You really have to empathize with BlackBerry to understand why updating the entire BlackBerry platform has taken so long. On one hand, it caters to an audience of serious business customers that have chosen RIM for both its unwavering dedication to device and information security, and enterprise support. On the other hand are end users that are purely regular smartphone customers - people that don’t care about things like FIPS compliance or BES - they just want an awesome smartphone. 

Therein lies the problem RIM has been saddled with for the entire BlackBerry platform - there are simply too many BlackBerry users for a total platform reboot to be feasible. Change too much about BlackBerry, and the platform would no longer be appealing to businesses that would have to retrain users or reconsider the platform entirely. On the other hand, if the BlackBerry platform is left unchanged and not drastically modernized, it faces losing potentially huge swaths of market share across virtually every carrier to quick-innovating platforms like Android, iOS, and WebOS - at least among ordinary smartphone shoppers with a choice. 

So the logical choice is exactly what we get with BlackBerry OS 6. It’s an evolutionary step from BlackBerry OS 5, one which brings a new WebKit based browser that RIM acquired from Torch Mobile, a slicker UI, and multimedia improvements that hopefully make the BlackBerry platform a little more pleasant on the eye. 

RIM has launched BlackBerry OS 6 with a new device, the BlackBerry Torch 9800. It’s an apt name for both the huge change in web browser (Torch Mobile was the name of the company RIM acquired for its WebKit based Iris Browser), but also no doubt as the symbol of hope RIM needs the new device and platform to be for continued relevance in the smartphone market. First, the specifications:

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 3GS BlackBerry Torch 9800 HTC EVO 4G Motorola Droid X
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 115 mm (4.5") 111 mm (4.4") closed, 148 (5.8") open 121.9 mm (4.8") 127.5 mm (5.02")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 62.1 mm (2.44") 62 mm (2.4") 66.0 mm (2.6") 66.5 mm (2.62")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 12.3 mm (0.48") 14.6 mm (0.57") 12.7 mm (0.5") 9.9 mm (0.39")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 162 g (5.7 oz) 170 g (6.0 oz) 155 g (5.47 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz Apple/Samsung A3 @ 600MHz Marvell Tavor PXA930 @ 624 MHz Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz TI OMAP 3630 @ 1GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 535 (?) Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 530
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 16 or 32GB integrated 4 GB integrated, 4 GB microSD preinstalled 1 GB integrated, 8 GB microSD preinstalled 8 GB integrated, preinstalled 16 GB microSD
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 3MP with autofocus 5 MP with LED Flash and autofocus 8MP with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8MP with dual LED Flash
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 3.5" 320 x 480 3.2" 360 x 480 4.3" 480 x 800 4.3" 480 x 854
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Integrated 4.51Whr Removable 4.7Whr Removable 5.5Whr Removable 5.698 Whr

With that out of the way, let’s dive into it.

SoC Sidebar

Based on the table above, you'll note that the BlackBerry Torch 9800 uses an SoC that we're not used to seeing: the Marvell Tavor PXA930. We actually approached Marvell wanting to talk about the PXA930 in great depth however Marvell declined all opportunities to talk about the SoC. This is slightly unusual as Marvell has been more than forthcoming in the past with its new Armada SoCs. What it most likely implies is that the PXA930 isn't much to talk about.

Marvell is an ARM architecture licensee, meaning that its CPU cores implement various versions of the ARM ISA but in Marvell's own custom manner. Generally these custom designs are faster and/or lower power than the generic ARM designs at the same process node, however the PXA930 appears to be a couple of years old at this point - it's not a Snapdragon/Hummingbird/OMAP 3630 competitor.

Unfortunately that's the extent of what we're able to say at this point. While we normally like going into the nitty gritty on the SoC in our smartphone reviews, we weren't able to this time around. 

Meet the BlackBerry Torch - Part 1
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  • s44 - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    RIM's release of this at price parity with the much more advanced Samsung phone indicates that they're more interested in gouging their captive user base than advancing their platform.
  • Sivan - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    I don't full agree with the dichotomy of business vs. consumer mapping onto keyboard vs. touch form factors.

    Even Brian notes how easy it is to use the keyboard and trackpad instead of the touchscreen. A lot of users value this ease of use especially for messaging or interacting with the device efficiently. Those are not necessarily business users. A touchscreen is not a requirement for a fun BlackBerry, I'd argue that just making BlackBerry 6 available on the venerable Bold line would make most BlackBerry users very happy.

    That form factor is also much more battery efficient, the smaller screen (no need for touch) as well as more internal space for a battery, and the immediately availability of the keyboard the trackpad are the small details that make the traditional BlackBerry appealing regardless of whether one is a business user or not.
  • jah1subs - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    What are the other devices promised for BB OS 6 upgrades?
  • deputc26 - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    I believe the OS version should read 2.2 not 2.1
  • King Krapp - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    I spy Hyperbole and a Half in the background... nice.
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    Suck it Trebek!
  • Makaveli - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link


    Why didn't you install the Youtube player off the app world.

    i'm on a 9700 Bold And I never open youtube links directly in the browser its all done by the app.

    Also it would be cool if you could do a browser test with Opera Mini since most people use this over the default browser.
  • ibex333 - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    This new blackberry phone really doesnt sound like much of an improvement over older BB phones...
    With phones avaialble like the Droid G1 or the Droid X I dont understand why anyone would want to own a Blackberry unless security is the main concern. I got my Bold 9000 because back then, it was one of the very few phones that had such a nice keyboard and looked so professional and pleasing.

    Now, Droid phones are so much better in just about every way IMHO. The #1 reason for this, is hacks.... What can possibly beat playing GBA, SEGA, SNES and other older console games on your phone with perfect speed, sound and great controls via a full featured keyboard and WASD buttons? And if that's not enough, you can install thousand of other nifty apps, where the number of these apps will only increase becuase developing for Droid will in the near future be as easy as developing for Linux if it isnt that way already!

    Android is every geeks dream, and I cant see Apple or Blackberry RIM even touching this wonderful platform when it comes to sheer fun factor and the multitude of possiblities. Yes, I am an Android fanboy, and iPhone and Blackberry should just go in a quiet dark corner, curl up in a fetal position and just.....die....
  • wolrah - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    You had a complaint about a lack of easy 2G/3G switch on the CDMA Android devices. I don't think this is a real issue due to how CDMA 3G works. It's the same radio in a similar operation mode, so it's not like GSM where there's an entire different radio being fired up when you use 3G. The battery savings are not likely to be notable.
  • strikeback03 - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    In looking for ways to improve the battery life of my HTC Diamond, I found lots of people saying that the constant switching between 3G and 1x is what caused the excessive battery usage. Though in admittedly limited testing I didn't see a difference.

    I would imagine you can get a widget for Android to lock the device in 2G mode, should you need that functionality.

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