The Torch 9800 will be available for $199 with a two-year service agreement on a qualifying rate plan with a smartphone data plan required. New smartphone customers may choose from two monthly AT&T data plan options: $15 for 200MB of wireless data or $25 for 2GB.
Enterprise and small-business customers should contact their account representative for pricing details.
The Torch uses RIM's BlackBerry 6 operating system and comes with full touchscreen BlackBerry keyboard. "Whether users choose to type out messages on the capacitive touchscreen or easy-to-use BlackBerry keyboard, browse the Internet using pinch-to-zoom, or fluidly navigate with the optical track pad, the BlackBerry Torch allows them to communicate any way they want," RIM said in a release.
Ross Rubin, The NPD Group's wireless and CE analyst, who attended today's press conference, told TWICE that the Torch is "a good, solid product. It gets [RIM] back in the game" with Apple's iPhone 4 and Motorola's Droid X in the 4G market.
Mike Lazaridis, RIM's president and co-CEO, said, "With a new user interface, new browser and new handset design, the highly anticipated BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry 6 deliver integrated and uncompromising capabilities for consumers and business professionals that preserve the industry-leading strengths of the BlackBerry platform while adding exciting new dimensions."
The BlackBerry 6 OS also features a redesigned interface that works with the touchscreen and track pad, includes expanded messaging capabilities with features to simplify the management of social networking and RSS feeds, and provides integrated access to the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and various instant messaging applications available on the BlackBerry Torch smartphone. It also includes a dedicated YouTube app and Podcasts app.
BlackBerry 6 integrates a new and rich WebKit-based browser on that renders HTML web pages (as well as HTML email) and features tabs for accessing multiple sites simultaneously, pinch-to-zoom for easy navigation, and an auto-wrap text zoom feature that can wrap text in a column while maintaining the placement of a page's key elements with a double tap on the Torch.
The Torch is 4.4 inches (5.8 inches open) by 2.4 inches by 0.57 inches and weighs 5.68 ounces. It has a 3.2-inch 360 by 480 capacitive touchscreen display, a 35-key full QWERTY backlit slide-out keyboard designed to feel optimally balanced when opened for typing, and an optical track pad.
Among the phone's other main features is a 624Mhz processor with 512MB Flash memory, 4GB built-in memory storage plus a MicroSD/SDHD memory card slot that supports up to 32GB cards; a 4GB card is included, giving users 8GB of storage out of the box.
Also included: a 5-megapixel camera with flash, continuous autofocus, image stabilization, scene modes, geo-tagging and zoom, as well as video recording at up to 640 by 480 resolution, built-in GPS for location-based applications and geo-tagging, and Wi-Fi access to more 20,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots nationally at no additional cost.
The phone also comes with a removable, rechargeable 1,300 mAh battery that provides approximately 5.8 hours of talktime on 3G networks, 30 hours of audio playback or six hours of video playback.
The Torch is preloaded with icons that allow them to download and immediately begin using a variety of rich entertainment and social-networking apps to access sites such as Bloomberg, ESPN, The Weather Channel and Slacker Radio, in addition to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and others.
Also available is AT&T's Web Video Search, a unique new app that searches video content from more than 70 major Internet video websites.
In addition to searching the Internet for video, the BlackBerry Torch smartphone also features more multimedia apps that let users download TV shows and watch live TV, as well as create video content and upload it to YouTube. A new podcasts app makes it easy for users to find and manage audio and video podcasts.
Forrester Research mobile analyst Charles Golvin's said, "The Torch and OS6 put Research In Motion on firm competitive ground against Apple's iPhone and the Android devices, with a touch screen on par plus the Blackberry keyboard. The key question is whether RIM can convince developers to prioritize this new platform above the competition. RIM has a strong appeal for developers because of the size of their installed base. With a new platform that base is reset to zero so developers will apply different criteria to their decision on prioritizing BlackBerry vs iphone, android, etc. Having addressed their shortcomings in OS and UI, this is the huge challenge for RIM."