Hands-on with BlackBerry Bold 9900, Torch 9810 and Torch 9860

Hands-on with BlackBerry Bold 9900, Torch 9810 and Torch 9860

Faster and Smoother BlackBerry 7 Experience

When Research in Motion (RIM) announced on 3rd August that it was having the biggest global launch of BlackBerry smartphones with more than 225 partners around the world, we were eager to know if our sunny island would be one of them. After all, nobody wants to be left out of such major product launches. We were excited after receiving an invitation by RIM to a special preview session of the new BlackBerry 7 smartphones. We joined RIM this evening for some hands-on with the finest BlackBerry smartphones to date. Read on to find out more about the upcoming BlackBerry 7 smartphones:

Francois Mahieu, Senior Director and Product Management of Asia, was present to launch the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

We also had a chance to preview the upcoming BlackBerry Torch 9810 (left) and Torch 9860 (right).

BlackBerry Torch 9810

Although the BlackBerry Torch 9810 looks no different from its predecessor, the BlackBerry Torch 9800, it is actually much more powerful. Under the hood lies a speedy 1.2GHz processor and 768MB of RAM, which is a significant upgrade from the 624MHz processor and 512MB of RAM in the 9800. You must be pondering why RIM decided to go ahead with a single core processor when the rest of the competition is charging ahead with dual-core mobile chipsets in their devices. According to RIM, dual-core processors currently have negative impacts on battery life. RIM believes in balancing between battery performance and providing an optimal user experience on its BlackBerry smartphones. After all, RIM is well-known for churning out devices with long lasting battery life.

Do not be deceived by the looks of the BlackBerry Torch 9810. Beneath that facade lies a bumped up processor and more RAM to give a smooth user experience on the BlackBerry 7 OS.

As expected from RIM, the sliding mechanism of the BlackBerry Torch 9810 felt smooth. Because of its form factor, the Torch 9810 looks and feels thick.

You will find the Screen Lock button and Mute button on the top side of the Torch 9810.

Slide up and you will find the familiar QWERTY keyboard of the Torch 9810. The keys have excellent tactile feedback and provide a very comfortable typing experience. Without a doubt, RIM still makes one of the best QWERTY keyboards on mobile phones today.

 The BlackBerry Torch 9810 comes in a refreshing zinc grey color with a small grid battery door. It is also equipped with a 5-megapixel camera which is capable of 720p HD video recording.

BlackBerry Torch 9810

Key highlights of the BlackBerry Torch 9810

  • BlackBerry 7 OS
  • 1.2GHz single-core processor
  • 768 RAM / 8GB onboard memory
  • 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen / 253 DPI 
  • Liquid Graphics technology
  • 5-megapixel autofocus rear camera
  • 720p HD video recording
  • NFC support
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 111 x 62 x 14.6m
  • Available in the coming weeks

BlackBerry Torch 9860

Gone are the days of the SurePress technology that plagued the BlackBerry Storm2 9520 and Storm 9500. RIM hit the home run with the BlackBerry Torch 9860 by combining a generous 3.7-inch high resolution display with the fast and fluid BlackBerry 7 experience. The Torch 9860 also claims the honor of having the largest display ever featured on a BlackBerry smartphone. Moreover, the Torch 9860 touts the Liquid Graphics technology which delivers fast and smooth graphics.

RIM ditches its traditional QWERTY candy bar form factor for an all touch design for the BlackBerry Torch 9860. Thanks to the Liquid Graphics technology, the display looked gorgeous.

During our hands-on at the event, the accelerometer of the BlackBerry Torch 9860 had difficulties adjusting to the orientation of the device. We do hope that RIM could iron out this issue before it is commercially available.

RIM has certainly improved in its design aspects with the BlackBerry Torch 9860 measuring only 11.5mm thick. It also felt good in the hands due to its premium build quality,

The traditional physical keyboard that BlackBerry is famous for has been replaced by a virtual QWERTY keyboard. The touch typing experience was decent as the buttons were large enough and sufficiently spaced apart.

The virtual QWERTY keyboard can also be used in landscape mode, While RIM positions the BlackBerry Torch 9860 as an all touch device, do take note that the four menu buttons ( two on each side of the trackpad) are not touch-sensitive.

 Similar to the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Torch 9810, the Torch 9860 comes with a 5-megapixel camera.

BlackBerry Torch 9860

Key highlights of the BlackBerry Torch 9860

  • BlackBerry 7 OS
  • 1.2GHz single-core processor
  • 768MB RAM / 4GB onboard memory
  • 3.69-inch capacitive touchscreen / 253DPI
  • Liquid Graphics technology
  • 5-megapixel autofocus rear camera
  • 720p HD video recording
  • Up to 36GB microSD (external)
  • Accelerometer
  • Digital compass
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 120 x 62 x 11.5mm
     
  • Available in the coming weeks

BlackBerry Bold 9900

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is nothing new to us since our hands-on during CommunicAsia 2011 in June. To find out more about the BlackBerry Bold 9900, click here. For the benefit of those who want a summary of what the Bold 9900 has to offer, here is a quick recap of the features of the Bold 9900. It is not only the thinnest BlackBerry smartphone at 10.5mm, it is also one of the fastest with a 1.2GHz single-core processor. Those who prefer QWERTY smartphones will definitely love the Bold 9900 as it has the best in class wide QWERTY keyboard, similar to the one on the Bold 9000.

Being the flagship Bold model, RIM uses a brushed stainless steel frame that is designed with precision for both performance and functionality. When asked if there is going to be a white variant of the Bold 9900, RIM acknowledged that there are different segments in the consumer market that have color preferences, and hence will continue to explore the possibility of offering one. However, it is too early to determine if a white Bold 9900 will be available anytime soon.

We felt that RIM has done an excellent job with the design of the BlackBerry Bold 9900, which exudes a high-end premium look and feel,

For those who fell in love with the BlackBerry Bold at first sight (we admit we do), preorder starts today from all three telcos and will be available in stores on 1st September.

BlackBerry Bold 9900

Key highlights of the BlackBerry Torch 9900

  • BlackBerry 7 OS
  • 1.2GHz single-core processor
  • 768MB RAM / 8GB onboard memory
  • 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen / 640 x 480 pixels
  • 5-megapixel autofocus rear camera
  • Up to 32GB microSD (external)
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 1230mAh
  • 130g
  • 115 x 66 x 10.5mm
     
  • Available for preorder today from all three telcos
  • Available at all three telcos from 1st September 2011 onwards

Closing Thoughts

We had mixed feelings about the BlackBerry 7 OS. After two hands-on sessions and a preview of the new BlackBerry smartphones, we felt happy that RIM has stepped out from the shadow of dated user interfaces. The BlackBerry 7 OS looked promising with its next generation browser that offers a faster and more fluid web browsing experience. We also liked the Liquid Graphics technology that could hold its own against the likes of Super AMOLED screens (from Samsung) and Retina displays (from Apple).

These are the two key features of the BlackBerry 7 OS that we thought helped narrow the gap between RIM and its competitors.

However, we wondered if these changes came a little too late as RIM has been losing market share to its competitors. In addition, we felt that RIM is always a few steps behind the competition with its offerings. Although BlackBerry 7 OS offers a refreshing look, many would find it inferior compared to Apple iOS and Google Android especially in the aspect of user interface and app numbers.

While it is known that future BlackBerry smartphones will be running on the QNX OS, RIM has not provided us with a specific time frame as to when we can expect the first QNX-powered device to arrive in the market although we were told to keep a lookout in 2012. RIM also made clear that the BlackBerry 7 OS currently provides a compelling user experience for its users while it runs further testing and evaluation on the QNX OS.

We also asked RIM on its plans for the upcoming BlackBerry DevCon Asia in December. RIM's response was that the focus would be on app development in Asia Pacific as the region is increasingly important. BlackBerry devices are ranked the number one smartphone in several countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. They aim to accelerate app growth by providing a wealth of tools, services and supports for developers.

Moreover, RIM is facing competition in areas that they are once considered invincible. For example, the upcoming launch of iOS 5 will bring iMessage to Apple iPhones. When asked to comment on the threat of iMessage, RIM stated that it believes strongly in the BlackBerry Messenger platform as it has been tested and proven over the years to be a reliable, stable instant messaging service. RIM also claimed that BlackBerry Messenger provides a superior instant messaging experience over competing services.