BlackBerry lights Torch

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has unveiled a handset named Torch, aimed at the iPhone generation.

The smartphone features the new BlackBerry 6 operating system and is the first offering to combine a keyboard with a full touch-screen giving users a choice between screen and keyboard for typing.

Mike Lazaridis, RIM'S president and co-ceo, called the announcement, "one of the most significant launches in RIM’s history."

He added: “With a new user interface, new browser and new handset design, the highly-anticipated BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry 6 deliver integrated and uncompromising capabilities for consumers and business professionals that preserve the industry-leading strengths of the BlackBerry platform while adding exciting new dimensions.”

BlackBerry 6 includes expanded messaging capabilities with simplified social networking and RSS feeds, and provides integrated access to the BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and various instant messaging applications. It also has dedicated YouTube and Podcasts apps.

BlackBerry 6 also integrates a new WebKit-based browser that features tabs for accessing multiple sites simultaneously, pinch to zoom for easy navigation and an auto-wrap text zoom feature that can wrap text in a column while maintaining the placement of a page's key elements.

Universal Search, which is always accessible from the Home Screen, allows users to search through email, messages, contacts, music, videos and more on the smartphone, as well as extend search to the Internet or to discover applications on BlackBerry App World.

The Torch 9800 also has BlackBerry App World pre-installed.

The device will be available only for AT&T customers in the US on August 12 at $199.99 on a two-year service agreement.

A world-wide roll-out will follow in due course. Vodafone has annnouced it will be carrying the Torch on its UK network but has not yet announced dates or prices.