BlackBerry Torch was unveiled at a much-ballyhooed press conference in New York City this morning, and plenty of bloggers are already frothing at the mouth. Fair enough: the newest RIM smartphone sports some sharp curves, a touchscreen and a QWERTY pad, and comes equipped with BlackBerry 6, an updated operating system that RIM is calling "fresh, approachable and engaging."
But is the BlackBerry Torch really a challenge to the iPhone 4? We have our doubts. For one, Apple and BlackBerry have always occupied different corners of the smartphone market. Except for the BlackBerry Storm – a poorly-branded and poorly-executed smartphone that didn't ever really threaten the iPhone – RIM has generally succeeded by going after business professionals, who use their BlackBerries mostly as email and calendar machines.
The iPhone, on the other hand, has always been less of a phone and more of an accessory. (Witness the latest line of iPhone 4 advertisements, depicting the iPhone 4 as a next-generation communication tool for friends, lovers, and family members.) People use their iPhone 4 handsets for email, sure, but they also want music, games, applications, and maps.
The BlackBerry Torch edges a little further into that market. The handset arrives with a bunch of pre-loaded apps, and the touch screen is very much Apple like, with a pinch to zoom functionality. Still, we're guessing the majority of consumers will use the Torch just like they use their other BlackBerry phones – as a pocket-sized office organizer. But don't take our word for it.
Over at PC Mag, Lance Ulanoff warns against seeing the Torch as an iPhone killer. "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," Ulanoff writes.
The BlackBerry Torch will retail for $199 with a two-year contract; the phone is exclusive to AT&T.