The BlackBerry Torch 9860 recently hit Sprint shelves, and we’ve been playing with one for about a week prior to release. The new Torch is part of a trio of devices spearheading RIM’s shift to the wonderful world of 1.2 GHz processors, and the 9850 / 9860 is the one with the biggest screen on a BlackBerry to date. Not only does the 3.7-inch display stand up to the 4-inch sizes becoming more and more commonplace on smartphones, the 800 x 480 resolution is respectable too.
Almost three years ago, RIM went out on a limb and made their first touchscreen BlackBerry. The Storm was a pretty big deal for them, since BlackBerry typically stuck to the QWERTY candybar form factor with little differentiation. The the Pearl 8100′s initial push into the consumer space was made by adopting a radically new shape and a T9-esque typing scheme that more closely resembled a classic cell phone, so it made sense that RIM provided something similar to address the incoming flood of touchscreen slates at the time. That same adventurousness led them to include a clicking touchscreen on the BlackBerry Storm, called SurePress. On paper, the idea made sense: you could hover over UI elements and get some reaction confirming what you had selected, and pressing on the screen would click it. Unfortunately for RIM, most folks weren’t overly enamoured with the mechanism. RIM tried refining SurePress with the Storm2, but that also failed to capture the interest of consumers, who had become accustomed to standard capacative touchscreens.
Here we are two years after the Storm2 launched, and RIM is having another go at the touchscreen slate form factor. They’ve ditched SurePress and the Storm name, hopefully with all the bad mojo surrounding it. BlackBerry devices are already facing an uphill battle – can a phone without RIM’s legendary physical keyboard keep up the pace with its more traditional cousins, let alone competition from other manufacturers? Let’s find out.