Facing a ban on their devices in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Research in Motion (RIM) is struggling to hold ground up against Apple and Android devices. The makers of the Blackberry have launched a touchscreen mobile called the Torch 9800.
The company has also announced an upgrade to their operating system. There is no announcement yet on when the product will be launched in Australia.
The Torch 9800 features a touchscreen and sliding keyboard – the first in the Blackberry portfolio – and comes with 4GB of memory and a five megapixel camera. The device also delivers access to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace via built in icons.
“This isn’t about competition, this is about making the Blackberry experience better,” said RIM product vice president Rob Orr.
“No doubt some people will draw comparisons but we think it is unique,” he added.
The BBC said that some analysts were not convinced.
“This is RIM trying to close the gap on its rivals. The company has tremendous momentum in North America and the UK but there is no question RIM users are now ready for more,” said Ben Wood, an analyst with research firm CCS Insight.
RIM currently accounts for nearly 20 per cent of smartphone sales, ahead of both Apple (10 per cent) and phones running Google’s Android software (15 per cent). Phones running Symbian, commonly used on Nokia phones, still dominate the market.
UPDATE: Telstra has confirmed it will offer the BlackBerry Torch on its Next G network when it arrives in Australia later this year.
Ross Fielding, Executive Director, at Telstra Mobility Products said: “The Torch elegantly solves the dilemma many of our customers tell us they face — choosing between a touch screen and a physical keyboard on a smartphone. By combining both a full touch screen for easy web browsing with a slide-out QWERTY keypad, the Torch is set to be popular with people who love to email and surf the web. We’ve already sampled the Torch’s web browsing experience on our Next G network and we think our customers will be impressed — it really flies.”