BlackBerry Torch 9800: Meet Product Manager Annu Dawar


As a longtime BlackBerry® smartphone user, the new BlackBerry® Torch™ 9800 smartphone is a really interesting device because it combines many BlackBerry smartphone standards (full QWERTY keypad, touch screen, trackpad) in a fresh package with the new BlackBerry® 6 OS. Check out my email interview below with Product Manager Annu Dawar, to find out how his team pulled it all together to build the BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Annu Dawar and I’m a Senior Handheld Product Manager here at Research In Motion® (RIM). I have the pleasure of seeing a handheld from inception, through development and finally to commercialization. The most exciting part of my job is being able to talk to customers, use their feedback to work with a great engineering team and bring new BlackBerry smartphones to market. It’s very rewarding!

What were your key responsibilities PM’ing BlackBerry Torch?

A Product Manager for a BlackBerry smartphone works closely with a lot of different groups to bring all the elements together – it could be an engineering team, a marketing team, external groups or even our factory. My key responsibilities involve coordinating the efforts of all these teams to bring the handheld to market.

What were you trying to deliver with the BlackBerry Torch?

Well, quite simply, the best BlackBerry smartphone…ever! BlackBerry Torch is our first device with BlackBerry 6, and the first with a full QWERTY keyboard plus a touch screen. That was a big deal for us, so we wanted to make sure we created an experience that takes advantage of all those things in a big way.

What do you think will strike people about the BlackBerry Torch smartphone the first time they see it?

When you see the device slide open for the first time, it’s instantly recognizable as a BlackBerry smartphone. We’ve done a good job of making sure we stayed true to our DNA and taken design cues from the rest of the 2010 BlackBerry smartphone portfolio.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone features the evolved form of practically every input mechanism ever seen on a BlackBerry smartphone: trackpad, touch screen and full QWERTY keypad. How did you approach integrating these features into one smartphone?

Great question. It wasn’t easy. But we tried to stay true to our development heritage. We took all the experience we have building great keyboards and applied it to this new slider form factor. We tried to make sure that navigating BlackBerry 6 purely with the keyboard and trackpad was a great experience, just like any other full QWERTY BlackBerry smartphone in market today. At the same time, we made sure the BlackBerry Torch smartphone fluidly implemented the touch navigation and input support in BlackBerry 6.

We thought about what people would want to do with the smartphone when it was ‘closed’ and when it was ‘open’. We made sure when the smartphone was closed it had a great virtual keyboard and when it was open it would provide the QWERTY BlackBerry smartphone experience you know and love today. We also relentlessly tested the way the BlackBerry Torch smartphone fit in your hand to help make sure it felt right; that it felt soft and that the weight distribution was natural. We’re really happy with how it turned out.

What were some of the biggest hurdles you overcame to get it all to work together?

We work hard to make sure the BlackBerry Torch smartphone does what the user wants, without them having to really think about it. So I would say one of the biggest hurdles was deciding how we wanted the BlackBerry Torch smartphone to interact with BlackBerry 6 in a natural way. For example, if you are in the phone application and you slide open the keyboard, you probably want to type the name of someone to call, so we will bring up your phone book. If you are on the Home Screen and you slide open the keyboard, you probably want to search, so that’s what we do. We worked hard to make sure the BlackBerry 6 Action Menus had the right options, the most common tasks that everyday people use. We had endless internal debates about how to do things, and in the end, I’m really proud of how BlackBerry 6 and the BlackBerry Torch smartphone work together.

Sliders aren’t new and BlackBerry smartphones have been around for a long time. Why choose that form factor now?

People love our keyboards, our new trackpad navigation system has been a big hit too, and all the while customers have been asking us for more touch screen smartphones. So we listened! We took our core strength of building QWERTY smartphones and we added a touch screen on top of it. And not just any touch screen – we wanted to make sure it was big. The only way to fit all those things onto one phone was to make it a slider. We believe we have created a really amazing smartphone!

The BlackBerry Torch is also the first BlackBerry smartphone to launch with BlackBerry 6. For longtime BlackBerry smartphone users, what will be the biggest change for them?

I’m a longtime BlackBerry smartphone user myself, and being totally honest, the biggest change for me was breaking all my old habits. I’ve used BlackBerry smartphones for so long that I have developed my own routines and ways of doing things. With BlackBerry 6, we’ve added a bunch of new features that makes things way easier to do, but at the same time, we’ve kept all the old BlackBerry goodness. So, for the first little while, I found myself doing things the old way.

Here is a great example that always leaves me shaking my head afterward when I realize I haven’t taken advantage of BlackBerry 6. I find myself checking which meeting I have to run to next: I open my calendar, click on the day and then scroll to the time. Still works, but that’s the old way of doing things! The new and more efficient way is to click on the quick access bar on the Home Screen and my next three meetings are displayed right there! One-click! It’s a great feature in BlackBerry 6, but it’s so hard to break old habits. So I really want to emphasize this point: longtime BlackBerry smartphone users should definitely check out the new tutorials in BlackBerry 6 (and read our Inside BlackBerry posts – ed.) to see firsthand the new ways they can do things. You won’t regret it!

That’s a good point. A lot of work has obviously gone into making BlackBerry 6 as user friendly as possible (with the new UI, tutorials and startup screen, et cetera). What do you think is the most important aspect of BlackBerry 6 for new users in getting them quickly enjoying the power of the BlackBerry platform?

For me, hands down, the Action Menus are the easiest, most friendly way to unlock the power of BlackBerry 6 on the BlackBerry Torch. Anytime you want to do something, you simply touch the screen and hold your finger down. A graphical menu will pop-up and you will be presented with the most common tasks available to you.

The Action Menus were a deliberate attempt to reduce the number of menus we have in the BlackBerry OS. Over the last 10 years of building BlackBerry smartphones, we’ve stacked up lots of powerful features, but most times you will only frequently use a few specific ones. Now, you can just press and hold the touch screen and you will be rewarded.

What new feature of BlackBerry 6 are you using the most on the BlackBerry Torch?

Well, if I look at the “Frequent” pane on my Home Screen, my favorite app is BlackBerry Messenger, but second is the BlackBerry Browser. The new browser is simply awesome. I love the way it looks, feels and how fast it is! On the big touch screen of the BlackBerry Torch smartphone, it really comes to life, so it’s hard not to use it all the time.

Thanks Annu!

No problem!

About Douglas Soltys

Word Czar. Web 7.0 (in beta). Blogs and tweets and wonders.

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  • Timbert

    He's one step up on the evolutionary ladder with only 4 fingers! How soon until humans have only thumbs or a meat-mitten of some sort?! :)

  • Colin

    So Annu;
    I just signed a contract with Rogers here in Canada for a 9700… having seen this device i am having some serious buyers remorse. (i am still within that period)
    Could you tell me when the torch will come to rogers canada?
    ive been hearing it will be in a few weeks, but nobody knows if a few weeks means this month or Christmas…
    Any projections or guesses would be helpful…

  • Caspan

    Annu you guys did a great job! I know you guys have had some feedback and you cannot please everyone but you have a winner with the real BlackBerry people for sure!

  • emir

    loved the torch and also the bb6 os!

  • Douglas tr0n Soltys

    Hey man, you can still BBM with only thumbs. =D

  • Timbert

    Exactly! Obviously he's more advanced than us shedding that wasteful finger.

  • Capriccio54

    I want to find out if the torch uses any special coating on the glass to avoid fingerprints. Apple uses one called Oleophobic.

    • Jason Moody

      Which doesnt seem to do a right lot as the Iphone I have just sent back to my carrier showed fingerprints just as much as the 3 year old HTC phone that I have replaced it with.

  • Lancer369

    I just have a few questions to ask. 1) why use a slow processor? why not go with at least 800MHz or even go for the 1GHz cpu chips? 2) why not use the indevice storage as a way to install your apps? 3) why haven't we seen a better resolution on the bigger screen? 4) why use a small battery why not use the battery from the 9000 units? 5) why 512MB or ram if the OS 6 uses half of it? why not give us more ram?

  • Prom1

    Will the LOCK button on the top left of the unit remain in ALL firmware actually do just that!? I'm very annoyed on Rogers 9700 with firmware (or similar) is only screensaving.

    I want to LOCK my device with the dedicated LOCK key and thus by default keeping my unit secure – I shouldn't have to call-up the on screen keyboard or slide open to do so. Also locking the device puts the screen saver on.

  • Prom1

    WHY must it have a 1Ghz processor, why not a 2Ghz processor?! Stop thinking all OS int he smartphone space are equal in terms of: Power, efficiency, data consumption. You're reading too much of the hype from Android & WindowsMobile, and recently Apple iPhone 4. Those OS where poorly coded at the core and thus underperformed with just a 600Mhz range cpu; bumping up to 800Mhz-1Ghz really increased navigation, application performance, and data processing.

    Its most likely RIM's Torch with their CLDC1.1/Java core system does NOT NEED 1Ghz and the increase cpu speed would not offer increased performance significantly without needlessly draining battery life. Also the 624Mhz cpu may be just as different as the 9700's is from the Bold 9000's – although their roughly the same processing cycle.

    RAM is THE most significant contributor to processing power. The OS may not require that much – I believe touch input and gestures of BlackBerry 6 for the Torch will have larger RAM real-estate use vs the 9700 when installed. Most likely the more ram the more efficient and fast the JVM performs.

  • Nick

    Please comment on why a higher resolution screen was not implemented. I have an 8900, and am not relishing having the screen be narrower in terms of pixels (albeit taller). For example, less of a webpage width will show, although there is text re-flowing; in Messages, less of the from and subject will show, etc. Also, I receive a lot of image PDFs where the text is not text data, so I was really hoping for more resolution to be able to properly read the full width of a letter-size scanned PDF, which will not be the case even in portrait mode with 480 pixels of width.

    Also, why the big deal about the new Home Screen? I've been using the today theme for years which is basically the same thing.

  • Nosher

    When is the BB Torch being launched in England as I am due to upgrade very soon.


  • RIM's reason for building the Torch. - : Your Number One BlackBerry Community

    […] […]

  • Fratts19

    This is a P.O.S. The hardware is like 3 years old. HTC, Samsung, and even Apple have had these hardware specs for years now. How can this dinosaur company expect to compete when the release phones that should have been around in 2005. This is embarrassing. Resolution is the same as a BB 9630 (the screen is half the size). RIM is sitting pretty because of the ridiculous demand they have in corporate environments. If they keep up like this, the others will catch up putting this company out of business. They need to be more innovative. Stop gearing towards the old, corparate farts. They are old news. Its the young people that want the newest and fastest smartphone, not the old farts that sit up in their offices all day. This is probably one of the most embarrassing products RIM has released. I was more excited about the 9700 than I am with the crap.

  • RIM Interviews BlackBerry Torch 9800 Product Manager Annu Dawar |

    […] out the full interview at this link. Hopefully they will do a follow up with the product manager for BlackBerry 6! Please Share With […]

  • jrzy

    The BlackBerry 9800 is absolutely a beautiful design, …sadly though, it will be like driving a Lexus with a Corolla engine. I cannot believe you overlooked the obvious… HVGA Display? REALLY? The CPU ? I will be looking forward to the usual aggravating freezing and locking up. I think whoever did your market research on “what our customers want” should be fired…your focus was solely on the business consumer and not the main stream clients that RIM can actually make money on…. I believe RIM had a lot riding on the 9800 and it will regret not going the extra mile…just look at the stock – taking a nose dive.
    Android and iPhone are your competition…whether you want to cater to that clientele or not , that is where your profit will be… I cannot tell you for how long I followed the forums just waiting for the 9800 to be unveiled, reviewed, and just waiting to read how it was up to par w/ the latest droid or the iPhone. RIM you’ve let me down…I think I’ll spend my $199 on the i4. Goodbye.

  • Caspan

    Explain to me how is this device outdated? Other than because it uses a slower processor and screen res is lower. All these reason do not mean it's out dated. It can render HTML 4 times faster using half the CPU speed a iPhone uses. If I could beat the pants off you in a race with only half the processor power don’t you think it is you who is using outdated software and hardware? It's the same old AMD and Intel thing ,GHz means nothing it comes down to results. Again if RIM can output the same about of data using half the CPU power your devices use then I would say you my friend are the one using outdated hardware. Unless you are doing AutoCAD on the screen tell me how do you see the resolution difference on the same screen with movies, pictures etc… sure the picture might look a little crisper but again I bet the majority of you out there couldn't tell the difference if you saw it.

  • Janm99

    You truly must have a closed mind to think that what you called this new and latest RIM device a P.O.S., Come on now and give Annu and his team his just deserts. They did one hell of a job with this device and the only thing I am mad about is that once again AT&T are exclusive for this device for who knows how long and I am on Verizon and if AT&T did not have such a bad rep for their 3G network with all the Iphones on the network among other phones I would risk breaking my contract for this phone w/o a thought. I am not going to do that and hope in 8 months once my current contract ends on my Tour which by the way works flawlessly maybe Verizon will have this phone, first release bugs worked out and then I will jump for a 9800 in a heartbeat.

    Great job Annu and keep up the great work as you should truly be congradulated with this device and the revues from all over the blogs on how great it is.

  • Val Waldeck

    I am really disappointed with my Blackberry.

    □ I upgraded on 23 June, 2010, and replaced my Nokia Navigator with a Blackberry 9700.
    □ On 30 June, 2010, I complained that the Blackberry was malfunctioning and the memory card was faulty. Because it was technically day eight (June 23 – 30 which included a weekend) and just out of the 7-day return period, the Blackberry was sent away for a software upgrade and the memory card was replaced. I received it back on 10 July, 2010.
    □ On 5 August, 2010, I took it back to the MTN shop and complained that it was malfunctioning again and had stopped receiving email. The staff called MTN who reset the email service.
    □ Today, 10 August, 2010, I returned to the MTN shop because it was once again malfunctioning and no longer receiving emails. The staff again called MTN who reset the email service, but to no avail and it has been sent in for repairs once more.

    I no longer have confidence in this handset and believe it to be unstable. I wonder how many other Blackberry users have had similar problems?


  • Interview With Product Manager Annu Dawar On The BlackBerry Torch 9800 |

    […] the full interview be sure to check out the Inside BlackBerry blog post or for more on the Torch check out the Torch 9800 Archives. Categories: News & Rumors Tags: […]

  • Zeroo

    will there be any BB with flip design and 3G&WiFi connectivity?
    i'm hoping there will be one like pearl flip with extra ability :)

  • NovaLogik
  • Vernon

    Great looking device. But why only on ATT? Is Sprint and Verizon versions coming soon? I'm not buying anything that's on ATT network.

  • Italirican2003

    I want one, so bad! PLEASE allow Sprint to have it!

  • Luis Perez

    it looks like is going to be part of ATT, we should have the freedom to choose our own carrier with no problems at all!

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