This week, in an attempt to establish a beachhead in the high-end smart phone category, Research in Motion, the manufacturers of BlackBerry, unveiled its first touch-screen device. The new handset, the BlackBerry Torch 9800, will launch in about a week and will be available exclusively through AT&T.

The Torch will be the first device to run on the BlackBerry 6 operating system: the newly revamped software, which was designed to work better with the increasingly-obligatory smart phone touch-screen interface.

BlackBerry’s North American share of smart phones fell 14% in the first quarter versus a year ago, with competition increasing. Google’s Android system has been making tremendous inroads with more devices being offered; Apple’s efforts with the new iPhone 4 just continue to bear fruit, as it were; and there’s a line of Windows Phone 7 operating systems just waiting to connect with consumers.

Current Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index ratings for smart phones rang up as follows:

  1. Apple
  2. Samsung
  3. Motorola
  4. Nokia
  5. BlackBerry
  6. LG
  7. Palm

What BlackBerry (and others) should remember is that it’s not just the operating system that commands customer engagement and loyalty. Apps have become more and more important to consumers because they resonate more emotionally—far more than rational aspects like monthly minutes and megabyte/gigabyte data plans. And that adds up, as currently the ratio of emotional to rational decision making gets called in at 70:30.

Because today, if smart phone brands want customers returning their marketing and advertising calls, they really have to reach out and touch them.