blackberry-torch9800The delivery from RIM South Africa took all of two days to organise and for them to ship the demonstration unit to my door, so good to have something done earlier or quicker than promised.

Then to copy my contacts and calendar from my old smartphone to the BlackBerry was achieved by installing the BlackBerry Desktop Software on my notebook and setting up the synchronisation with Outlook, obviously I synchronised with my old phone and Outlook before changing phones. So that all seemed to have gone according to plan.

Next was to contact Vodacom to arrange for the re-enabling of the BIS service (BlackBerry Internet Service), because evaluating a BlackBerry device without the BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) would just not be cricket.

Right up front I did feel that the touch screen on the phone sometimes just ignores your “poke at the screen” and you need to do it more than once to get a response – I did eventually find that the first “poke at the screen” activated the phone (which makes sense) and the second touch does the work. But a good few times the phone ignored the second or third touches.

The evaluation unit came with a docking cradle which I found easy and convenient to use from the word go. When you put it back in the cradle it automatically does the synchronisation – the way it should always have been! This docking station is an optional extra, but I found it to be very efficient.

Movie playing seems to work really well; I watched a full episode of NCIS on the phone without any glitches. Music was just as good, often I used it as a music player with the headphones plugged into one ear – making a call or receiving a call just pauses the media player.

Taking pictures works easily enough to take a picture and video, I did not use the special features like zooming and lighting, just the simple point and click.

Here is a sample of a picture taken with the camera on a gloomy overcast day in the Midlands.

img-20110416-mudq

I would give you a sample of the video, but the file size is huge 😉 In short, it was rather good as a phone video recorder.

Keyboard
The keyboard I found easier to use than the BlackBerry 8520 , but some keys could be easier ifdedicated, like the “.” for example, as we use it for all email addresses and URLs, you would think that it should be a normal key, not having to use the alternative keyboard to get the simple character. But I think with enough practice one would get used to the keyboard. The “Alt” button to get numbers is too close to the number buttons and pressing the “Alt” “7” makes you wish you had pencils for fingers.

Speaker phone
One thing that did frustrate me though was when on speaker phone – like waiting for a call centre – one most often put the phone on speaker so that you can get on with other “stuff”. The problem came when the operator picked up, if you did not switch it to handset quickly enough, they could not hear you and they would end the call. After 15 minutes of being on hold on two separate calls with the same result was rather irritating. I may need to test this a bit more, but the hands free mic does not seem to be that great. The solution is to use the headphones and mic that ships with the unit, which I found to be very clear.

Storage device
The phone worked very well as a USB drive, even connecting the phone via the USB cable to the Home Theatre allowed me to watch movies without a glitch – often the speed of the communication interface causes pixel loss with certain slower USB devices, but the BlackBerry Torch worked perfectly.

Screen lock
The phone lock button on the top of the phone is a great feature, no matter what you are busy with on the phone, just press the button and the phone locks the screen. When waiting for a meeting and the person you are meeting appears before you, asking them to “pause” while you get out of what you are doing on the phone, then pressing two keys to lock the screen is clumsy and rude, this one you press the button and put the phone into your pocket.

Navigation System
The phone has the Vodafone Sat Nav as standard for the GPS navigation system, which I found extremely effective. I am used to using Route 66 navigation and found this system to be better.

Messaging
Using the BIS service makes using the messaging better, as you don’t worry about data usage, you just use it the way that comes naturally. While away from the office it really does pick up from your PC email, and unless you want to type a loooong email, you can operate without the notebook for most of the time. I like the fact that all my email, Facebook and BBM come through on the email interface, with direct links to each, it makes reading any communication really easy.
I find the messaging systems work extremely well, the only improvement would be me subscribing to a full BES service using a hosted Exchange system. That way I would always be in sync with the Outlook system.
BBM (BlackBerry Instant Messaging) – a great system, a productive way of staying in touch without the fear of spending extra money. But that is the RIM service not the phone 😉

Browsing
Nobody is wild about cell phone internet browsing, obviously we all prefer using the computer or tablets, but I do like the touch screen interface for zooming in and moving around the screen – compared to other touch screens I found this to be quite responsive.

Contacts and Calendar
I used the Blackberry Desktop Software to synchronise my Contacts and Calendar, using the docking cradle made this a simple process. What I liked about the calendar was that it allows you to have multiple calendar sources showing them in one single view.

For synchronising with your Google calendar, you need Google Sync application but the forums all seem to report that it needs to work in manual mode, in other words click “Sync now” needs to be used. I’m sure in time this issue will be resolved and automatic synchronising with Gmail calendar will be fixed.

Sound clarity
Using the phone as a phone 😉

The voice clarity was good, although on speaker phone I often had to repeat myself. The earphones are clear.

Social Applications
The social application like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all work well and as I mentioned, integrate fantastically with the main mail system.

Like:
It is quick with all apps I used, you never find yourself waiting for the phone to catch up.
Messaging is very intuitive.
Browser is enhanced with the touch screen features.
I liked the clock as it includes an effective stop watch and timer.

Dislike:
I wish the keyboard could have a better way of using the “.” “,” as those are used a lot.

Often when picking up the phone and trying to answer a call or turn off the alarm it would take more than the “activate screen” and “action key” (meaning 2 touches of the screen, one to activate the user interface and one to do what you want it to do).

While during my usage I did not have any trouble, I do know that other users of the phone have had to take the phone to the service providers to have the operating system refreshed. So if experiencing problems, back it up using the desktop software and take it in for a refresh.

Using 3G chews the battery life, although this is the case on all smartphones, the Torch seems to die earlier than most – but on 2G (GPRS) it lasts a good few days before needing a charge. Using the docking cradle eliminates this issue as it charges while sitting in the cradle. And to be honest GPRS is fine as the system fetches the email in the background – browsing at that speed is not good, so turn it on if you want to surf.

Conclusion
I enjoyed my time with the BlackBerry Torch and will be sorry to see it go. I think they could make some improvements on the touch screen activation and on the keyboard layout, but in general a very good phone. It is very intuitive. Would I use it as my day to day smartphone?……Yes.

Contributed by:
Malcolm Pearson
Phone Supplied by RIM Soiuth Africa for 30 days.

 

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