We'll just get this out of the way: the Torch 9850 is not a particularly good-looking phone from the front. The design concept is that of a "waterfall" of glass flowing over the device, a seamless, curving pane that welcomes the curious, clumsy imprint of your fingers. That's all well and good, but that purity of flow is ruined by four oddly proportioned buttons and an optical touchpad at the bottom, sticking out of this current like a bunch of bricks.
That's not to say that physical controls can't look nice -- the set on the Droid Charge
look rather good and fit in with the shape of the phone. Here, though, they're just sort of all in a row, like a five-year-old's first attempt at Bedazzling a mouse. Capacitive buttons hidden beneath the glass would be far more agreeable to our aesthetic sensibilities, but these physical inputs at least feel comfortable to the touch. Oh, and they light up pretty, too.
If you want something visually appealing you'll have to flip the phone over. There's a lovely gunmetal band that flows all the way around, looking far more classy than the average touches of blingy plastic chrome used to brighten up other handsets -- indeed, many with RIM provenance.
That polished band runs around a recessed, matte section that is, for the most part, a thin metal battery door. It springs right off with enthusiasm when a tiny button is pressed. Under here is the 1,230mAh battery that powers RIM's new trifecta of smartphones, and a slot for a microSD card -- 4GB comes by default, paired with 4GB on the inside. Dig a little deeper and you'll find a SIM tucked away, needed to help this phone achieve its world-conquering intents. This is the Sprint flavor, so you'll get dual band CDMA / EVDO (800/1,900MHz) with quad band GSM / GPRS / EDGE (850/900/1,800/1,900MHz), 2,100MHz UMTS support and 802.11b/g/n WiFi on 2.4GHz.
That's all backed by the same 1.2GHz processor, 768MB of RAM and "Liquid Graphics" engine found in the other two RIM phones launching today, a tricky trio that have near-identical internals despite rather different externals. Of course, this phone bears more than a passing resemblance to the Torch 9810, but makes do without that one's keyboard.
Instead you get a larger, 3.7-inch WVGA display, set beneath that silica waterfall, looking bright and contrasty and impressive, delivering the same edge-bending viewing angles we saw in the 9930. The screen is the strongest selling point of this phone, something that you'll have to like an awful, awful
lot, because to get it you'll have to give up the slide-out keyboard on the other Torch, which is only slightly thicker (14.6mm, vs. 11.5 here) but suffers from a smaller, lower-res, 3.2-inch VGA LCD.