BlackBerry Storm

The BlackBerry Storm is the newest device from Research In Motion and is rumoured to be the one device that could save BlackBerry from the wrath of the iPhone.

The BlackBerry Storm is the newest device from Research In Motion and is rumoured to be the one device that could save BlackBerry from the wrath of the iPhone.

No longer is the BlackBerry stricken to a single keyboard layout: one of the new features is that the BlackBerry now sports a phone-keypad set of keys, the traditional cut-BlackBerry keyboard, and now a landscape keyboard similar to your QWERTY keyboard. All of this sits behind a touchscreen measuring 3.25 inches with the device sporting an accelerometer so rotations of the actual device can be detected.

It doesn’t stop there as the BlackBerry Storm is jam packed with additions that on paper make it seem like the one phone that has the potential to topple the lion that is the Apple iPhone. It has 1GB of internal storage and can be upgraded with microSDHC cards. Connecting to networks using HSDPA & GSM, the battery seems pretty steady at up to 15 days of standby and 6 hours of talk time for both networks which isn’t bad.

A 3.2 megapixel camera rounds out some edges with flash and auto-focus making it slightly better than at least one competing touchscreen handset we can name as well as trumping the same competitor with multimedia format support coming in the form of AAC, MP3, WMV, and even H.264.

Overall, the Storm feels great in the hand, a well balanced handset that feels more like a PDA than a phone. It’s a little shorter and more stumpy than that of the Apple iPhone’s sleek look or the Samsung Omnia’s classy professional design, but it’s also fairly refined too with a nice brushed back, well-placed microSDHC port, and a build quality that doesn’t look like it would scream too much if you dropped it on its back.

Some of this might seem good. You might be thinking to yourself that a BlackBerry that more or less punches the iPhone right where it hurts would be a good thing and that this could be a well-deserved win for RIM.

Well… you’d be wrong.

The BlackBerry Storm seems to be more of a device on the edge of finished and yet not. As a result, using it becomes more of a test of patience in how much you can take before switching over to the handset you held before.

Among many of the problems plaguing the Storm is that of speed: there is none. The BlackBerry Storm has got to be one of the slowest Smartphones I’ve ever come across. It’s not constantly slow either; it’s randomly slow. It’s as if the Storm has a mind of its own and cannot decide whether it’s out of breath or whether it’s just got a second wind. It is an extraordinarily fussy device and half of the time you’ll be lucky to get it to pick up the button combination you wanted out of it in the time you wanted to press it. As an aside, it takes this thing two or three seconds to pick up that you’ve pressed the “Lock” button. I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve asked a phone to lock, I actually want it to lock, not sit around waiting for a moment later in time to actually decide if it should lock or if I was just wasting my time.

Speed isn’t the only thing going wrong for the Storm has the overall input design is horribly wrong. On a regular BlackBerry device – handsets like the brilliant Bold and the cool Curve – the keyboard layout grows on you and is easy to use. Buttons are simple and have the right amount of tactile feedback making it relatively easy to punch words in and hastening writing those little emails we use them for. On the Storm, it’s a different story altogether.

Because BlackBerry didn’t want to make a BlackBerry shelled version of the iPhone, they went and made the touchscreen more for aiming. On an iPhone, when you tap the touchscreen a selection is made. But on the Storm, when you tap the touchscreen you’ve merely aimed where the tap will go: it will take a further push of the touchscreen in to actually get that oh-so-needed action to occur.

On the one hand, you can see this “pushscreen” (as I’m calling it) working better for not making mistakes as you type. But on the other, it’s ridiculously impractical and a burden for anyone who wants something usable. You’ll be sitting there punching away your email – feeling the resistance of the screens button at every character you have to type in – and your fingers or thumbs will get tired very quickly. It just doesn’t work the way BlackBerry intended it to.

It gets worse when you try the landscape keyboard, a QWERTY keyboard that turns on when you rotate the handset to any of the horizontal modes. Not only does your screen real estate become only a few minuscule lines, but the targeting of the keyboard is often way out and you end up typing something quickly that doesn’t make any sense.

On any other device, this could be solved with a quick visit to the device settings for a little screen calibration, but on the Storm that functionality doesn’t exist. In fact, for an operating system that has supposedly been redeveloped to be more consumer friendly – and it looks it especially in comparison to past BlackBerry versions – it’s a shame that the menus still mostly consist of ugly text functions that are a pain to get around.

If that’s not enough to tell you something is wrong with the BlackBerry Storm, perhaps this quaint little list of extra issues might just tell you that something is horribly amiss with this device:

  • The Storm’s power switch is a bit too sensitive as quite frequently the phone will turn on and off in your pocket
  • Voice quality is debatable as half the time it’s great while the other half you’ll sound like Darth Vader
  • An exposed microUSB port on the side makes me wonder just how long the tips on it will last before becoming useless
  • Even though the Storm has a 3.5mm port for your headphones, it still has atrocious media playback functionality that – when your headphones are in – will stop playing your music back for half a second every time you get a new Instant Message
  • Random bugs & crashes seem to frequent the device including the great bug of having the camera suddenly turn on and appear in your text window while you’re writing a message!
  • No WiFi! Yup, a business-centric phone without wireless connectivity… confusing, huh?

While the device feels like it’s been designed well externally, you can probably figure from this obscene list of problems that Research In Motion didn’t spend enough time with the unit while it was in R&D. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that with all the problems that the Storm has, it was rushed out.

Normally, you can expect quality from RIM, a company that have been producing some fantastic devices for the past few years. The BlackBerry Bold was something quite excellent and I’d personally suggest people stick with the Bold, while the BlackBerry Storm is all wrong and just feels like an idea that never got completed. Give BlackBerry another year in the shop with the Storm and maybe it’ll create a valley of destruction in its wake. But as it stands right now, the Storm is little more than a morning shower that’s being broken up with small sunny periods.

Product: BlackBerry Storm

Vendor: BlackBerry

RRP: Contact Vodafone for pricing

Website: BlackBerry Storm

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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