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RIM announces BlackBerry Torch (live blog)

Company takes the wraps off its next-gen device at a New York event. As expected, it has a touch screen and runs the new BlackBerry 6 OS.

Editor's note: We used Cover It Live for this event, so if you missed the live blog, you can still replay it in the embedded component below. Replaying the event will give you all the live updates along with commentary from our readers and CNET editor Bonnie Cha. For those of you who just want the updates, we've included them in regular text here. (All updates from Marguerite Reardon unless noted. Also included are her answers to reader questions.) You can find a brief summary of what was announced in our follow-up article "RIM announces the BlackBerry Torch."

BlackBerry Torch
The new BlackBerry Torch. Research In Motion

NEW YORK--Research In Motion took the wraps off its latest BlackBerry, the Torch, at an event here Tuesday morning..

CNET live-blogged the event, which started at 8 a.m. PDT/11 a.m. EDT. I was dishing the latest news during the live blog along with CNET's smartphone reviewer Bonnie Cha.

The Torch is a touch-screen phone that is expected to rival Apple's iPhone and other smartphones, like ones using Google's Android operating system. AT&T, which as expected is the exclusive carrier for the new phone, has joined RIM for the announcement. The price: $199.99 with two-year service agreement.

For months, bloggers and others watching RIM closely have speculated that the new BlackBerry 9800 will be the first to use RIM's new operating system, BlackBerry OS 6. This new software comes with a revamped Web browser, which should help it compete more aggressively with more Web-centric devices like the iPhone, as well as devices that use the Google Android operating system.

10:51 a.m. EDT: The BlackBerry event is about to start here in NYC. Things are getting off to a slow start. Bonnie Cha and I waited in a pretty long line for about a half hour. But now the crowd is seated and we're waiting for the big news.

10:52 a.m. EDT: I bumped into AT&T's PR guy Mark Siegel on the way in and he confirmed that the CEOs of both AT&T and Research In Motion will be here for the launch. So they're definitely bringing out the big guns.

10:53 a.m. EDT: Just saw Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T wireless, chatting with Dow Jones reporter Roger Cheng. There's some buzz and questions about whether RIM and AT&T will also be introducing a tablet today. At this point we'll have to wait and see.

10:56 a.m. EDT: We think the new device is definitely going to have BlackBerry OS 6, which means it will have the new browser. But so far, things still haven't gotten started here so we don't know all details yet. Stay tuned.

The line outside the BlackBerry event in New York City. Bonnie Cha/CNET
The BlackBerry Torch's back side. Research In Motion

10:58 a.m. EDT: To answer the question about the U.K., I think the phone is going to be sold in the U.S. first. AT&T is the carrier. Not sure when the U.K. version will be introduced. I'll try to find out.

10:59 a.m. EDT: Yes, I think it's safe to assume that AT&T has an exclusive for this device. With all the AT&T people floating around this event, I can't imagine they would want to share.

11:00 a.m. EDT: Looks like the pictures are already up on AT&T's Web site.

11:02 a.m. EDT: Rick, my iPhone 3GS is working just fine. Saw a couple of people taking pictures of the line outside with their iPhones. That always cracks me up.

11:03 a.m. EDT: OK, we are getting started. Ralph de la Vega is taking the stage. He is talking up AT&T's faster network and innovative applications.

11:06 a.m. EDT: De la Vega is calling this the best BlackBerry device ever. The AT&T 3G network supports 30 million HSPA customers today, the largest in the world. He said that the company has a long history of introducing the most innovative smartphones.

11:09 a.m. EDT: De la Vega confirmed the new BlackBerry is only available on AT&T's network. Now RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis has taken the stage and he is reminiscing about when the first BlackBerry was introduced in 1999. Over the years, RIM has sold over 100 million BlackBerrys.

11:09 a.m. EDT (Josh Lowensohn): Link to RIM's 9800 product page (via reader Rcmaniac25--thanks!)

11:11 a.m. EDT: Lazaridis officially calls it the BlackBerry Torch. And now he is explaining why they call it the Torch. He says that it's the first to have a WebKit browser and the name comes from the company that helped them put this together.

BlackBerry Torch's WebKit-powered browser

11:12 a.m. EDT: Now he is explaining the features of the phone. A 5-megapixel camera with a flash. A capacitive touch screen.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:14 a.m. EDT: And now Lazaridis is talking about some of the software features enabled by BlackBerry OS 6. There is universal search, which allows you to just start typing and you get to search right away. There's a universal in-box with tools that help you clear away old messages so the most current info is up at the top.

BlackBerry's new universal search

11:15a.m. EDT: Lazaridis is going through a demo on a big screen. He is showing the audience that RIM has changed the way you can view media on the device.

11:16 a.m. EDT: Now Don Lindsay from RIM is coming on stage to talk about the BlackBerry 6 user experience.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:18 a.m. EDT: Lindsay is going through the principles that RIM focused on in developing BlackBerry 6. The first is "fresh but familiar." Fresh but familiar means that despite new innovations that BlackBerry 6 is introducing, it still needs to be familiar to BlackBerry users. Another principle is making it easy to learn so that users should feel encouraged to explore and discover features on the phone. He said that he thinks that the touch screen really encourages this.

11:19 a.m. EDT: Now the demonstration. RIM has completely redesigned the home screen. The first feature is all about notifications. Now there are notification previews, so you can tap on it so you can get more information. Without leaving the home screen, you can process a notification to see if it's important or not.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:19 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): For everyone asking, no news on pricing or availability yet. Also, no word on whether previous BlackBerry models will be upgradeable to BlackBerry OS 6.

11:20 a.m. EDT: It lets you add individual contacts right on the home screen and provides different views on how you can look at the information. A quick swipe to the left shows all the content and apps that you use most frequently.

11:22 a.m. EDT: Now Lindsay is explaining universal search. He said you can search e-mails, BBMs, contacts, music, or whatever else is on your phone. All you do is start typing what you want to find. Beyond just providing content from the device, RIM is also allowing you to search App World. So you can search on the device and off the device onto the Internet.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:24 a.m. EDT: Lindsay is now talking about how RIM has enhanced the media experience. He is going to start with pictures. How do you manage all the pictures on your phone? Now you can put pictures into folders and manage them so that you can pull up the pics you want when you want.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:25 a.m. EDT: RIM has added two-finger tap to allow you to work on a particular picture to either move it or delete it or send it via text message. So you are able to manage pictures right on the phone. The camera also uses geolocation to title the picture with the city. By automatically naming pictures you can search for them with the universal search.

11:27 a.m. EDT: One of the features added is a podcast feature so now you can listen and manage podcasts. RIM has also added Wi-Fi music sync.

11:27 a.m. EDT (Josh Lowensohn): Pricing information as per AT&T (thanks Victor, Anon, and Kawdess):

"Pricing and Availability

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone will be available only for AT&T customers on August 12 in AT&T company owned retail stores and online at www.att.com/blackberrytorch, as well as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and RadioShack stores.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 will be available for $199.99 with 2-year service agreement on a qualifying rate plan and smartphone data plan required. New smartphone customers may choose from two AT&T monthly data plan options, $15 for 200 MB of wireless data or $25 for 2 GB. Enterprise and small business customers should contact their account representative for pricing details."

11:27 a.m. EDT: RIM lets you put your entire music catalog on your device and allows you to browse it and search it. You can also tag the music for synchronization at another time.

11:29 a.m. EDT: Now Lindsay is onto talking about the unified social feeds. The device allows you to see all your social-networking feeds and updates. It also allows you to subscribe to and read RSS feeds.

11:29 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Alex: No news yet. Sounds like it'll be an AT&T exclusive for a little while. Press conference is still going though so we might hear more later.

11:30 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Tony: 3.2-inch capacitive touch screen.

11:31 a.m. EDT: Lindsay says that just about every application in BlackBerry 6 has been changed or updated in some way. And now they are rolling a video showing off the features that were just described by Lindsay.

BlackBerry's social feeds Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:32 a.m. EDT: Adam, no word on a BlackPad. My gut tells me this is a BlackBerry Torch event, exclusively. So probably no word on that yet.

11:33 a.m. EDT: Michael, no word yet on the video capability of the phone. Stay tuned.

11:33 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Mike H: So far, I'm liking what I see as far as BlackBerry OS 6. Better multimedia experience, looks like the home screen will make navigation easier. Universal search looks killer. Also, I like the fact that we're getting both a touch screen and QWERTY keyboard.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:36 a.m. EDT: RIM's CTO David Yach is now on stage talking about BlackBerry 6 and the App World. BlackBerrys' App World will be loaded on the new BlackBerry Torch. Yach said that universal search will help simplify, discover, and ultimately increase demand for apps. Customers can buy apps and have the apps charged right to their AT&T bill.

11:37 a.m. EDT: RIM has also added in-app advertising to the App World store so that developers can have other ways to monetize their applications.

11:39 a.m. EDT: Now Yach is talking up the WebKit browser in BlackBerry 6. He said it should benefit developers because it's based on HTML 5. Now developers aren't limited to constraints that are found in typical Web pages.

11:40 a.m. EDT: Yach said that developers can get APIs so that they can tie into some of the features like universal search. Applications that ran on previous versions of the BlackBerry will also be able to run on the new BlackBerry 6 so that people don't lose their investment in apps, Yach said.

11:43 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): I believe it will be a regular touch screen. No SurePress like the Storm.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:44 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Still waiting to hear about Flash support in the browser. I'm dying to know too.

11:44 a.m. EDT: Yach said that RIM has made it easier to find and discover applications as well as pay for them. And he said that RIM is also now making it easier for developers to develop apps for RIM.

11:44 a.m. EDT (Josh Lowensohn): @Bonnie, the only flash I'm seeing on this phone is the camera and the memory card.

11:45 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): samDanny: I'm sure the Torch or a similar device will make its way to other carriers, but AT&T will have exclusivity for at least a few months.

11:45 a.m. EDT: David Christopher, chief marketing officer for AT&T's wireless unit, is now taking the stage. He is talking about bringing the Torch to market.

11:47 a.m. EDT: Christopher said that AT&T plans to put some money and muscle behind its marketing campaign for the BlackBerry Torch. This Thursday, AT&T will start its ad campaign to push this device.

11:48 a.m. EDT: When will it go on sale? Christopher said it will go on sale August 12 and will cost $199 with a contract and data plan. But I guess everyone already knew that since it's already all over AT&T's Web site.

Bonnie Cha/CNET

11:50 a.m. EDT: The official press conference has ended. The new BlackBerry Torch is officially launched. There was no talk of a BlackPad, but I didn't think there would be. Now the company is offering demonstrations of the device. I'm going to try to get some face time with a few of the bigwig execs here. So stay tuned for more updates from me.

11:50 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Yossi and for everyone else who asked: RIM didn't say anything about BlackBerry OS 6 updates for other devices. I'll be sure to ask them when I go get a demo of the device.

11:53 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Yes, there's a built-in accelerometer. Will have both portrait and landscape onscreen keyboards.

11:55 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): David: It has a 5-megapixel camera with Flash, continuous auto-focus, VGA video recording.

11:56 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Usman: It has no front-facing camera.

11:58 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Randy: It has a 624MHz processor.

11:59 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): Guest: It comes with a 4GB microSD card but can support up to 32GB

11:59 a.m. EDT (Bonnie Cha): OK, guys. I'm going to try to get some hands-on time with the device now. Stay tuned for our first impressions, videos, and photos. Will try to get all your questions answered too.

Editors' note: The original, pre-event version of this story was initially published Monday at 2:49 p.m. PDT.