Mobile deathmatch: RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 vs. Apple iPhone 4

The new BlackBerry doesn't try to be an iPhone, but does work better with touch

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The winner: The iPhone 4, whose selection of apps and strong app quality far outshine what's available for the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry has improved its app management somewhat, but the lack of a desktop client for App World and the lack of Mac integration are real negatives.

Deathmatch: Web and Internet
For years, RIM has offered a substandard portal to the Web; BlackBerry OS 6 aims to change that with a new browser based on the same WebKit engine used by the iPhone's iOS and Google Android. RIM has succeeded in presenting regular Web pages as such. Both Apple and Google are strong forces behind HTML5 and other modern browser technologies, so it's no surprise that both offer capable Web browsers. Do note that neither is as HTML5-savvy as their desktop versions, however: Based on the HTML5 Test site's scores, the BlackBerry OS 6 browser scores 208 out of a possible 300, thus outperforming both the iPhone's mobile Safari (which scores 185) and Android's mobile Chrome (which scores 176). By comparison, desktop Chrome scores 197 and desktop Safari scores 208.

The BlackBerry loses its previous capability of reformatting a Web page to better fit the BlackBerry screen; now it uses the same pinch, zoom, and panning gestures as the iPhone to navigate the "native" Web page. But the mobile Safari browser is much easier to use, thanks to the inclusion of Back and Forward buttons and a Search field that is always present onscreen. On the BlackBerry Torch, you have to use the contextual menu accessed via the physical Menu button or by tapping and holding on the screen. Both the BlackBerry and iPhone browsers have similar onscreen controls to share, refresh, and switch among open Web pages. Also, the BlackBerry can't select text or images on Web pages for copying; the iPhone can select both.

The biggest issue I had with the BlackBerry browser was its speed, or lack thereof. Loading pages on the BlackBerry always took longer than on an iPhone over the same Wi-Fi network -- typically 30 to 50 percent longer. And the BlackBerry frequently timed out in loading Web pages, while the iPhone did not. Sometimes, the BlackBerry took two or three times longer to load the same pages as the iPhone -- and overall, the Wi-Fi speeds were little better than 3G speeds. On 3G, the two devices' Web-loading speeds are closer (both use the same AT&T network, which is slow in San Francisco and often is limited to EDGE radio frequencies), but the BlackBerry continued to trail the iPhone. That slow downloading also made page refresh slower on the BlackBerry when scrolling.

Neither device supports Adobe Flash. RIM says it is working with Adobe on making Flash Player 10.1 available for BlackBerry OS 6 but won't commit to when that might happen. Apple, of course, has no plans to allow Flash support, given Apple's dislike of the Adobe Flash technology.

The winner: The iPhone 4, thanks to its faster speed, its easier UI, and its ability to copy text and graphics.

Deathmatch: Location support
Both the iPhone 4 and BlackBerry Torch support GPS location, and both can triangulate location based on Wi-Fi signals. As noted earlier, the AT&T Maps app on the BlackBerry is substandard compared to the iPhone's solid Google Maps app. Both mobile OSes let developers integrate location information in their apps, so location is just another native feature.

Although the BlackBerry asks for permission to work with location information (as does the iPhone), it does not provide user-controllable settings for location utilization by the device or individual applications, as the iPhone does.

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