RIM is keen on social network integration with its new BlackBerry handsets, so it's no surprise that the Torch 9810 comes bundled with the latest BlackBerry editions of the Facebook and Twitter apps. You also get Social Feeds 2.0, an app that houses a variety of RSS feeds, podcast subscriptions, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, and more into a single hub. BBM has also been updated to BBM 6, which features tighter integration with apps like Foursquare or games so you can let your BBM contacts know of your check-ins and high scores. You can also start a BBM chat within any of those apps.
Other preinstalled apps include a memo pad, a file manager, a compass, a voice notes recorder, a calculator, a calendar, a tasks list, a premium version of Docs to Go, BlackBerry Balance, BlackBerry Protect, Password Keeper, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk. T-Mobile also included its own Web2Go browser and its own T-Mobile Mall store app to supplement the BlackBerry App World.
The Torch 9810 has pretty decent multimedia offerings for what is still a corporate-friendly handset. You get a dedicated YouTube app, Slacker Radio, and a new dedicated podcast app. The built-in music player also has a decent interface, with a Cover Flow-like presentation of albums and tracks. It supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC, and OGG audio formats, and the video player supports MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV video codecs. To get media files on the phone, you can either load up a content-filled microSD card or drag and drop them to a connected BlackBerry like it's a mass storage device. You can also use the BlackBerry Desktop Software to sync your media libraries. The Torch 9810 has 8GB onboard memory, but the microSD card slot can take up to 32GB cards.
We're mostly pleased with the 5-megapixel camera on the Torch 9810. It has a slew of settings like image stabilization, up to three resolutions, autofocus, geotagging, flash, and lots of scene modes that include face detection, night mode, and one just for capturing text. The result is pretty good photo quality for the most part. Images looked sharp and colors were accurate, especially in bright sunlight. Low light shots suffered a little bit, and looked softer than usual.
A big upgrade from the first Torch 9800 is that the Torch 9810 now supports 720p HD video. We took a few short video clips and were impressed with what we saw. Video was crisp and colorful, though we did encounter some graininess with indoor shots. We would recommend you disable auto focus, as the video camera kept trying to refocus the shot every time we moved the phone.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was quite good overall. We heard our callers clearly with plenty of volume, and their voices sounded clean and natural as well. However, we did detect a bit of background noise at times.
On the other end, callers also reported good call quality. However, they did say our voice sounded slightly scratchy and a bit distorted. Still, we managed to carry on a conversation without many problems. Speakerphone quality was good, with loud volume and not a lot of echo on our end.
RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 (T-Mobile) call quality sample
The Torch 9810 has HSPA+ speeds, which boasts improved data speeds with a theoretical maximum of 14.4 Mbps download speed. We loaded the mobile CNET page in 10 seconds, while the full CNET site loaded in around 25 seconds. We experienced a little bit of buffering when viewing YouTube videos, but only for a few seconds.
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 has a rated talk time of 6.5 hours (2G)/5.9 hours (3G) and up to 12.8 days (2G)/12.3 days (3G) of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Torch 9810 has a digital SAR of 1.44 watts per kilogram.
The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 makes for a decent midrange smartphone for BlackBerry enthusiasts. You get a snappy 1.2GHz processor, 720p HD video capture, HSPA+ speeds, a sharp and responsive VGA display, a decent keyboard, and BlackBerry 7 OS that brings voice-activated universal search and improved apps to the phone. However, it doesn't set itself apart from the AT&T version of the same phone, which is a shame when it's almost $200 more at the time of its launch. For only $50 more, we would spring for the instead.