BlackBerry Torch could be a flop for RIM

BlackBerry Torch sales have been far from lively since the Torch's Aug. 12 launch. This week, several online retailers slashed the price of the BlackBerry Torch in half.

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    BlackBerry Torch, the latest BlackBerry smartphone from RIM, hit the market last week. But sales have reportedly been lackluster.
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When RIM introduced the BlackBerry Torch last week, several bloggers wondered if RIM had finally produced a smartphone capable of taking on the formidable Apple iPhone 4. And why not? The Torch seemed to be a solidly-built smartphone, kitted out with both a touch screen and a physical keyboard, along with the brand new BlackBerry 6 operating system.

As Lance Ulanoff of PCMag.com wrote, "unlike the ill-conceived BlackBerry Storm, there is no ridiculous gimmick in the BlackBerry Torch. Instead, it's the product of a lot of smart, clear-headed thinking about what existing BlackBerry users – like me – want." But over the past few days, interest in the Torch has apparently been tepid, with RIM selling only an estimated 150,000 units.

By comparison, Apple reportedly sold 1.7 million iPhone 4 units within days of launch.

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Late yesterday, several online retailers chopped the original asking price of the BlackBerry Torch – $199 with a two-year voice and data contract – to just $99. (On its site, AT&T is still selling the Torch for $199.) The drop in price is being greeted across the blogosphere as proof that RIM has misfired with the Torch.

"If the highly-anticipated next-generation iPhone-esque BlackBerry is an abysmal failure, what is RIM supposed to do to retain or grow its smartphone market share?" PC World's Tony Bradley wrote this afternoon. "If the scenario feels déjà vu, perhaps it's because Palm followed a similar path before ending up on the auction block and ultimately getting acquired by HP."

Reviews of the BlackBerry Torch have been lukewarm. Although critics like the email interface – no surprise there; this is a RIM phone we're talking about – some writers have expressed disappointment with the design of the Torch.

"Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Torch is its touchscreen display," wrote one reviewer. "Not only did I find it slightly lackluster, but it could also be a bit wonky in its responsiveness... The [3.2-inch touch screen] is smaller and a lower resolution than the screens of competing phones such as the Samsung Vibrant or the Motorola Droid X. Though it is fine for browsing the Web, the colors, text, and detail looked slightly flat."

[Editor's note: The original version of this story misidentified Lance Ulanoff. He is the editor-in-chief of PCMag.com.]

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