Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why this crop of BlackBerry smartphones has a chance

Posted By Ray Nicolini
Pictured above is the BlackBerry Torch 9810, one of many devices that RIM recently unveiled. We’ve known about these handsets since early in the year, but it’s always refreshing to see RIM or a carrier make it official. This year, however, it seems there is a bit less excitement to go along with these announcements. The BlackBerry brand has taken a considerable hit in the past year, with customers defecting for the iPhone and Android devices. The question that even die-hard BlackBerry fans are asking with this crop is, will it be any different? I think there’s sufficient reason to think so.
RIM tried to shift gears with the BlackBerry last year when it launched the Torch with BlackBerry OS 6. They portrayed it as a revamped operating system on a sleek handset — basically, something that could keep up with the market. I had the pleasure of testing the Torch for about a month, and during that time I was decently impressed. It beat the pants off my current BlackBerry at the time, the 9630, and it combined two things I enjoy: touchscreens and physical keyboards. But it was still lacking in some areas.
In particular, I thought the entire device was held back by a slow processor. RIM has been known to do this, keep the processor speed low, because it makes for better battery life. Their customers are on the go, they reason, and might not have time to charge at will. The longer the battery lasts, the more use they can get out of the phone between charges. That works in theory, but in practice it leaves us with an underpowered device that can’t properly run even the BlackBerry OS. I really did think that they made positive strides with BlackBerry OS 6, and that notion was reinforced when I got a 9650. But the processor speed means that I can’t get the most out of it.
The new BlackBerry models all have much faster processors, 1.2GHz to be precise. This trumps many new Android smartphones hitting the market. That will allow users to really explore the OS. You won’t be held back by lag and other speed-based issues. You can just use your device the way it was intended: smoothly and quickly. I think that does add a degree of value to these devices, and makes them more worthy than many analysts will have you believe. BlackBerry OS 6, and by extension 7, might not be a new revolution in smartphone software. It is, however, a solid operating system that combines BlackBerry’s top-notch messaging platform with plenty of other smartphone features.
Despite my previous pessimism regarding this new line of BlackBerry devices, I think that users will get plenty of use out of them. Anyone who enjoys the traditional BlackBerry form factor will enjoy the addition of a touchscreen in the Bolds 9900 and 9930. It’s essentially optional, too, since it has all the apparatus of the non-touch BlackBerry devices. Storm haters will find the 9850 and 9860 a breath of fresh air, running in a smoother manner than their predecessors. There’s no more clicking when typing, and the faster processor should make everything run a ton better than on the original Storms. And the Torch 9810 should take an already good BlackBerry device and put it over the top.
These devices might not be for everyone. Some people want the newest and glitziest things, and for them there is Android and iPhone. But for those who want the best smartphone messaging platform on the market, and want to get a little bit more out of the device, RIM has submitted for your approval its best BlackBerry devices to date. While they’re certainly in competition with the more popular platforms, they can definitely exist on a different plane.
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