts app shows recent activity history at the bottom of the entry, including text messages, status updates, calls, and the like. This can be really handy, since you’re usually looking someone up in your address book for something specific, and that recent activity can provide a direct link to references you need. A particularly great address book link is Twitter, which had yet to pair with local contacts as instant messaging apps (like Google Talk, AIM, and BBM) have done. There were some irregularities sending direct messages from a contact, but nothing the next patch won’t fix. Importing Google contacts through the utility built into BlackBerry Internet Service didn’t work especially well, as it just piled up all of the home/business address into one field, rather than dispersing them into respective fields (street, city, postal code, etc.).

After loading up all of my usual apps, it didn’t take long for that familiar hourglass to pop up again, forcing me to not do what I wanted because my BlackBerry has some tidying up to do around the place. Given, on my Bold 9000 this problem is a little more chronic, but it’s still disheartening to see it reappear on the Torch 9800. One would hope that as a brand new generation of software, glaringly obvious problems like that would have been stomped out. On top of the browser being especially taxing on the 624 MHz processor, I’ve found that things also slow to a crawl when streaming music over Bluetooth. Again, I hope these are problems that a simple firmware update will fix, maybe around the same time the 9700 gets OS 6, or when the 9780 launches.

I still love universal search, and it’s the one hook that has me digging BlackBerry 6, but there are a few gaps. Although it includes the Music app, I’d like universal search to include albums, artists, and playlists, on top of searching individual tracks. Social Feeds and even the dedicated social networking apps should also plug into universal search, not necessarily to look for entries, but to launch into a status update. Being able to start typing from a dead stop and then updating multiple social networks with one press would be pretty sweet.

Speaking of Social Feeds, though it’s still not an app I’m especially inclined to use with all of the dedicated clients installed, if it could plug into the camera app and let you share pictures to multiple networks at once à la Pixelpipe, I might end up using it more often. Text status messages are a good start, in any case.

BlackBerry Maps are conspicuously absent from AT&T’s BlackBerry Torch 9800. You can pull it up when clicking through on maps in Foursquare or Twitter, but it seems like AT&T is more interested in pushing their premium Maps and Navigation app. It’s not that you necessarily miss BlackBerry Maps with Google Maps for Mobile kicking around, it’s just sad to see RIM sacrifice something they could actually do something interesting with (Latitude for BBM, anyone?) for the sake of placating a carrier partner.

As far as the hardware goes, little has changed. The Torch is terrible in the pocket, since the lock key is prone to getting pressed no matter which way it goes down. The slide is still pretty snappy though, and I find the optical trackpad does surprisingly well in direct sunlight.

The main thing that has changed over the last week is that I’m less positive that I’ll upgrade to the Torch, especially with a year left on my contract. OS 6 software is coming to older, more affordable devices if I really have a hankering for it, and the fact that my two year old phone has the same screen resolution and processor power makes me think I can wait – I don’t really need more app memory or an upgraded camera that badly anyway. Who knows, maybe some clever hackers will shoehorn OS 6 into the Bold 9000, and lord knows some third party apps can give me the equivalent convenience of universal search. The Storm 3 (or something else from RIM) better totally blow me away by the time my contract expires, or it may be hard to avoid looking at Android.

I still hold my recommendations for those who are interested in buying a Torch 9800, but office monkeys who are chained to BlackBerry out of necessity will need to have a significantly older device to warrant an upgrade (something pre-9000), and only consumers new to smartphones who know that they live or die by e-mail should consider picking up the BlackBerry Torch over an iPhone or Android device; even then, if you’re willing to give up the immediacy of push everything, Android will probably treat you better.

If you haven’t had a chance, be sure to check out the bulk of our BlackBerry Torch 9800 review, complete with video and screenshots.

  • John

    Release the dinosaur and go with the iPhone! Android is not as good yet but could be in the future.

    My friend who has a BB for work and a personal iPhone is the one who referred to BB as such and I have to agree. Too little, too late.

    With iPhone going on all major carriers plus the iPod Touch 4, that’s where it’s at. No more excuses to get left behind!

    • Diesel

      I am sorry my friend, but every phone has its kink. You all have forgotten the death grip for the Iphone? My suggestion to all the sheeps out there: look for a phone that suits your need. Blackberry is good for all the email and texting you want. The Iphone is good for its multimedia(Itunes). Android is good for the ease of use and the customization. Those are facts. Do not just follow others, be your own man!!!

      • Mattomega

        I think the whole Blackberry myth about strong e-mail and texting is totally overblown. Set your e-mail accounts to IMAP and they will all push mail to your iPhone, Android, or whatever. I like what I’ve seen from the Torch, but all the phones “do e-mail,” just fine. Blackberry is not in the lead there. Talk about sheep, Diesel!

        • Simon Sage

          Push is definitely becoming less of a lead for RIM, but there’s a difference between handling e-mail “just fine” and handling e-mail well. BlackBerry handles it well, and the people who place e-mail as a high priority can recognize the difference.

          • WHo

            Agree to Simon
            I use both iphone and bb, so I really understand the differences.

            Almost similar to
            Iphone is for game & multimedia applications (not sure whether Torch could beat iphone on this)
            BB is for social networking & messaging applications (bb 3x faster in typing and receving email than iphone)

            Never use Android phone… so I could not comment

  • Mattl

    Sync to outlook is one reason I’m thinking of staying with blackberry and getting the torch. Oandroid doesn’t do it yet. Otherwise.. ID be gone baby gone. Tried one in store tonight: keyboard NOT as good as bold 9000. I agree with your points, things should have been a little more “wow”. I think i read there won’t be a storm 3 btw.

    • Anuj

      there is an app on android market which does that, it is called Touchdown 2.0….and for blackberry u need stupid BES to connect, android just works with normal access.

  • kay

    For some reason I nor any of the AT&T associates can figure out why I do not receive my emails on the phone. I thought I needed a change from the Iphone but I guess I thought wrong. Iphone 4 is on order.

  • Patrick

    I switched from the Bold 9000 to an iPhone for about 2 weeks when I leared about the Torch. Because of the outlook integration, I decided to get the Torch. Got to say, the keyboard is hard to use. IF RIM could make one with the same size as the Bold, it would be much better. The touch screen is nothing like the iPhone. Got to say the iPhone is far superior. If the iPhone integration to Exchange could see the availability of others on the Exchange server, I would have stayed with the iphone even without a physical keyboard. Sort of dissapointed with the Torch. Considering going back to my Bold. Got 20 more days to try the Torch out. If you are considering the Torch from a Curve or Bold, hold off. Torch is not worth the upgrade.

  • will

    i like my torch. but the only problems i have is that it is a tad slow and my screen feels kinda loose( not sure if its supposed to be alil loose). my sister and my mom both have i phones and the torch is much better. my sister actually got a bold this week too.

  • 4ron

    I have been looking at a Torch for 2 weeks now and still find the physical keyboard feeling a bit cheap. It lacks the smooth, waxy finish on the Bold. The keys are also somewhat flat in order to slide under the case. Not as easy to use when doing longer emails. I am sticking with my Bold 9700 and will wait for the OS upgrade.

    • toaster

      The 9700 isnt OS upgradeable. They’re releasing another version of the Bold with the better OS and more memory. The new Curve 3G however is upgradeable to the OS6

      • Malinda_crouse

        I’m sorry. That’s not completely true. My son is using my old BB 9700, since I’ve switched to the 9800, and he downloaded and installed the OS 6 operating system on his phone. Works like a charm and he’s now a firm BB fan.

  • TBoner

    Why can’t one company just get their S!@# together and bring out the be all and end all of phones. BB had their chance this time, and they missed it. They had the phone that was perfect, touch screen, slide out keyboard and trackpad, but the guts they put in the device are not stellar. They will not get a chance like this again, so IMHO, BB is only going to lose share in the consumer market. They just can’t compete with Apple.

    Maybe next time RIM should team the release between Canada and US, opening week would not have looked as sad. I live in Canada and know a lot of Canadians were talking about this device, until they read they American reviews (myself included). Ie, I would have bought the device if the folks down south had not taken the first plunge.

    If my company did not force me to use BB, I would not be a BB user.

  • fail

    “BlackBerry Maps are conspicuously absent from AT&T’s BlackBerry Torch 9800.”

    Do some research. BlackBerry Maps is “absent” for ALL AT&T blackberrys as they block the it in an attempt to get customers to pay 10 bucks a month to use their GPS software.

  • GR

    I do own BB Bold 9000 and a iPhone 3GS. Being and enterpreneur i still prefer BB over any smartphones. The most secured email and BBM with PIN to PIN services and encrypted data. Surely to be trusted over iPhone or iFun which I refer it to as.

    I want to upgrade to Torch as it is with new OS and new features but as mentioned with other users, i am waiting for OS upgrade or my be the new updated device as RIM may rework on the physical keyboard. Till then i am not parting with my Bold 9000.



  • Mikey

    Stop kidding yourselves, I have numerous blackberry’s in my closet laid to rest as my new iPhone 4 cannot be matched by ANY phone out there.
    iPhone 4 > BB, Android, etc etc….

  • jc

    I played with this phone in the store and it did not knock my socks off. Definitely not worth switching to AT&T for. I was also disappointed to find out that the my Storm will not be getting the new OS.

    I am waiting a few more months to see what the new Windows Phone 7 devices look like. From what I saw in a demo device it blows away blackberry and most of the Android phones I have seen.

    Blackberry fans can only hope this is the “Kin” of RIM and the real 6.0 devices coming out this fall (Storm 3) will have some Mojo.

  • Ray

    I have now had the bb torch for the better part of a month now and do like many of the features but the cons are starting to outweigh the positives. The screen lock button on the top left of the phone is way too sensitive and unlocks the screen activating applications and even deleted a contact and made a phone call while in my pocket. I had to download a 3.99 application lock that works better but still not great. The biggest issue at this time is the microphone has a tinny vibration when you talk into both the handset as well as a wired headset especially when you set the volume to 100%. The other day I made a phone call and my wife on the other end could only hear the background noise when I was clearly speaking right into the handset. A few days left with before I can cancel the contract and think I will be bringing it back this morning.

    • pedro

      i just bought the torch a few days ago, but i feel an echo when im talking, like a buzz… i went to change it, they gave me a new one, sealed box, the same thing…
      i went to another store…. changed it… the same thing. the only solution they gave me, switch to an iphone 4….
      if anyone know something about it, or how to fix it, i will appreciate the comments…. cause, at the end, i really like this phone.

  • Mark Evanier

    Android is no good for you folks on AT&T. You can’t install 3rd party applications on AT&T Android phones. Its restricted to Android only apps. Of course this could just be a measure used by AT&T to kill Android phones and boost the Iphone market.

  • progeo

    I am long time with O2 and with BlackBerry Bold 9000. My wife prefer iPhone. Is no a doubt that even BlackBerry BIS e-mail, system is perfect. I not see alternative, nowadays!

  • Ben_g_qd

    I just bought my blackberry torch! it has too many problems with it. First of all, it gets too hot when i charge it. Sometimes, the “go back” button doesn’t work when i go browse. I couldn’t get the browse to work sometimes. Not to mention any other problems.

  • Jessicacoward

    Ive had a horrible time with the torch. None of my apps (that Ive downloaded) work. My browser doesnt work. It freezes every time i try to do something. I’ve had my iphone for 3 years and have never been as frustrated when trying to use my phone, I’ve wanted to smash this thing so many times. I’m very disappointed in this BB. navigating through this BB and having to manually close open apps is freaking annoying. The maps app sucks compared to iphone. the facebook app is also crap.
    It’s no wonder I carry my iphone everywhere still. It proves to be more useful even when its just wifi.
    I also receive notifications on my 3 year old iphone faster than this stupid piece of ****… I CANNOT believe I wasted $200 on this. I’ll be going back to the iphone. waste of my time.

    • Zoetje

      i also have that problem that when i want to gon on the internet, my bb torch freezes and doesn’t do shit anymore! whas it for a short time or did this problem stayed ?

  • Eleanor

    I have had the BB torch for about a month. I like it for the most part but I miss my BB 8300 even. It had google maps and BB maps and torch isn’t compatible. Most likely to make money on another app. I like the touch screen, I like the camera and the viewing of the pics.

    I can’t keep it in a pocket or it unlocks, I put it in a carrying case and clip it to my pocket or purse and when I pull it out when it is ringing, I hit the lock button. I also, do not like the mute button. my cheek presses it constantly when I am talking. That irritates me most of all. It does not always go back when I hit the back button. if I slide up the screen while laying down, I have no where to hold to phone to type and it tips backwards and I try to support it with a finger on the top but it touches the screen while I type making the cursor go into an area I don’t want it and the typing ends up in there then I have to delete it or try to select it and copy and paste it into the right place. I can’t send a large photo to anyone, it is too larger for the server. I have to send medium. sometimes that is not large enough. My favorites disappear and I have to put them back in there and I have to move my icons around they move themselves or delete themselves and I have to put them back. even though the browser sucked on the 8300 and is much better on the torch, I miss my BB 8300 a little.

  • Joe in DC

    The Google Maps app that does run on the Torch is junk. I will not make use of the the GPS that is supposedly in my Torch, so the accuracy is down to about a block. Which is good if you know where you are, but when you don’t, it’s a disaster. I travel, so maps is key. After having used an iphone and an Android, both of which have excellent GPS maps and map search, this is a bitter disappointment. If my company didn’t give me this device, I’d toss it now and get either one. ATT needs to think about its customers instead of trying to push some kind of fee service or whatever they’re doing.

  • David G

    My torch has a problem of missing the GO button when I log into my Banking site or some various sights that need a user name and password then a Go or Enter button is to be clicked. In various applications the go button is missing and I can’t continue which is frustrating. My Phone is only a couple of months old and this is a very frustrating. I bought it in New Brunswick Canada from Bell Aliant and I am wondering if I need to do an update even though I logged on the sight and it said I did not need an update.

  • Vani M

    I have had my Torch for about a month now and I am having an issue with sending text messages. The text messages that I send out come up as ‘Null’ or ‘Unreadable’ on the recipients side….
    Any thoughts on this…..
    Also does anyone know how to access outlook folders other than the inbox. I am able to filter to personal folders when accessing my gmail mailbox but not with my work owa…..

  • Maprusso

    You are correct the lock key is not worth much. Also, when I select a message or email to read, and I clearly select the appropriate one, another message/email will come up on the screen, even though another is highlighted. This happens repeatedly.

  • Ashit Mapanz

    My kept Locking…not happy..took it back..using my old Motorola and My ITouch…ahh..$60 Bucks a month!

  • Plummdc

    I sell cell phones for a living. I have owned blackberry, iphone, androids you name it I have had it. And I just want to say that the iphone is not the top phone everyone is making it out to be. iPhone is a great toy. But as a business tool, blackberry takes the cake in efficiency and security

    • Linkamerica

      So why does the BlackBerry Torch 9800 which happens to be the latest technology from RIM keep giving people problem.
      It seems as if good time is not taken to work on that phone before it was released into the market.
      I just pray that they (RIM) will be able to come up with a reasonable solution for all these problems plaguing the 9800 torch so that people’s money and trust will not be in vain.

      • Lee

        Well, thats because not many people are compelled to go online and praise a phone unless they are paid to say how great it is on a forum.

        People complain for free cause its easy to hate. You will always see more people listing complaints than praise. The only anomaly is iphone and thats because Apple has and still pays people to post on forums etc. Apple havent sold the iphone, they sell the fasion and the ads.

  • Patrosha

    why browser doesnt work with bb torch?
    do i have this problem aloooooooone?


    I have the BlackBerry Torch 9800,after downloading the new software 6.0,I lost all the third party programmes that I bought and the blackberry application world icon on the phone.
    Now I can’t download or install anything on the phone.
    One,what can be responsible for this problem and two what can I do to rectify the problem.


    Please I hope somebody will be able to help me with my BlackBerry Torch 9800 (UNLOCKED).
    Ever since I have installed the new software (6.0),I can no longer download or install any third party programme.
    Unfortunately,I supposed as a result of this action,the BlackBerry Application World Icon was lost and I have tried to re-install it but I just can’t.

    • Lee

      you should always back up your phone using the desktop software before any OS update…

      BB torch should have 6.0 already installed… so not sure what you did

      You can go to the normal mobile BB App website using your browser – from there the BB should recognise the site and operate like an app VIA the BROWSER and you can DL App world again.

  • Lee

    Had the phone for a few weeks, been fine minus a few spaz attacks when installing a few things. But for the time being, no problems at all. Browser is a tad slow but then again, Im on Telstra (Australia) which, by default is faster than all other providers and therefore, my browsing speed is unnoticable.

    My only complaint is, sometimes, I try to touch something and I get the one below it…. all fixed now, I jsut had to make the blocking slight bigger by 1 point in the font.

    Thats one thing the iFollow cant do, 99.99% customisability. Google knew that, and thats why Android is so popular. Although, I havent seen a phone other than Blackberry that gives you the option to use shortcuts on a qwerty keyboard or an automatic universal search. I just updated my iFollow touch a a few weeks ago and the “search” function feels intrusive when I dont need it and cumbersome when I do.

    Although, I DO love my iFollow Touch. I paid 1/5 of the price of an iPhone…. and its basically an iphone minus a phone…. I wonder why the phone app is so expensive?

  • LarryK

    You did not deal with what appears to be very short battery life on charge up. I find that the Torch, which I have had for a week, needs much more frequent recharges than my old BBL. If I will be out of the office or the car for more than four hours, an extra battery (or even two) are essential. The nuisance involved in replacing the battery is that the device then resets itself.

  • Javb0119

    I had a new BB torch several months ago and I noticed the following changes in its initial performance. First, the clock icon (loader icon) keeps on popping-out everytime I started to type and/or go about the menu. Second is I started to type there is a notification of “input error…”. Third is that, the battery life seems to shorten as I observed the phone to be unsually “hot” causing excessive battery usage leading to shorter battery life. It is very annoying and uncomfortable to use it on routine work as you are unsure of its perfomance especially when you are mobile..

  • BritneyB

    I have had a contract with ATT since March and I am now on my 3rd BB torch. My first one’s screen started freezing and turning white….the only way I could get the screen to go back to normal was to turn my phone completly off and then turn it back on. I took it back after having it for only 7 days and they replaced it with another one right away. Then my second one lasted until about one month ago. It started saying searching for service when I should have a full service. Also, it would turn off and boot up all by itself every 15-30 minutes…I called ATT and they sent me a brand new one through the mail and had me send the defective one back to them at no charge to me. Even though I had sooo many problems with mine I still LOVE my phone. I love being able to have the touch screen or key pad availble to me.

  • Torch Regrets

    The touch screen is a complete pain in butt.   it’s always locking and unless i’m mistaken the only way you can unlock the screen is with a password.   it’s driving me crazy.  I hate it.   Also, talking on the phone is ridiculous because you’re pressing your face against a touch screen.   I miss the Bold.   

    • Dylan Latega

      there is a proximity sensor, when you put the screen close to your face it turns the screen and touch screen off, also goes onto loudspeaker(weird) but can be turned off under settings!!!

  • elroy

    this BB monster call alone, this BB monster is nightmare for user

  • Zero_impc

    The one u getting is the problem not Torch as a whole. yeap coz im using it too and it still deliver the speed everybody expecting from a blackberry. my feedbacks. Thank you.

  • Innocent_love49

    aslam o alikom 2 all 
                     i have a 9800 tourch its hang on came plzzzzzzzzz help me:(

  • Jim

    I had one of these things for six months. AT&T refused to do anything saying it was Blackberry’s problem. Blackberry customer support refused to take any responsibility finally telling me that it was perfectly acceptable for their product to completely fail on a regular basis. I finally solved all the all teh problems with the Black berry…..I dumped it and went to an iphone.

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