Blackberries have been historically limited mostly to the corporate market, which always needed something that works reliably, is easy to maintain and control and is safe for their data – and RIM has accomplished all of that perfectly over the years, that’s why they’ve been the leader for so long. But last year, the situation changed dramatically, with the Blackberry no longer being the number one enterprise smartphone of choice. RIM’s devices and OS have been outdone by Android and iPhone, and the process has actually been going on for much longer, the company just refused to admit it and simply ignored the reality.
But that’s not possible anymore, and they have started busting, releasing improved products one after another. The Blackberry OS finally looks like something a person could actually use, the Playbook is a very impressive tablet, and the latest smartphones look pretty good, although not as good as the closest Android phone. Today’s employees want more than just a boring work phone, they want to have an all-in-one device for work, entertainment, time management and communication on the go.
RIM’s latest offer for these people is the Blackberry Torch 9800 – a smartphone that combines a relatively big touch screen with the comfort of a great portrait QWERTY keyboard. It’s the flagship phone from RIM, so naturally, I wondered how it stacks up against another flagship phone running Android. The first device that came to mind was the Galaxy S, and indeed, this smartphone has been on the market for a while (it’s about as old as the Torch) as one of the high end devices from Samsung.
Frankly, there’s really not much to compare – these two flagship phones have so little in common it’s painful to look at the specs side by side, as the Galaxy S smokes the Torch in almost every regard.
Here’s what you get with this Android smartphone, which is nowhere near the current leaders HTC Sensation and of course, Galaxy S2, and is more of a mid-range phone with an amazing screen:
• A 4 inch Super AMOLED touch screen that is still the best in class, second only to its successor Super AMOLED+ on the Galaxy S2;
• A fast 1 GHz Hummingbird processor with PowerVR SGX540 graphics, the best in class;
• 16 GB of onboard memory and a micro SD card slot for a total of up to 48 GB of storage space;
• GPS, Wifi N, Bluetooth 3.0 (great for listening to music via wireless headphones), compass, HSPA support for up to 7.2 and 5.76 Mbps download/upload;
• Access to over 200,000 apps for any category you can think of on the Android Market.
That’s a pretty impressive spec sheet. So how does RIM’s flagship, which costs about as much as the Galaxy S, answer to that? Not very well:
• The 3.2 inch display only has a 480×360 resolution;
• The processor is an overtaxed 624 MHz Freescale ARM11 unit – practically antique, even Nokia needs a separate GPU chip to make it seem fast enough;
• 4 GB of onboard memory with a micro SD card slot – this is actually fine for most tasks;
• GPS, Wifi N, Bluetooth 2.1, compass, but only support for 3.6 Mbps / 2 Mbps HSPA network speeds, practically first generation 3G, when we have speeds up to 21 Mbps and more already;
• A paltry selection of apps, most of them in the productivity/business categories – developers don’t even get a good API to work with.
• The only redeeming point is the relatively good keyboard and the excellent build quality – Blackberries have always been known for this, but it doesn’t mean you can cut on the other stuff.
So, RIM seems to still be heading for a fall on the smartphone market, and unless they get something resembling at least the iPhone 3GS in speed and usability out the door, they’re pretty much doomed. Their current flagship, the Torch 9800 is simply pathetic and does not even compare with a previous generation Android phone. The upcoming Blackberry Bold, however, has most of these issues fixed, and could actually be a good choice – only if you are a big Blackberry fan.