Just because you're a U.S. Cellular customer doesn't mean you're left out of trying the latest handsets. Indeed, the regional carrier has had plenty of great phones come its way, like the Samsung Mesmerize, the LG Genesis, and the HTC Merge. Now it also has a slice of the BlackBerry 7 OS pie with RIM's latest full touch-screen handset, the BlackBerry Torch 9850.
The Torch 9850 for U.S. Cellular is identical to the models for Sprint and Verizon. It is RIM's first full touch-screen handset for the carrier, and we have to say we're quite impressed with it. The 3.7-inch display is crisp and colorful and OS 7 brings a number of under-the-hood improvements like a better browser and 720p HD video capture. The 1.2GHz processor helps improve the phone's overall performance. It's also a dual-mode GSM/CDMA handset for those who want to travel abroad.
As the Torch 9850 for U.S. Cellular has the same design and features as the Sprint version, we'll focus more on slight software and performance differences. For a full review of the device, please read our review of the BlackBerry Torch 9850 for Sprint.
As with any of these phones, the primary difference between carriers is the bundled software. The U.S. Cellular version offers a few carrier-specific apps like City ID, a Games and Themes store, Tone Room Deluxe, Your Navigator Deluxe, and Daily Perks, a daily feed of news courtesy of U.S. Cellular. Aside from these apps, the rest of the phone's software is the same as on the Torch 9850 for Sprint and other BlackBerry 7 OS handsets. For more on BlackBerry 7 OS, please read our review of the BlackBerry Torch 9810.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900;UMTS 2100), internationally quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) BlackBerry Torch 9850 in San Francisco roaming on U.S. Cellular. Even though we were on a roaming network, call quality was very impressive. Callers' voices had great volume and sounded clear and natural. There was hardly any static or distortion.
Callers didn't report any problems on their end either. They said our voice sounded loud and clear, and as natural as on a landline call. They did detect the occasional background noise, but it wasn't distracting. Speakerphone calls were similarly good, though callers did report a more pronounced echo effect at times.
RIM BlackBerry Torch 9850 (U.S. Cellular) call quality sample Listen now:
The Torch 9850's battery has a rated talk time of up to 6.8 hours and a rated standby time of up to 13.4 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the Torch 9850 has a digital SAR of 0.9 watts per kilogram.
U.S. Cellular customers who want a taste of the BlackBerry 7 OS will definitely get that with the BlackBerry Torch 9850. It has a sleek and svelte design, and we're glad that it has new technology like 720p HD video capture and a fast 1.2GHz processor. We're not sure it'll entice Android fans away just yet, which is why we wish its $199.99 price with a two-year contract were just a little lower for a midrange phone like this. Yet, for smartphone enthusiasts who want an alternative to Android on U.S. Cellular, the Torch 9850 could be a great fit.