I find the keyboard of 9700 easier to use then Torch's. Keyboard on Torch is definitely more compact when compared to 9700. Having said that, I REALLY did not like the 9700 keyboard when I upgraded from 8310.
I can't compare with iPhone, but CAN compare Torch's virtual keyboard to that of iPod Touch - I think Torch has a better virtual keyboard, even in portrait orientation I have had no problem using Torch, iPod Touch was less "accommodating" to me. Torch has no tactile feedback.
My wife's main complaint about the Torch is that the calls frequently go into the mute mode ("cheek dialing"), and I tried to explain how the proximity sensor works and what it does, but... She still complains...
All in all, I think Torch is a great phone, but like any piece of equipment will take time to get fully accustomed to.