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RIM BlackBerry Torch: Not Hot Enough

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry Torch will treat Apple (AAPL - Get Report) iPhone and Google (GOOG) Android envy, but you'll need more to cure the ailment.

The new BlackBerry slider, jointly announced by RIM and AT&T (T - Get Report) Tuesday, achieves the primary objective: It finally gives BlackBerry fans a decent touchscreen phone. RIM has officially caught up with last year's smartphone race.


RIM has quite possibly plugged the hole in its market-share spill. Since the beginning of the year, RIM has lost three percentage points of market share in smartphones as the iPhone and an assortment of Android phones have gained popularity.

The Torch offers what previous BlackBerries lacked: a more robust operating system, a functional touchscreen, a real Web browser and presumably, better support for applications. RIM takes a bold step into the next generation touchscreen trend and drags an iconic BlackBerry keyboard with it.

But while the Torch cleared the low bar in smartphones, it was far from the heights of high-bar expectations.

In the hand, the Torch is small, maybe too small. The screen is tiny at 3.2 inches, and the keyboard is cramped. The touchscreen on the demo model operated with a slight delay. Swipe gestures were followed a split second later by movement on the screen. And opening applications wasn't an instantaneous thing.

Part of the blame rides on the wimpy 624 megahertz Marvell (MRVL) processor that RIM opted for in the Torch. For comparison, the leading peers in the group -- the iPhone 4, Motorola (MOT) Droid X, HTC EVO and Incredible -- use speedier 1-gigahertz processors.

RIM did manage to keep the Torch thin despite the physical slide-out keyboard. The Touch is 0.57 inches thick, far more sleek than the 0.67 inch Palm Pre and about equal to the 0.55-inch thick original Motorola Droid.

The Torch does not use Corning's (GLW) tough Gorilla display glass, and it has a camera with only 5-megapixel capacity. Add the underpowered processor, and you have a case to be made for a follow-up BlackBerry that delivers more.

No doubt RIM's just happy to be back in the game, but the Torch seems to leave one longing for a bigger bonfire in the months to come.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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