Today's breaking news is the release of the BlackBerry Torch, the latest BlackBerry phone and the first phone to run BlackBerry 6.0, RIM's latest OS. (Learn more about BlackBerry 6.0 here.)

One other noteworthy point is that the BlackBerry Torch is the first BlackBerry to feature both a physical QWERTY keyboard (which is common) and a touchscreen (which is pretty rare for BlackBerry devices, though the Storm did have one.)

With the device offering both a physical and touchscreen keyboard, it's difficult to avoid comparisons to the Droid 2, Motorola's second iteration of the Droid slider, which was just released. (Read more about the Droid 2 and the special-edition R2D2 release here.)

Anyway, with a new Android phone hitting the market just about every week, I have to ask: can BlackBerry (and the Torch) keep up?

Why Get the Torch?

Simply put, BlackBerry 6.0 is a huge leap forward. Prepare for a sleek, fluid UI, armed with a great blend of work-related features (better contact management to juggle email, phone, and social media contacts) and fun features (new interface for media and music, for instance). Another great new feature is univeral search, which lets you search your entire phone through one interface. With the physical keyboard/touchscreen combo, paired with the latest features in BlackBerry 6, the BlackBerry Torch is the best BlackBerry on the market. (You can learn more about BlackBerry 6 on RIM's site, too.)

Why...Not?

Despite the leaps RIM has made in recent months, the iPhone and Android seem to be moving at the speed of light, and it's getting hard for RIM to keep up. Here are some of the disadvantages to the Torch:

  1. Comparatively, its specs fall flat. The Torch offers 624 MHz processor, 3.2" screen (480x320 resolution), 512MB flash drive, 5.5 hours talk time. The Droid 2 offers a 1GHz processor, a 3.7" screen (854X480 resolution), and 9.6 hours talk time.
  2. The only carrier available is AT&T. I've never actually used AT&T, but the company's reputation for mediocre network coverage precedes them, at least in some areas.
  3. The app store is unimpressive. It's been understood for a while now that RIM's App World marketplace falls short with just a few thousand apps, vs. the tens of thousands available with Android and the iPhone. Granted, I'm sure a lot of the more business-focused apps are there, but if you're planning on using the device for work and pleasure, this could be a disappointment.

Ultimately, it comes down to choice, as with any gadget. If you feel loyal to the BlackBerry brand, the Torch is a strong offering with plenty of enhancements. But if you're looking for the hottest phone with the most impressive specs, you should probably consider another device.