Gadgets & Apps

BlackBerry Joins The Smart Crowd With New Phone And Software Overhaul

Blackberry Torch

The Blackberry Torch costs $199.99 with a two-year AT&T contract. The phone will also feature Blackberry 6, a completely overhauled operating system. Courtesy of Blackberry hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Blackberry

At an Apple-like event in Manhattan, BlackBerry announced a new phone Tuesday that it hopes will stop its slip in the mobile market share.

The Torch is BlackBerry's first touch-screen, smartphone that also includes a QWERTY keyboard. Just as revolutionary, for a company that had focused almost exclusively on work rather than play, it is also the BlackBerry's first phone with a WebKit-based web browser. That means that BlackBerry users will join the ranks of iPhone and Android users able to browse a full-featured web.

The phone ($199.99 with a two-year AT&T contract) will also feature BlackBerry 6, a completely overhauled operating system.

For years, Research In Motion, the company that makes Blackberries, owned the mobile market hands down. But as Apple iPhone and Google's Android operating systems added support for enterprise e-mail applications, its share started shrinking.

With 35 percent of the U.S. market, it's still the leading player in smartphones. The future, however, looks bleak. In a Nielsen survey released yesterday, the metrics company looked at people with recently acquired phones and found that BlackBerry's hold on its customers was tenuous.

When Nielsen asked Smartphone upgraders what their next phone would be, only 42 percent said they would stick with a BlackBerry. Compare that to the 89 percent of iPhone users who said they'd remain loyal to Apple.

Nielsen graph
Nielsen

At first blush, the Torch does seem to quell a lot of common complaints about BlackBerry phones. The new operating system seems intuitive and modern. It seems to borrow heavily from the success of Android and the iPhone OS. It has a slick media player, an applications market and lots of built-in social apps, like the ability to ingest your Facebook inbox and the ability to publish content to multiple places with one click.

YouTube

The Torch also natively synchs to your computer using WiFi, which puts it ahead of its competitors.

BlackBerry said the new operating system is "expected to be available for the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9650 and BlackBerry Pearl 3G." But availability is "subject to carrier certifications in the months ahead."

Needless to say, Research In Motion has a lot riding on this new operating system and this new phone. Mike Lazaridis, RIM's Co-CEO, said at the announcement that this was the "best BlackBerry ever."

But only time will tell, if it's good enough to cure BlackBerry customers' wandering eye.

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