The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 is now $99 with a two-year AT&T contract, when purchased from Amazon.com. The 50 percent price cut follows less than a week after the smartphone's debut.
The BlackBerry Torch-the smartphone that Research In Motion launched
with much fanfare less than a week ago, and which was supposed to help
it win back market share in North America by standing up to the Apple
iPhone and Android-running smartphones-is now being offered for just $99.99 on Amazon.com.
The Amazon offer is attached to a two-year service contract with carrier
AT&T - which is currently offering the Torch for $199.99, the price it
introduced with the phone at a New York
media event Aug. 3.
"RIM's sales are booming in Europe and Asia, but the vendor is under
attack in the United States," analyst Neil Mawston, with Strategy
Analytics, told eWEEK. "RIM has at least two main challenges in the
U.S. First, RIM is still suffering from a weak touch-phone portfolio,
which is encouraging consumers to switch to alternative Apple or
Android models from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others. Second, we
believe RIM continues to underestimate the power of beautiful design.
The Torch is arguably not pretty enough to wow consumers, and it is
struggling a little to stand out on crowded store shelves."
Indeed, while surprising in its swiftness, the price cut was perhaps inevitable, as many early reviews panned the device or were, at the very least, far from effusive
-even while agreeing with RIM and AT&T executives that the Torch is, to date, the best BlackBerry handset that RIM has made.
"If you don't already own a BlackBerry, you will not want this phone," Matt Buchanan wrote at Gizmodo.com.
"And if you do, you still might not want it, even if it may very well be the 'best BlackBerry ever'."
, reviewer Josh Topolsky called the Torch "sluggish, underpowered and ... woefully behind the curve."
Writing for the Wall Street Journal
Walter S. Mossberg found the Torch to be overall slower than the Apple
iPhone 4, but still found features to feel positive about. The browser
was "finally usable," many of the screens were "more graphical and
attractive," and the Torch overall was a "big improvement over earlier,
stodgy BlackBerry models." Not exactly the
sing-hallelujah-from-the-rooftops response that RIM has been working
toward-and hinting at.
Still, analysts say that all is not yet lost for the company long
considered the only name in enterprise-class mobile devices. Analyst
Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research, has said that in making
the crossover from enterprise-only customers to wooing both enterprise
and consumer customers alike, design-something Apple does very well-had
been a major weak point for RIM. While Hyers doesn't believe RIM is in
danger of losing its relevance-"their e-mail product is still unique
and the industry gold standard," he told eWEEK-he does view the
Canadian company as "giving up sales opportunities" by not putting more
emphasis on design.
RIM executives may disagree, noting that that Torch is the first
BlackBerry to combine a multitouch display with the RIM keypad, as
well as the first to run the revamped BlackBerry 6 operating system.
The OS cleans up the previously overwhelming BlackBerry homepage,
includes a universal search feature and offers a more seamless
transition between applications. RIM executives have described it as
"fresh, but familiar"-aka, an improved but not confusing experience
for the RIM faithful, but also one, with its upped cool factor, that's
better able to compete with mainstream handsets.
In the end, however, it's the public that will decide, loudly and
clearly, whether the need for change has been pushed far enough and
RIM's aesthetic is cutting-edge enough.
Concluding his review for Gizmodo, Buchanan complained: "They
could've at least given the damn thing a better screen."
Notes: Amazon.com is offering the Torch 9800 for $99.99 with a two-year
contract with AT&T, compared to AT&T's price of $199.99 with a