One of my main reasons for using a BlackBerry has always been that I do a lot of writing and text manipulation on my phone while travelling, and for those purposes a well-designed built-in keyboard is essential. But I’ve had to face facts: in recent months, I’ve been using its touch-screen interface a lot more than I realised.
I’ve been rocking the BlackBerry Torch as my main smart phone pretty much ever since it was launched last October. That in itself marks a significant change in my attitude towards earlier touch-screen BlackBerry devices. I described the original as having “the worst text input system I’ve ever seen on a portable device” and the Storm 2 as a “right royal pain” to type on; I didn’t stick with using either device any longer than it took to finish reviewing them.
The immediate and obvious difference with the Torch is that it has a proper slide-out keyboard, rather than a poorly-realised touch-screen interface. It also still has the joystick-like pointer control, which means that for existing BlackBerry users, you can pick it up and start using it straight away. And that was exactly what I did: I remember being at the media launch and navigating rapidly through apps in the usual way, while everyone around me was busy playing with the screen. I definitely liked the extra screen real estate, the ability to browse more complex sites and the overall BlackBerry 6 OS experience, but for me touch was just a minor useful addition, and one I didn’t see myself using too much.
That remains true when it comes to writing, handling email, browsing and using WordPress, which are my key BlackBerry tasks. But it was only when I started testing out the recently-released BlackBerry Bold 9780 — which offers the BlackBerry 6 OS experience but in a non-touch environment with a traditional BlackBerry form factor — that I realised that I do actually use the touch interface fairly often.
I’ve become used to flicking across from the main screen to access the connection manager on the phone’s frequently-used apps page. On the Bold, which only offers a single row of app icons by default, this is a rather more time-consuming task. I also now oscillate between using the control stick to launch new apps or simply touching them, although when switching between open apps I still find the non-touch version faster. And when I went to photograph the two devices and realised that the Torch was in fact filthy with fingerprints by comparison, I had to admit that my stance had obviously softened.
While I’m happy sticking to the Torch, the Bold 9780 still has appeal: Vodafone and 3 sell it on cheaper monthly caps than the Torch is available for, and it weighs noticeably less than the Torch. But for me, it’s served as a reminder that while I don’t want to touchscreen-type, I’m less opposed to touch interfaces than I used to be.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman clearly needs to start travelling with a packet of screen wipes. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.