BlackBerry Torch ready to burn competition

A new
BlackBerry called the Torch, with both a touch screen and slide-out QWERTY
keyboard goes on sale next week.

 Research in Motion revamped its smartphone in
a effort to attract more customers and compete with Apple’s iPhone and phones
using the Android operating system.

The phone, also known as the
BlackBerry 9800, will be available 12 August, and cost $199 with a two-year
contract with AT&T, which will be the exclusive provider of the Torch.

The device will use RIM’s new
Operating System 6, which includes a badly needed re-do of the BlackBerry web
browser, which is painfully slow and frustrating to use. The new browser is
based on WebKit, the same engine used by Apple and Google.

The Torch, noted NPD analyst Ross
Rubin, looks “a bit like a high-end Palm Pre” with its touch screen
and slide-out keyboard. It has a 3.2-inch, 360-by-480 capacitive touch-screen
display.

The phone, with Wi-Fi, has
pinch-to-zoom on the touch screen, something the iPhone and other devices
already feature. It also has a 5-megapixel camera with flash and autofocus, as
well as “environment” settings. The camera will name pictures by
location.

A hallmark of the new operating
system is universal search, also offered on the iPhone, Android and Palm
devices. It lets users search their devices by keyword to find anything on the
device — in e-mail, contacts or music, for example — to that keyword.

BlackBerry App World, RIM’s version
of Apple’s App Store for phone programs to add, will come pre-installed on the
phone. Currently, users have had to download App World onto their devices.

Without a contract, the Torch will
cost $499.99.

WORLDBlackberryTorchSTORY

The new BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone is unveiled Tuesday.
Photo: Research in Motion
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