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BlackBerry Torch Being Sold At Steep Discount

Less than a week after its launch and mixed reviews -- some calling it underwhelming and lacking innovation -- the price of the Blackberry Torch 9800 has been sliced in half from $199.99 with a two-year contract to $99.99. and other websites have reduced the price, while carrier AT&T still lists it for the original price. The Torch 9800 smartphone has a 3.2-inch touchscreen display, a 5 megapixel camera, 4 gigabytes of storage and a 624MHz CPU. The Torch has two features new to BlackBerry: an ergonomic slide-out full QWERTY keyboard in addition to the touchscreen; and the updated Blackberry OS 6 with crisper graphics, a webkit browser, integrated social networking, improved multimedia and some new navigation features. The inclusion of Webkit offers the same technology found on the Apple iPhone Safari browser.

The reviews were not all disheartening. "The improvements should keep RIM's 50 million BlackBerry users -- many of whom are fanatically attached to the brand -- happy," said Avi Greegart, research director, consumer devices, at Current Analysis, in a report he wrote on the Torch 9800. "The Torch should sell well and it, along with similar BlackBerries for other carriers, should raise RIM's ASPs and margins, which have dipped lately."

But Greengart added that OS 6 is "just a stopgap measure, and it does not even achieve full parity with Apple's iOS or Google's Android." According to him there were three issues RIM needed to address: web browsing, the user interface and apps. "It has fully caught up in browsing, and existing BlackBerry users will be thrilled by the enhancements in the UI," he said. "However, the improvements in OS 6 are still just evolutionary, and without more fundamental changes RIM may continue to struggle to attract app developers."

However, at least one early user called it "fantastic" noting that the inclusion of a touchscreen and keyboard represents "the best of both worlds."

It terms of its competitors, industry observers say RIM trails significantly behind Apple and Google in terms of the availability and quality of apps for the BlackBerry and that most of the sales have been to existing Blackberry users. Said Greengart, "RIM has not made significant changes to the application development environment and still does not support 3D gaming. In short, RIM has not solved the applications problem," which will not help it woo new consumers. He added that in order to make the BlackBerry more attractive to developers, "RIM needs to focus on radical innovation rather than more tweaks of existing designs."


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