iPhone killer still at large: we round up the reviews of RIM’s BlackBerry Torch—and the news isn’t good

iPhone killer still at large: we round up the reviews of RIM’s BlackBerry Torch—and the news isn’t good

On top of its worries about Middle East governments getting increasingly nosy regarding its email encryption, Research in Motion has a more fundamental problem: its phones are lousy. Or, if not actually bad, then dramatically less interesting than its rivals, iPhone and Android. So how does BlackBerry—the brand synonymous with large IT departments, but not exactly down with the kids—spruce up its image? By releasing the BlackBerry Torch, a touchscreen phone with a slide-out keyboard and a jazzy new operating system known as BB6. The early reviews are in and critics aren’t exactly burning the stores down while they wait for the release date later this year. Here, a roundup of how our homegrown smartphone is faring in the land of critical nerds.

• John Paczkowski at All Things Digital says if consumers are wondering whether this is a revolutionary “iPhone killer” or just a slightly better BlackBerry, “it looks to be the latter, though…it also looks to be the best one ever.”

• John Biggs at MobileCrunch says RIM’s problems go deeper than simply not having phones that sport the same features as Apple or Google. The bigger problem is that there are many cheaper, cooler phones. “While I’ll agree that BlackBerries are, bar none, the best email devices out there,” Biggs writes, “they have all the sexiness of a road accident.” Ouch.

• The tech reviewers for the Wall Street Journal can barely muster up any excitement in this video review, saying that RIM has made a significant leap forward for their company, but it just “catches them up” to the state of the art, and doesn’t put them ahead of anyone. So far, no iPhone homicide going on here.

• The Globe and Mail sounds a bleak note when they quote one analyst who says “in our opinion, RIM still needs to improve its ecosystem [of apps].”  Otherwise, the Globe is more focused on RIM’s business troubles in the Middle East. That’s right, not only is their hot new phone underwhelming, but RIM is still in trouble with the fuzz.

• The Toronto Star‘s Marc Saltzman says the Torch’s specs “aren’t too impressive” and that RIM failed to hit the home run the company needed—“a double is more like it.” We wonder if the adolescent customers that RIM desperately needs will be satisfied with merely getting to second base.

• Perhaps the nastiest headline comes from tech-focused site Gizmodo: “Underwhelming BlackBerry Spells Doom For RIM.” Another review on the site slams the crappy resolution, but praises the “ridged, ripple-y rubber back” and much-improved WebKit browser.

• Finally, Kevin C. Tofel at GigaOM says that with the Torch, RIM is “still in the game.”  It’s the same basic review we’ve seen almost everywhere else: RIM is treading water, and not actually moving forward with this phone. That’s a bigger problem for RIM than it would be for other brands, because even though RIM has a bigger share of the market, more of its customers are looking to replace their BlackBerry with a different brand’s phone.

If RIM was hoping for a knockout blow in a two-front war with Apple and Android, this doesn’t seem to be it. That iPhone killer is, apparently, still at large.

RIM Plays Catch-Up, but Can It Cut the Mustard? [All Things Digital]
• BlackBerry Aims For the KIN Generation, But Is It Too Late? [Mobile Crunch]
Digits: Will Torch Fire Up BlackBerry? [Wall Street Journal]
• RIM lights the way with Torch [Globe and Mail]
• Can BlackBerry Torch reignite smartphone sales? [Toronto Star]
• BlackBerry Torch Impressions: The BlackBerry, Weirdly Evolved [Gizmodo]
• Underwhelming BlackBerry Spells Doom For RIM [Gizmodo]
• With BlackBerry Torch and OS 6, RIM Is Still In the Game [GigaOM]