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BlackBerry Torch 9860 review

 Review: September 2011  

Last updated September 2012

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: The BlackBerry Torch 9860 retains the safety of RIM's legendary email and messaging services, but enters the modern world with a touchscreen user interface (BlackBerry 7) and a virtual keyboard.

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BlackBerry have been trying to perfect a touchscreen smartphone for years, starting with the disastrous Storm series, but having much greater success recently with the Torch touchscreen / physical keyboard hybrid. The new Torch 9860 is their latest incarnation of a full touchscreen phone. Using the proven touch technology of the original Torch 9800, the Torch 9860 dispenses with the physical keyboard and rolls out the touchscreen across the entire height of the phone. Could this finally be the holy grail that BlackBerry have been seeking for so long?

First impressions are good. The Torch is a sleek, ultraslim device with the familiar BlackBerry build quality and attention to detail. A curved, bevelled edge gives the 9860 a distinctive look, setting it apart from the Android herd and iPhone clones. A BlackBerry logo adds to the kudos. There's perhaps more plastic in sight than some would like, but the phone certainly feels solid. With a weight of 135g it feels very solid too. This is high quality plastic, you understand? At the bottom of the phone are 5 physical buttons, including an optical trackpad, and above them sits the 3.7 inch capacitive touchscreen. There's no messing about with a clickable screen here - this is a conventional capacitive touchscreen with pinch and zoom capability, and it responds well, just as touchscreens should. 480 x 800 pixels is the de facto standard for smartphones in this price bracket, which is not to say it's average, because it's a nice high resolution. It's a conventional TFT display, so it can't match the Super AMOLED Plus display of the Samsung Galaxy S2 or the Retina display of the iPhone 4S, but it's bright enough to use in most situations and has plenty of contrast. The Liquid Graphics engine helps to display images and videos very smoothly.

The Torch 9860 runs the BlackBerry 7 operating system, which we've encountered previously with the BlackBerry Bold 9900. Although the OS was designed primarily for phones with a traditional keyboard plus small screen, it works perfectly well with a full touchscreen. There may be occasions when its origins make it slightly less appealing than an iPhone, but previous BlackBerry users should take to it like a duck to water. The 9860 is equipped with an ample 1.2GHz processor and 768MB of RAM, so it responds with lightning speed too. There's a choice of on-screen keyboards - portrait SureType®, QWERTY and multitap, and landscape QWERTY keyboards. The optical trackpad helps you scroll up and down and select menus too.

Emailing is no problem - this is a BlackBerry, remember? - and there's BB Messenger too, of course. BlackBerry 7 integrates social media like facebook and twitter seamlessly into the messaging system. Web browsing takes a leap forward on a screen of this size, compared with previous BlackBerries. The new WebKit browser is pretty competent at rendering web pages, and with pinch and zoom control you can easily find your way around. It lacks flash support, however.

The Torch 9860 is very well connected. In addition to 3G HSPA running at a speedy 14.4Mbps download, you'll find Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB and a 3.5mm stereo audio jack. GPS is built in, and BlackBerry Maps is at its best on the big screen, although it doesn't ever match Google Maps in user friendliness.

You'll be surprised by the camera on the 9860. With 5 megapixels, continuous autofocus and a flash, it manages to do a pretty good job in most situations and is a replacement for a point-and-shoot digicam. It can also record video at 720p HD resolution and 30 frames per second. Videos are excellent, and almost stutter-free, although they're not so good in low light. Video playback is great too, thanks to the fast processor and the Liquid Graphics engine. The Wikitude World Browser lets you use the camera to explore a virtual world around you. The augmented reality app shows places of interest through the camera viewfinder as you move around.

When it comes to apps, the Torch is no iPhone. Core business apps are well catered for, and there are some 3D touch-control games. But you won't find the wealth of third party apps that come with an iPhone or with Android.

The Torch 9860 comes with 4GB of memory, and it can accept microSD cards up to 32GB.

Battery life isn't one of the Torch's strong points, which is a shame for a BlackBerry, which usually score well in this regard. The battery has a moderate capacity of just 1230 mAh, which really isn't enough to power a device of this potential. It's no worse than the Android pack, but it'll need charging after a day's heavy use. Stand by with your charger, folks!

All things considered, the Torch 9860 is a good touchscreen smartphone. It's certainly not the best though. You won't find an iPhone at this price point, but you will find the HTC One S, which would be a better option for media-and-app-focused consumers. Business users could pick up a BlackBerry Bold 9790, which would be a safer, but less exciting choice. Perhaps then, the Torch 9860 is targeted somewhere in the middle - at the user who clings to the security of the BlackBerry, but longs for the excitement of the touchscreen media world. The 9860 would make a good choice in that case.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 features include:

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BlackBerry Torch 9860 user reviews

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Average rating from 22 reviews:

Reviewed by planetlaxy2012 from United Kingdom on 10th May 2012
This phone is very misleading because initally, it looks like a great phone!
it has a very fiddly touchscreen, its not very comfortable to hold, the case gets very scratched very quickly and the phone becomes boring very quickly!
the apps are not great like on all blackberrys but the few that are half decent are not compatible with a full screen model like this so they look rubbish and are designed fot the qwerty keypad models like the curve and bold!Avoid!

Reviewed by ace of heart from jamaica on 28th Feb 2012
have this phone for 2 weeks now only issues are the low powered battery and the keys...these keys should be virtual like that of the storm2 so a gave this phone four stars....for not not having virtual keys and a better battery life.

Reviewed by Olanrewaju from Nigeria on 11th Feb 2012
Coming from a curve 2 background, i must say i find the 9850 awesome. I was skeptic bout moving from a keyboard to a touchscreen phone but within a week i was able to get a grip on the phone.

The design is awesome, i am like the envy of my friends at work who never believed it was a blackberry as first glance. They have this 'awe' moment when i tell them its a blackberry.

The response of the screen is responsive and intuitive; glides so well with my fingers and i can type pretty well in landscape or portrait mode; a little lag here and there though but i can live with that.

The camera is above average for me, some pretty decent shots while the music and video capabilities is a blast. I so love the big screen too in between!

For users complaining, i think they should update their OS to 7.1.xx which was the first thing i did after unboxing the phone. I also purchased a screen guard and body case and overall i am so happy with the 9850/60.

One lil glitch would be the battery life. I charge once everyday with heavy usage - Constant BBM, Whatsapp, music, emails etc...

Would i recommend this phone? Absolutely. Had the choice of going with the 9800, 9810 and 9900 but i stuck to my guts and got the 9850

And boy, I AM SO PLEASED!!!

Reviewed by Tony Webber from UK on 27th Jan 2012
This phone is RUBBISH,the screen freezes and does what it wants to and drops calls the battery life is poor,a day if your lucky.Its my second phone in two weeks.02 wont let me changeto another modil,Ihave had BB's for years but I think they put this phone out to the public with out testing. DO NOT HAVE THIS IT IS A PILE OF JUNK.

Reviewed by Eddie from UK on 30th Dec 2011
Since there are few reviews I thought I'd update mine. I've had no problems with the phone. It needs charging every two days, with light usage. To date there have been 2 software updates from BB, both have been transparent. The predictive text is very good and I tend to use the phone in portrait when using the keyboard. I have purchased a BB case made specifically for the 9860, I think this helps with battery life and protection; also got some screen protectors from Amazon that are good and don't interfere with the screen operation. Overall 2 months in and very happy with the phone. I've upgraded my rating as the battery performance is equally as poor on the major competitors.

Reviewed by Naomi from Uk on 19th Dec 2011
This phone is rubbish.it always freezes and the battery power is poor.don't buy this rubbish.

Reviewed by Roscoe from UK on 5th Dec 2011
This phone was ok at first then the screen starts freezing it gets worse the back button stop responding then works fine. This Is annoying especially when back Button stops working. Am sick of this and just want to rid this for iphone or samsung note.

Reviewed by Seixao from Canada on 2nd Dec 2011
DONT EVER BUY THIS CELPHONE! I did it and it was a HUGE mistake.. it's a piece oj junk! nothing works on it. Blackberry company sucks.. just go for an android!

Reviewed by GM from UK on 26th Nov 2011
Phone has excellent functions with a very repsonsive touch screen and pad. It does hang occasionally which is annoying, but very fast most of the time. Keyboard does take some getting use to in potrait mode, landscape is a doddle. Battery life is worse than my 9780, RIM should've retained battery life especially with a beter OS. Nevertheless I can't put handset down.

Reviewed by Lins from UK on 23rd Nov 2011
Well I wondered if I might be allowed a brief update to my earlier report particularly as, it seems, so few people are showing interest in this phone. As far as the functioning of the phone is concerned ... no problems ... still as good as the day I got it. BUT there is a cosmetic problem. After 2 months use the plastic screen is scratching very badly. I have no nails, and my hands are always clean (because I'm an office worker) but the phone (at 1/12 of the way into a 24 month contract) is already looking a grubby wreck. Oh BlackBerry ... what a sad and serious miscalculation! Guess your next "touch screen" phone'll be glass faced ... or you're going to go out of business!!

Reviewed by tintin from uk on 25th Oct 2011
a superb phone!!..went from iphone 3gs to the torch 9800(which is also an excellent phone).. was offered iphone 4 but didn't want to follow the crowd so to speak. e-mail is 2nd to none!. as for the 3 days down time..big whoop!, nowt said regarding the wonderful iphone 4 and its antenna problems!, tried htc desire s, a nice looking phone, just couldn't hold a signal, kept dropping calls, texts wouldn't send..froze almost twice a day..maybe just a bad phone i got. i for one will not go the "granny smith" side again...like my blackberry..;-)

Reviewed by Eddie from UK on 25th Oct 2011
Been using the phone over the last 4 days an so far Iím quite happy with it. I thought long and hard about which phone to go for when upgrading my Bold 9700; my wife has a Galaxy S, but I donít like Android. My daughter has an iPhone 4, which I do like, but the whole Apple control/restriction thing puts me off (I hate iTunes); also, the Blackberry is made in Hungary (preventing any guilt about Chinese sweat shops). I decided to go for the 9860 over the 9900 as touchscreens are the future. I am still missing the keyboard a bit, but will adapt. OS 7 is not that much different from OS 6, that was on the Bold; feels very familiar. The phone performs well in all aspects that you would want for a smartphone. I was initially concerned about signal reception, which did not seem as good as the Bold, but putting in a brand new sim card seems to have sorted that problem. Battery life is a problem, I used to get 5 to 7 days from my Bold (Iím not a heavy user), but so far have only got just over 2 days from the 9860; however, this compares well with both the Galaxy S and iPhone 4. Battery design is obviously lagging behind a bit. The feel of the phone is good and it looks good. The lack of apps, as always, is a problem with the Blackberry (I do occasionally envy iPhone users). Also, some of the apps I had on the Bold are not available for the 9860 (Tesco Clubcard, Ebay, BBC iplayer, to name just 3) hopefully this will be rectified soon. Overall, a well made phone that does what itís supposed to and does it well. It is easy to use, is responsive and feels good in the hand. Like all the new phones it suffers from poor battery life, but even in this respect it performs as well as, or better, than any of the competitors I have experience of.

Reviewed by Mr Jobs from The Other Side (not radio 2) on 24th Oct 2011
This is the best phone ever, make iphone and android look like kids toys . DA BIZNEZ

Reviewed by philip cloke from uk on 18th Oct 2011
i have just up graded to this new device from an Apple i phone cant believe how much better it is. if your open minded and want a change this is the one. well done Blackberry Brilliant

Reviewed by Dave from UK on 15th Oct 2011
What a brilliant phone the 9860 is, signal-great, build quality-great, call quality-second to none. To brian of the UK: How many years have BB been giving perfect email services? I don't think you should condemn this phone because of 3 days. If you are so reliant on email etc you will be disappointed with the Android phones email and especially battery life. don't get me wrong they are great phones but just not quite there yet with email.

Reviewed by Brian from UK on 12th Oct 2011
Three days ago I would have given this phone 4 stars (knocking one off for relative lack of bb apps compared to Android or iPhone) It is great to use - the touchscreen keypads (both landscape and portrait) are easy, especially if like me you have fairly small hands; and the phone is fast, connectivity is good, both on wifi and network (O2) BUT BUT BUT - for the last 3 days all Blackberry services have been unusable (worldwide). So I have to ask - would you buy a phone so reliant on the competence and servers of one company (ie RIM/Blackberry. Answer - NO So tomorrow I am going to try to swap it for an HTC or Samsung

Reviewed by YB from England on 12th Oct 2011
best phone i think iv had upto now and got a great deal from vodafone for it. touch screen is as good as any other high market phone,fast,simple to use,good quality, stylish etc wouldnt change it for any other phone that is out on the market at present!!

Reviewed by Lins from UK on 8th Oct 2011
For me, a gamble that's definitely paid off! I was worried that the on-screen keyboard would be a pain to use but I so wanted the larger screen that I risked it on the basis that the landscape keyboard looked manageable by the chunkiest of thumbs!! In the event, typing on this phone is a doddle and I have only ever typed in portrait mode - for some reason one's thumbs seem to sense just where they've got to land. The internet reviewers of this machine have completely overlooked a potential market for the phone ... namely those of us who work in construction, design etc. Now, not only do we have reliable access to our emails across numerous accounts but if we need to check a detail, on a pdf for example, or indeed a photo, its as easy as easy as holding the original document in one's hand ... so quick. I have discovered for myself another coincidental benefit of this great little phone ... years ago I had a Nokia CK-7W car kit fitted in my car. Tried numerous Nokia phones but none of them could hold the Bluetooth connection with the car kit ... and for as long as they did there was usually the most horrendous echo for people calling me when I was driving. Tried this phone with the same kit ... holds the Bluetooth signal perfectly 100% of the time and my callers assure me the sound is always crystal clear ... good ol' BlackBerry! The camera is fine, the video is startlingly good. Everything the phone does, it does v well. I note on your review battery life gave you cause for concern ... was that why you knocked a star off your rating? You must have been sent a duff machine. As RobR says, get yourself a proper (power-saving) BB case and the phone'll see you through a busy day, no trouble.

Reviewed by TK from Canada on 8th Oct 2011
Battery life was horrible (20 % at 5 pm with moderate use) UNTIL I wiped it and reloaded the information. If you use the "device switch" instead of transferring the information, you may be having the same problem. I was one of the fastest typers I ever met (haha so modest) with 9700, so the virtual keyboard really hurts me. I have to admit that i'm impressed with how BB corrects my typos --- if I trust it and keep typing instead of compulsively going back and correcting. Apps - you can download more apps via browser than what's available on App World. I'm a little annoyed by the skimpy selection, but I actually have EVERY app I need and use. Bottom line - Everything about this phone that has to do with productivity is far far superior than any other smartphone or iphone in my lifestyle. (and I even LOVE the fact it doesn't do MS Exchange - how many iphone users do you know who don't use gmail to bypass the Exchange synch?) I'm a keyboard-girl, and I really miss not only the fast (and blind) typing but also the keyboard shortcuts (both native and Quicklaunch) and typing the first letter of the selection instead of scrolling. It's preference, and I'm not going to hold it against the 9860. P.S. I have a 9860 instead of 9900 even though the 9900 has the most beautifully clicky (yet you don't need to press it hard - you don't get the blackberry thumbs) keyboard. 9900 camera sucks. It is grainy in questionable light conditions, and does not do macro. Do not trust what you read in reviews about how you can zoom in with digital zoom to make up for it. Does not work. at all. No matter how much you zoom in. 9860's camera is actually superior than 9700 on the original OS 5. (9700 camera works better with OS 5 than OS 6, but it could be just my eyes). You can take a photo of the "fine print" portion of product labels and read it back later. I'm talking as fine as ingredient lists on a granola bar. That's why 9900 wasn't a feasible choice for me. There was nothing wrong with my 9700 either, except I really love how quickly OS 7 can bring up pdf files (26-page document, for instance) within 2 seconds (and an extra second or two per page). Don't like the weight balance of any of the slider torch including the 9810. WRist strains while typing - yes, i do type that much and it does matter to me. :) So that brings me to 9860. Until they come out with QNX.

Reviewed by Jeff from UK on 3rd Oct 2011
This is a good BlackBerry apart from one thing. If you take it through an airport POWER OFF! The magnets in the X-ray machines have a tendency to ďrecalibrateĒ the screen and make it unusable. Otherwise, an excellent phone.

Reviewed by Pete from UK on 29th Sep 2011
I have had the phone for several weeks now and i can honestly say it is great. I use my phone all day and i cannot see how you can compare the battery life on this model with Android, particularly HTC devices. HTC make great phones but their battery life is appalling whereas the 9860 easily lasts all day and well into the evening. Expecting a phone to last two or three days is impossible now unless it spends most of its time on standby. The Blackberry loads websites very quickly and of course email works perfectly, yes i know the Blackberry doesn't have anywhere near the number of apps that the iPhone does but that's really not what it's for is it? Anyway congratulations on a good, if slightly delayed review.

Reviewed by RobR from UK on 17th Sep 2011
I have has this phone for three weeks now. Am very impressed. Previuosly had a HTC Desire and was hacked off charging every day if not more. I love this phone, email, Facebook, twitter all run seamlessly and the screen is a good size and so much better outside than the HTC I had. Camera is very good and picture quality is fine. Ok, blackberry apps aren't what Apple has, but then again neither was Android until recently. All the things I want like footy alerts, edmondo for running etc are all there and it's growing daily. Battery life is fine for what in use it for and I get 2.5 to 3 days out of it (e.g. Buy a proper BB case that puts phone into powersaving mode when in it) There are a number of things you can do to improve the life but I'm happy compared to what I had. Phone is v fast, graphics superb and looks smart and have no reals faults to it. I compared against the Bold 9900 but I wanted a bigger screen and this fits the bill. Surprised it only got 4* as I think better than Bold.

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