This week we were lucky enough to get a bit more time with Torch and try out more of the features of Blackberry 6. We’ll be posting a video soon, but will Blackberry 6 be a serious rival to Apple or Android? And will it reach beyond Blackberry’s core business user, offering the enticement of a slick new interface to a younger hipper crowd? Here are our first impressions.
Blackberry 6: Interface
Instead of having a single homescreen, you can now choose from five different screens, intuitively split between: Frequent, Media, Downloads, All and Favourites.
Frequent displays you’re frequently used programs; Media is for things like You Tube, Ring Tones, Videos and Pictures; Downloads is for apps and All, well that's everything. You can adjust the position of icons within each screen, but you can't add to them. The most interesting is Favourites, which you can customise with shortcuts to key contacts, apps and programs, according to RIM there's no limit to the number of shortcuts you can have.
Bright graphics and icons similar to those in the Storm 2 mean the interface looks incredibly slick and modern, although it doesn't shift too far from previous models and is unmistakeably Blackberry, which will please exiting RIM customers.
Blackberry 6: Screen and multitouch
The Torch is the first Blackberry to support multitouch and from our first impressions it does it very well. A quick swipe left and right and you can effortlessly move through screens and pinch and zoom works well too. The sample we used wasn’t final, but multitouch seems responsive and quick and a huge leap forward from previous devices.
Blackberry 6: Browser
The WebKit browser is a joy to use, the Torch’s 3.2inch screen is bright and sharp, but it’s multitouch that makes the experience more fluid. A quick double click to zoom into the page and then the auto-wrap text feature reorganises the copy to fit the space.
Tabbed browsing is a very welcome feature. Simply tap a small icon to the right of the URL to add another page, flick them thumbnails of each one, while retaining the original web page underneath.
Blackberry 6: Multimedia apps
The Torch is the first Blackberry handset pre-loaded with Facebook, MySpace and Blackberry Messenger. Elsewhere Rim has made some welcome updates to existing apps. The dedicated Podcast app looks excellent. Type in the name of the podcast you're looking for and choose to search from a variety of sources including Google and You Tube, you can then download them directly to the device. Changes to the You Tube app means you can search for something in You Tube and when you launch the browser it automatically goes there.
Blackberry 6: Universal Search and typing
Accessible from the Home Screen, one tap brings up Universal Search. Type in what you are searching for and the phone will search the phone, internet and App World.
The Torch’s solid keyboard is based on the Blackberry Bold and its guitar fret design. Alternatively use two virtual keyboards: a standard QWERTY or Sure Type, similar to dual-letter design of the original Blackberry Pearl.
Our first impressions of Blackberry 6 are encouraging. It’s certainly slicker than the Pearl 3G, with more customisation options and quicker to use, however it’s unmistakeably Blackberry. The Torch (in particular) with its solid keyboard seems bridge the gap between excellent emailing, style and customisation. There is still no news on when the Torch with Blackberry 6, we’ll bring you a full review as soon as we can.