Want a RIM Torch but not AT&T? You have choices

Would-be Torch users have more options than they might realize -- and certainly more than iPhone users have

Pause to peruse reader feedback to articles about the new BlackBerry Torch and you might sense some subtle resistance to the fact that the anticipated device only runs on AT&T's wireless service. You'll see comments such as "They lost me at AT&T," "AT&T blows and they're going there. Must think that's why people have iPhones," and "Only on AT&T? Well, @#$% you BlackBerry. I'm moving to Android-based phone and dropping my Storm."

Indeed, AT&T has attained a Rodney Dangerfield-esque reputation ("No respect! No respect at all!") in some smartphone circles, thanks to loud grousing of some iPhone users over poor service quality. Thus, some would-be Torch bearers refuse to adopt the device out of loathing for AT&T. Fortunately, though, they do have options other than giving up on the device entirely.

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First, though, let's address the question of why RIM would choose to go exclusively with AT&T with its much-anticipated "iPhone killer" rather than, say, rolling out options for different carriers all at once. Independent telecom and wireless analyst Jeff Kagan surmises that RIM is hoping some of that Apple iPhone juice rubs off on the Torch. "iPhone has had an incredible start in the U.S. market with one carrier. It provides a sense of scarcity and exclusivity ... which makes it more desirable," he told me via e-mail. "AT&T and Apple have a pretty good relationship and a very successful device they both manage. I think RIM wants lightning to strike twice with AT&T."

Option 1: Give AT&T a chance with a non-Apple phone. The carrier has suffered many slings and arrows over the service-quality issues iPhone users have suffered -- but AT&T may not be entirely to blame, according to Kagan. "The problems AT&T has are because of the demand from the Apple iPhone. Apple handles wireless differently than every other handset maker. It is very difficult for AT&T or any carrier to keep up with Apple. RIM has always worked very well on AT&T, and I don't see that changing with this," he said.

Also, not all AT&T customers or iPhone users are fed up with their provider. In fact, a recent study by Yankee Group found that the vast majority of iPhone users are quite pleased with AT&T, and that the satisfaction rate of AT&T subscribers as a whole is 68 percent. That's not too bad if you consider that only 69 percent of all smartphone users said they are satisfied with their mobile provider.

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