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RIM lights a candle for the BlackBerry Torch

OS rev, touch screen, full QWERTY

RIM's BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone makes its debut today, initially as an AT&T exclusive, and it takes the company squarely into iPhone territory.

BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphoneThis makes the 9800 very big deal for RIM, the Canadian master of smartphones for the enterprise which somehow, picked up a big consumer following for not particularly consumer-friendly phones.

The march of Apple's iPhone and the spectacular rise of Android-based phones puts this lucrative business under threat and the Torch 9800 is RIM's response.

This is the first handset to run BlackBerry 6, the latest rev of RIM's phone operating system, which means a new WebKit based browser and a better UI - hurrah! And it this slider phone has a touch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard, and GPS and Wi-Fi in b/g/n flavours - we're out of breath already. The spec includes a 5MP camera, 512MB Flash and 4GB onboard memory.

As is the way these days, the 9800 comes with lots of pre-loaded icons to hook into BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. And there is a universal search function to help you find all the stuff you've loaded on your phone. Is this enough to tempt people away from Apple's App store?

The Torch 9800 starts shipping on August 12 for $199 with a two year voice and data contract. Two AT&T data plans are on offer: $15 for 200MB of wireless data or $25 for 2GB. Overage fees apply, so read the small print.

US retailers Best Buy, Wal-Mart and RadioShack are stocking the phone alongside AT&T.

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