Research In Motion has been working for some 16 months with the folks at AT&T, to bring to us a smartphone that will be able to compete against the likes of the iPhone and Android phones. The new RIM BlackBerry Torch incorporates a standard keypad that many BlackBerry users prefer instead of the virtual keyboards that many new phones have. But for those who also want a virtual keypad, the Torch provides it as well. So what makes the new Torch so special?

The Torch has three times the input options of the iPhone: You can tap on a virtual keyboard on the 3.2-inch, 480 x 360 pixel display, you can slide out the hardware keyboard preferred by most BlackBerry users, or you can use an optical trackpad to select menu items.

Overall, the Torch is slightly larger than the iPhone, even with the keyboard tucked in, and weighs 5.6 ounces to the iPhone 4’s 4.8 ounces.

BlackBerry 6 also sports a universal search feature. When you search, the BlackBerry Torch not only queries e-mail, calendar, and apps on the device, but also external services such as Google and YouTube. An API lets developers make other services searchable here, too.

Gone are the days when folks used their smartphones only for e-mail and SMS. Now you also need to be able to link to Twitter, Facebook, IM and so on. BlackBerry Torch integrates multiple social feeds into a single dashboard, organized by time. Likewise, a native RSS reader and podcast manager handle the same tasks for your newsfeeds and podcasts. It’s about time the BlackBerry got these features, because most Android phones today do this out of the box.

Which does make one wonder. Is RIM falling behind Apple and Google? Will they be able to keep pace with their new offering? Or has Apple and Google stepped out way ahead of the crowd?

I do know one thing. The screen shots were not very impressive. Just my two cents.

Comments welcome.

Source – Gadget Lab