BlackBerry Torch 9860 review: Keyless, not clueless

GSMArena team, 29 September 2011.
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BlackBerry OS 7: now with more horsepower

The new OS 7 had a chance to demonstrate its newly found color, speed and agility in our BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 review. The BlackBerry Torch 9860 is pretty much the same package in terms of software and features. The bigger screen is the difference - that and the physical keyboard, which is missing in the Torch.

We are going to look at the OS 7 in detail again, for a complete and comprehensive coverage of the phone and its features. There are parts of reused text but that's inevitable given most of the interface is the same, only on a different scale. And you can rest assured that all the BlackBerry Torch 9860 specifics are duly reflected.

Number 7 is the last upgrade of the OS before the switch to QNX. The OS 7 brings very few new features (NFC and HD video are well worth a mention though) and focus should be on the user experience instead.

The new platform is based on a 1.2 GHz processor and more potent graphics hardware, and its exactly the higher system requirements that wont allow older BlackBerry phones to run the new OS 7.

Here goes our traditional video demo to warm you up.

BlackBerry OS 7 is trying to look like the QNX-based Tablet OS. The UI icons have been updated to mimic the PlayBook, but the rest is pretty much the same - functionality changes are kept to a minimum.

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BlackBerry OS 7 UI

The status area of the homescreen has virtual buttons in a row, allowing you to quickly toggle the cellular, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth radios. It gives you quick access too to the alarm clock and settings menu.

Blackberry Torch 9860
You can manage your wireless connections by selecting the status area and clicking on it

Clicking on the loudspeaker icon underneath lets you change the currently active profile, while the magnifying glass on the other side of the homescreen lets you start a search. BlackBerry OS 7 is voice search enabled, too. Tapping on a small mic icon next to the Search bar will activate it.

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Profiles The universal search works great

Missed events - SMS, email or missed calls - can be quickly accessed by pressing the bar between the search and profile icons on the default screen.

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Below that is the app tray, which consists of several tabs. You can easily swipe it out of sight or pull it up to show one to five rows of icons.

Sideways swipes reveal the different panes that sort the main menu into All, Favorites, Media, Downloads and Frequent. The frequently used apps list are auto populated by the system. You can define which of the main menu panes should be shown. Folders can be added to the main menu and items can be moved into folders.

You can either use the menu key or tap and hold on an icon to reveal options such as Move, Mark as Favorite, Move to folder.

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Frequent, Media and All tabs

So, there is a trackpad and there is a touchscreen. The trackpad is the usual sharp and precise control. One place where it makes a lot of sense is in listed submenus that pop up as you press the Menu key. Not that they are not thumbable - it's just that wrong presses are completely ruled out with the trackpad.

Pretty much everything you see is clickable in BlackBerry OS 7 and works the way it's supposed to. There are still small elements such as the homescreen Search and Profiles icons, which are easier to access via the trackpad rather than the touchscreen.

The important thing to note is that, unlike the flat iOS layout, the Torch 9860 has a menu button to access options that are not visible on the screen. You get used to that pretty quickly though so in the end, the Torch 9860 manages to keep both new and returning users happy. Trackpad and touchscreen complete each other in a natural way.

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