BlackBerry smartphones have always been known for their characteristic QWERTY keyboards, small screens and long battery life. The new Torch 9860 however embodies everything essential in the ago of touchscreen smartphones. Aside from its 3.7-inch touchscreen, the Torch 9860 is part of the new generation of RIM smartphones powered by a 1.2GHz processor and running on the newest BlackBerry 7 OS. What it doesn’t have is the classic keyboard typical of almost all BlackBerry smartphones.
RIM departs from their usual rounded design with the Torch 9860, instead going for a more angular and minimalist look. The front is an unimpressive gloss black and a fingerprint magnet surface to boot. Nonetheless, things improve if you flip the phone over as the rear sports a metallic silver backing.
The main shortcoming in the Torch 9860’s design is in the construction of its buttons. The five key shortcut buttons are too recessed for comfortable pressing. It doesn’t stop there; the volume and camera controls on tis right profile are merely small raised rubber bumps. Instead of a dedicated power/lock button, the top of the phone is bare and flat, demarcated by a lock symbol.
The 3.7-inch screen was extremely responsive – the 1GHz processor and 768MB RAM certainly helped here, with transitions being snappy and fluid, while apps and web browsing were breezy affairs.
Typing was relatively smooth experience with few mistakes especially while in the virtual QWERTY landscape mode. On the other hand, we found it slightly uncomfortable to type while in portrait mode due to a cramped keyboard layout. The accelerometer seemed to have difficulties adjusting to the orientation of the device, with a one to two-second lag time before it finally registered. Otherwise, the touch-optimized BlackBerry 7 IS works to the Torch 9860’s advantage, offering a simple user interface that’s easy to master for first-timers.
The 3.7-inch screen, the largest in the BlackBerry family, is a feature that sets the 9860 apart from its other Torch siblings. Images and icons looked crisp and showed vibrant colors; object rendering and UI fluidity were also improved thanks to RIM’s Liquid Graphics technology. The 5-megapixel camera presented above average results: crisp details, good contrast and well saturated colors. You also get the ability to record 720p video .
Does the bigger screen impede the phone’s battery life? Not exactly. The Torch 9860 clocked in a decent 6 hours 34 minutes of usage in our battery stress tests. Otherwise, with casual use, expect this device to easily last you an entire day or more.
For those who prefer the BlackBerry 7 software but prefer a smaller screen, both the Torch 9810 (touchscreen and slider hybrid) and Bold 9900 (candybar form factor) are excellent contenders for your attention. The Torch 9860 is a decent device all by itself, but the raft of competition from Apple, Samsung and HTC make it rather touch decision to make.