Touchscreen BlackBerry Torch debuts new OS

RIM unveils its first capacitive touchscreen handset, featuring the new BlackBerry 6 OS

RIM has revealed its first capacitative touchscreen handset, the BlackBerry Torch, which will debut the new BlackBerry 6 operating system.

The Torch pairs a full Qwerty keyboard with the new touchscreen, a first for RIM. It also includes built-in GPS and Wi-Fi, 3.6Mbits/sec HSDPA support, a five megapixel camera with facial recognition, a 624MHz processor, and 4GB of built-in memory.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said the Torch was the Canadian firm's most important smartphone, and a "really special product for us."

UK release dates haven't been revealed, but RIM said the Torch would arrive in the US on 12 August and would cost $200 on a two-year contract.

BlackBerry 6

The Torch arrives alongside BlackBerry 6, the latest operating system for RIM's devices.

Among the new features is a WebKit browser, based on the same engine running Google's Chrome, which will support HTML5 and uses tabs to manage open windows.

Also new is Wi-Fi Music Sync, which lets users view their iTunes or Windows Media music library from the phone, and tag songs to be copied to the handset when in range. "You can see your entire catalogue of music," said vice president of user experience Don Lindsay.

RIM is also introducing Universal Search, which lets users find content across their emails, text messages and other data held on their phone, or from the web or BlackBerry App World store.

BlackBerry 6 also includes a podcast application, social feed aggregator, geotagging for photos, and customisable home screen. "If you've ever used a BlackBerry you'll immediately get a sense of how to use this... but there's a lot new," said Lazaridis.

BlackBerry 6 will first arrive on the Torch, but will also roll out to the Bold 9700 and 9650, as well as the Pearl, "in the months ahead," RIM said.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said the announcement brought no surprises, but noted the Torch and OS should help RIM compete with rivals such as the Apple iPhone and Google's Android.

"I think it's definitely an improvement, but it doesn't stand out. It's more a case of closing the gap than getting ahead," she said. "It's a defense mechanism, trying to keep some users from looking elsewhere for a touch experience."

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