60 Minutes In: Thoughts on the BlackBerry Torch

I've only spent an hour or so playing with RIM's new BlackBerry Torch 9800 at this point, so it will be a day or two before my full review is ready. However, as I wait patiently for my BlackBerry Enterprise Server testbed to patch and boot, I thought I'd share

I've only spent an hour or so playing with RIM's new BlackBerry Torch 9800 at this point, so it will be a day or two before my full review is ready. However, as I wait patiently for my BlackBerry Enterprise Server testbed to patch and boot, I thought I'd share some quick observations I've made in my limited time with the device.

1) Unlike my colleague Nick Kolakowski's experience with the Torch on the AT&T network, my experience has so far been satisfying -- at least for calls. I live and work in a pair of twin AT&T black holes, which led me to abandon iPhone in disgust earlier in the year. But in the same spots, the Torch has successfully received and placed many calls and texts, and occasionally I've been able to get some data download performance. The iPhone 3GS typically failed at all of the above in both locations.

2) RIM made some weird little tweaks to the mail experience that, as a guy who has just recently grown accustomed to the BlackBerry 5.0 interface, I find annoying. Case in point: E-mail reads top down, newest to oldest by default in both 5.0 and 6.0. In 5.0, the hotkey to move down the list is P, as in previous. In 6.0? It's N as in next. They completely reversed it. It probably makes more sense this way, but using U and D instead would make even more sense if they are going to change it at all.

3) Facebook app? Still godawful in BlackBerry. Simply terrible. Sure, RIM probably wants us to use the new social feeds instead, but if that is the case, why preload the Facebook app at all?

4) I was excited to see the Podcasts app was coming, but there's a real lack of feeds in there so far and I haven't found a way to add any yet. Only two of my four favorite podcasts are findable in there right now. No ESPN? C'mon.

5) Use caution when upgrading to BlackBerry Desktop 6.0 if you are BES-connected.

6) As for the design, I agree with Nick that moving the screen upward to expose the keyboard is a little awkward. But what I find more awkward is trying to open the battery hatch without sliding the screen open. Need a surprising amount of dexterity to do it.

That's it for the moment. Look for my full review in a few days.