At the Canadian BlackBerry Torch 9800 launch party

RIM BlackBerry 9800 Torch

Research In Motion officially launched the BlackBerry Torch 9800 last night in Toronto and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. The DJ apparently played music from two BlackBerry 9800s (I did not get close enough to confirm) while a graffiti artist did some live art (on Torch 9800 canvases). Most importantly, devices were available to play with and I had the chance to play for a short time. Here are a couple of initial thoughts:

  • The Torch is a compact and solid-feeling device. I’m always surprised at how thin QWERTY devices are getting.
  • The slide-out keyboard works quite well and anyone who has used a BlackBerry keyboard before should feel right at home.
  • I found BlackBerry 6 on the Torch both intuitive and snappy – It remains to be seen how well it performs when a few apps are up and running simultaneously.
  • I kept forgetting that I could switch back and forth from keyboard to touchscreen. I had the tendency to stick to one or the other (whatever I started with first). Maybe I’ll get better at switching back and forth as I play with it a bit more.

I was not sure what to expect but I’m pleasantly surprised by the BlackBerry Torch. I’m thinking its image will suffer from the lack of a really distinguishing feature; we’ve seen everything that it offers on one device or another before. At the same time, it looks like RIM has managed to deliver if not an exceptional device, one that will find many fans.

It’s clear that RIM has high expectations for the Torch. Keith Pardy, RIM’s Chief Marketing Officer, called the BlackBerry Torch 9800 “the best of both worlds” as it combines the traditional BlackBerry keyboard and a touchscreen.

The BlackBerry Torch will be available from Rogers Wireless on September 24th for CA$199.99 with a three-year contract. Bell Mobility will launch it on October 1st. Both SaskTel and TELUS Mobility show it as “coming soon.”

P.S. I promise to take pictures at the next event I attend…