BlackBerry Torch Not Snuffed Out, But Hardly Burning Bright

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The BlackBerry Torch arrived earlier this month to middling reviews, thanks to its lackluster hardware (it shares components with older phones such as the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid), its low-resolution screen (worse than, say, the year-old Motorola Droid's), and the fact that the new version of BlackBerry OS it boasts seems more like a baby step than the revolution we think it needs. So it was easy to believe a rumor that spread earlier today that the price of the phone had been slashed by 50% a mere week after launch.

It wasn't true. In fact, RIM sold about 150,000 BlackBerry Torch units on opening weekend, about the same as HTC's Evo 4G and Motorola's Droid X. There are caveats to that comparison--the Droid X reportedly sold out, so its sales numbers may not be an accurate representation of demand, and the Evo 4G launched on Sprint, a substantially smaller carrier (Sprint's last big exclusive, the Palm Pre, sold about 50,000 in its opening weekend).

The problem is more that RIM, the company that makes BlackBerrys, is the number one smartphone seller in North America, and its new flagship phone (coupled with the launch of its new OS) is inevitably going to be compared to Apple's iPhone 4. Like the Torch, the iPhone 4 is available only on AT&T, but it sold more than 1.3 million units its opening weekend.

The comparison to the iPhone isn't necessarily fair--Apple releases only one handset per year, and the fever pitch surrounding each new iPhone in the zeitgeist is the loudest in the entire consumer electronics industry. But RIM pitched the Torch as a game-changer, a phone that would secure the Canadian company's place at the top of the charts.

The reviews were not very good, and the sales were fine but certainly not astounding. RIM failed at the expectations game--but it's definitely too soon to call the Torch a failure.

Correction: An earlier version of this post repeated the sales slump rumor. Thanks to the readers who caught the mistake. Not only has RIM itself not cut the price of the new BlackBerry Torch, but as a promotional offering, Amazon has been selling the Torch at half price since launch.

[Image credit: Gizmodo]

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in Brooklyn (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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5 Comments

  • Tony Wasserman

    The BlackBerry is a corporate device, not a consumer phone. Many (most?) BlackBerry users need the blessing of (and ongoing funding from) their employers to go out and get the latest and greatest model. In this economy, many companies will decide that last year's model still works just fine, and that there is no need for anyone to rush out and buy the new Torch. After all, many of these companies are still running Windows XP. Besides, the IT staff wants to make sure that the new version of the BlackBerry operating system is compatible with existing email systems. Companies move slowly, so I think that it will be several months before anyone can accurately determine whether the Torch is a success.

  • Silver Fang

    Until the iPhone supports multitasking, microSDHC storage and lets you actually have wallpaper, I'll stick with my primitive, ugly BlackBerry.