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BlackBerry and beyond…

by Vikki Chowney on 16th January 2011

Though I failed to acknowledge it, the search for my perfect handset ended about six months ago when I started using the Nexus One.

I’ve spoken before about  my new found love for Android (well, it was at the time) when I trialled the HTC Hero. In the end I found it lagged too much and royally messed up my contacts, but  my interest had been piqued. The Nexus fixed that for me, possibly because most of my details are Google centric, but also because of my increasing reliance on the company’s technologies in most areas of my working life.  Sure, I missed having tactile keys, but the sheer ease of use in terms of apps, sharing and the like made it the best option all round.

That’s not to say the Nexus and I haven’t had our teething problems.  The biggest – and potentially most important – issue I’ve had with it is its terrible battery life. Even using the desktop dock during the day to charge, it lasts maybe four or five hours tops if I’m lucky. For me that just isn’t good enough. It’s not even like I’ve been using it that hard. Spotify drains it for sure, but even shutting that down has little effect.

So I looked around again a few months ago, namely at the Blackberry Torch and iPhone 4 with a heavy heart (as historically I’m not a fan of either brand). It was an interesting experiment though, as I used both on Vodafone for a month so that – as a 3 customer – I could compare network as well as handset.

On that point,  there honestly wasn’t much of a difference. Big Red was, as expected, reliably fast and the coverage was great. I might have even switched if 3 hadn’t offered me such a ridiculously good contract. But I digress.

In all honesty I used the iPhone for a few hours at best. There’s something about the hardware that feels uncomfortable when you hold it. It’s high-end, and a definite improvement on the 3GS, but there’s something I can’t get my head around. I know many, many Apple fanboys, so I’m aware of how the OS works and the integration with iTunes has always appealed. The upgraded camera is impressive, and on the whole, it’s a great phone – just not for me.

Then there’s the Torch. I’ve always been dismissive of Blackberry, putting it in a distinct pigeon hole with ‘phones that do email really well’. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, I just needed a bit more freedom to create high quality images or video at the drop of a hat. I wanted a wider variety of apps to chose from, and less of a focus on professional user habits.

But two things have happened over the past year. First, I’m now more reliant on email than ever. It’s no longer the most important thing for me to be able to take a photo and get a post up as soon as possible. I’m planning more, and a lot of that can’t be done in under 140 characters. Therefore, what I need from a phone changes as well.

Second, Blackberry has upped its game. The App World is by no means perfect, but it’s matured to a satisfactory level and contains the majority of everyday applications you’d use regularly. The Torch is a beautiful phone to boot. Some see a big, clunky handset, I see a huge screen and a phone that doesn’t feel like it fell out of a cracker.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 and Torch 9800 keyboards compared

BlackBerry Bold 9700 and Torch 9800 keyboards compared

Of course, email is easy as pie to set up. I’m also running a Gmail app as the BB OS doesn’t support Googlemail (which figures). Though some have noted that the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as it could be, I’ve not had any problems with the trackpad. Similarly, the lip around the edge of the keyboard doesn’t bother me either. Though the Bold 9700′s QWERTY might be better, when you consider this feature within the context of the whole package, it’s still great to type with.

Plus, the battery life is incredible. For the past month, I’ve got away with charging it for a few hours a day and having that last till the next day. For me, that’s not something to be sniffed at.

Price-wise, you can pick one up for around £440 unlocked or on a £35/month contract, so it’s pricey, but I’m incredibly happy. I’m putting this down as the last chapter in my search for a handset that ticks all of my boxes, but really, who knows what’ll happen in a few months or so…

Image credits: Vodafone (top) and Empty Wrapper (keyboards)

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