BlackBerry TorchIt's sleek, comes with a touch screen, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a host of new social media and Web browsing features. But can it beat Apple at its own game?

Research In Motion (RIMM) unveiled the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and a new operating system on Tuesday in a bid to show it, too, can deliver a cool consumer gadget. The new phone has a 3.2-inch screen, a five-megapixel camera, four gigabytes of memory and a four gigabyte memory card. It can do wi-fi, Bluetooth and 3G.

AT&T will make the Torch available to consumers on Aug. 12, charging $199 with a 2-year contract.

(Engadget has a hands-on review of the new phone here.)

Chasing Apple

Expectations for RIM's latest effort are high. Although the company is a dominant player in the market, its offerings have paled in features and glamor compared to Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and those running on Google's (GOOG) Android operating system.

BlackBerry has long been popular with corporate customers, thanks to its good email software and keyboard design. As a result, RIM has remained a big player in the smartphone market, taking the No. 2 spot and grabbing 18% of the market worldwide. It is particularly strong in the U.S. market with about 32% of market in the second quarter of 2010.

But smartphones have changed in recent years, becoming cool gadgets for average consumers, thanks in part by Apple's foray into the field. Apple has given consumers not just a device to make calls, but a cool new tool that surfs the Web, manages social networks, captures and plays photos and videos, and comes alive with a wide variety of apps. Android phones have followed suit.

RIM knows it has some catching up to do. It hopes to accomplish that with the new BlackBerry Torch and its new operating system, BlackBerry 6. The company promises the new phone and operating system will wow consumes with tools that manage social media, improve the browsing experience and expand messaging capabilities.

Loads of New Features

The new offerings include a universal search tool that looks through files stored on the phone as well as on the Web, and that makes it easier for consumers to get apps from its online shop, the BlackBerry App World. To underscore the importance of offering fun apps, the Torch will be the first BlackBerry to come with its App World pre-installed.

The Torch also comes with software to centralize access to popular social networking sites, RSS feeds and various instant messaging tools, including Facebook, Twitter, AOL Instant Messenger and Google Talk. The new text messaging application allows consumers to view their conversations in one thread and include photos and videos in their chats.

The new phone also should make it easier to manage and download photos, songs and videos. A feature, called Wi-Fi Music Sync lets people browse their music collections on iTunes or Windows Media on their computers. RIM says it also has improved the camera and photo and video features.

Clearly, RIM has learned a few lessons from watching Apple and other smartphone makers and hopes to polish its brand with the Torch and the new OS.

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WAR OF THE FRUITY PHONES!!!!!!! xD No. But seriously. The iPhone is unchallenged in it's simplicity, countless (useful) apps, irresistible design (my opinion), constant growth/expansion, and mass appeal. I look forward to the iPhone 4, as my 3G is working like a charm. Long after the many collisions it's had with the pavement, wood, and linoleum. With it's case protecting it, it still looks marketable, operates as expected, and serves as a handy tool for business purposes. No need for an Android phone, as I'm now able to get that OS on my T-Mobile HD 2! It works, and I can always switch back and forth, between Windows Mobile (not that I'd want to). This BB doesn't hold a candle to the iPhone. It's embarrassing design is reminiscent of the AT&T Pantech Reveal (YUCK!!!!!) It's an outdated design, and a desperate attempt at seeking attention. I had a discussion with an actual fan of the torch. And what device was she using? To NO surpise of my own, a BB Bold. This phone isn't going to create any significant conversions. Let's be serious. People will mostly likely buy it, play with it for a period of time, then get rid of it as SOON as another phone emerges. This is no deal breaker, people. NEXT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

August 09 2010 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As someone who went through the Blackberry and then, later, the iPhone 3g (thank goodness I didn't get the 4g) experience, I say, "No, thanks." Droid phones over Blackberry and iPhone anyday. So much cheaper and does just as much-- and more.

August 04 2010 at 5:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ya know if you wanted a Palm Pre... wouldn't it just be better to buy a Palm Pre?? Looks like a copycat of the Pre, hyped with the Droid, and the memory of a Handspring in comparison... Maybe if iPhone had a slide out QWERTY pad I'd be interested there but my Palm has been the dedicated and devoted partner... and rock steady platform all the way... wthout the apple and blackberry problems!!!

August 04 2010 at 5:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It was like pulling teeth to get me to leave my Blackberry, but I did for an Android phone, (Incredible) and I'm very glad I did. RIM just can't keep up with what is going on in the smartphone arena. If they're trying to chase Apple they're struggling to stay in No. 3 position.

The Android Droid family phones are far superior to anything Apple has put out. The iPhone 4 is anything but innovative, it is a mere attempt to keep up with Android. Android already had all the features that the iPhone4 has. Except with Android phones you can add more memory if you want, change your battery out if you want, download non-authorized apps if you want, and the antenna is not on the outside of the unit which causes detuning and reception problems for the 4.

Whoever though of that idea should be fired.

I'm an android convert who thought I would never leave blackberry. Sorry RIM, this phone is way too little, way too late.

August 03 2010 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hello James

the darn things FREEZE....I have had two Storms and would never get another...this may be too cool to pass on though.

August 03 2010 at 7:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am impressed with BlackBerry's products. I've had mine since 2008. Its survived countless drops on cement, including being dropped in a puddle of freezing water earlier last winter. It's dramatically slowed down, but its still treating me well. I'm sticking with BB for a while.

August 03 2010 at 7:22 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

The Blackberry is to the iPhone as Paul Reubens is to Brad Pitt. All the same parts. None of the pizazz.

August 03 2010 at 7:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
amy barbara

When youre not committed to a contract, I might care about these phones.

August 03 2010 at 6:37 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

everyone has claimed to have the "iphone killer" and its been a few years, and well, iphone still leads the smartphone charge. kinda silly on their competitors behalf

August 03 2010 at 6:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Margaret Harper

I LOVE my Blackberry. I have had it for 2 years and until I dropped it in the toilet I never had any problems with it. I bought a new one and love it too.

August 03 2010 at 5:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply