BlackBerrius Maximus - Part IX - Function over Form

By Gary Mazo on 20 Feb 2009 09:10 am EST

BlackBerrius Maximus

It is an age old debate; form over function or function over form? Why can't we have both? Well, sometimes we can - but usually we gravitate towards one or the other. There are lots of classic examples of this debate; BMW or Honda? Armani or Levis? Timex or Rolex? You get the idea. Now, the tough question is: "Which are you - a form first or function first kind of person?"

I like to believe that I sort of straddle that line between form (style, panache and coolness) and function (usability, dependability and value.) In the great Smartphone debate, it was always a "no brainer" for me - function trumps form - after all, BlackBerry does trump the iPhone, right? The iPhone is sexy, flashy, "fun" and full or form over function. The BlackBerry is solid, reliable, predictable (some might even say - dull.)

This all changed with the Storm - now we BlackBerry lovers could have our form and a slice of function alongside in the same device. It was too good to be true. Now, I wrote in my last column how I loved my Storm - and I did, or still do, or whatever - I stick by what I said. I used my Storm for everything and I felt pretty cool doing it. I love touching the screen, pressing and clicking and swiping and all the fun stuff that I can do only on the Storm.

I also found myself getting a little snobby with my Storm - it was unique - only on one carrier, yet "un-lockable" to be used on the others. It was new, revolutionary and.....buggy as all hell. I have never upgraded operating systems so many times so frequently - in search of the stability and usability that this thing should have given out of the box. But, somehow I didn't mind - it was sort of fun to take two hours out of my busy day and try to make my BlackBerry behave better.

Then, it hit me like a ton of was a brand new BlackBerry Curve 8900. The first time I held it, I was unsure. It felt like it weighed half as much as my Storm. "Could this thing be sturdy and stable?" I wondered. Then, I started to use it - I took out my SIM card from my Storm to give the 8900 a chance. Almost instinctively, I found myself trying to press the screen and swipe through web pages - to no avail. I wondered if I could ever go back to the trackball after the tactile experience of the Storm.

Then, it all started to happen. I remembered the pre-Storm days when I could use my BlackBerry with one hand. "Wow!" I thought out loud - I can read my emails with one hand. Then I realized that my basic tasks were getting accomplished about 40% quicker using the 8900. Part of that was the speed of the device, the wonderful keyboard, the OS and the Wi-Fi - oh yes, beautiful, speedy Wi-Fi. Part of it was that I could once again use those trusty "hot keys" in my applications. Going to "Options" now just meant pressing the letter "O" as opposed to pushing the Menu key on the storm, scrolling with one hand while holding the device in the other then finding the "Options" icon and clicking.

Getting to the bottom of a long web page was as simple as pressing "B." Seeing my bookmarks was as easy as pressing my trusty "K" key. Everything was just easier. Then I put the two devices side by side - I could not believe the difference in weight. I had been carrying my Storm in a holster because it was really too big for my front pocket - but the 8900 just slipped right in - barely noticeable. I remembered how easy and efficient things used to be on my BlackBerry - PMS (pre my Storm.)

Then, I began some real soul searching about me and the way I live. Sure, I have some expensive suits and ties - but I really try hard not to wear them all that often. When I do, the first thing I do when I get in the house is look for my Jeans and flannel shirts. I don't drive fancy European cars - I drive a Honda Civic - and a hybrid to boot! I am a pretty practical and un-assuming guy - I like things to be comfortable, reliable and functional. I am like that in pretty much every aspect of my life - should it be so surprising that I would feel the same way about the thing I use most in my day - my BlackBerry?

I am still doing all the cool stuff I did with my Storm - I use Slacker, I use the Slingplayer, I have a bunch of music and movies, I text my kids, I BlackBerry messenger with my wife and, now I am back to using Wi-Fi and UMA calling and saving money on my phone bill. All with an operating system and a device that just plain "worked" right out of the box. I don't look at the CrackBerry forums hoping against hope that I will find as OS upgrade or a fix for one of the myriad of problems that other devices seem to give their frustrated owners.

I look at my 8900 and a little voice over my shoulder says "this thing is kind of boring and predictable." Then, the other little voice over the other shoulder says: "Hey, Maximus Jerkius, this thing works....all of the time." Well, that little voice is right - it does work. My 8900 is hands down the most dependable, functional and powerful BlackBerry I have ever used. It fits in my jeans pocket and I rarely have to pull the battery or clear my event log. I type quicker - way quicker than I did on my Storm. Do I miss the "coolness" of the accelerometer? Sometimes - I really liked the Storm Level Pro App - but I can live without it. I am getting more done, doing it more quickly and rarely wondering what "surprises" my most important business tool will throw my way on a given day.

I guess, for now, I have made my choice - Function trumps Form. So, my unlocked, very cool BlackBerry Storm is headed to EBay and my somewhat boring and predictable 8900 is headed into the front left pocket of my favorite pair of Blue Jeans....for now.

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Reader comments

BlackBerrius Maximus - Part IX - Function over Form


Had top of the line Treos for years until Nov. 21st went with the Storm 9530. It has been a hard, very hard transition but with current OS ver.106/hybrid, my BB Storm is fast/solid/productive and all I want now. Plus with all the new apps also available ...the 9530 is only getting better. Don't know what you are looking for or on something different than Verizon - then go with the 8900...fine but boring.
PS: FYI - not any network's fan or employee

Great article Gary!

I was actually having a hard time decide whether I should switch over to the Storm or not. I loved the 8900 when it came out and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Fortunately/Unfortunately TELUS does not offer the 8900 yet so when I was buying my first BB it was either the Storm or the Curve. I chose function over form, and although this Curve 8330 has served me well and hardly dissapoints, part of me wanted to the coolness of the Storm, you know touchscreen et all.

Besides there are advertisements for this thing all over the place. But I am not a touchscreen person, I like the fact that I can use my BB with one hand and lastly, the Storm does not have Wifi, so that was the final tilting factor in the 8900/Bold's favor. So TELUS, can you please hurry up and release one of these!

It's not Telus, it's RIM.
Telus can't release a device that hasn't been built yet.
The 8930 (CDMA version of the Curve/Javelin) is slated for release later this year...

The Storm is my first BBerry but I've been playing with friends Crack for years. I really enjoy the big expansive screen, the touch interface (and how much potential it still has), and the BBerry experience it still offers. Yes, i'm fully aware that I did everything a little bit faster on my old MotoQ with the physical keyboard but that doesn't matter to me. I don't need to live life as fast as possible and I don't want to either.

And this is the reason I really love how RIM did it; They have a BBerry for EVERYONE! A Curve for the more casual BBerry user that wants a physical keyboard, a Bold for the power user, and a Storm for the Touchscreen kids. There is a new, powerful, BlackBerry for each and every need. Thank you RIM. :-)


"I took out my SIM card from my Storm to give the 8900 a chance."

Can you do this with Verizon's version of the Storm??

I agree with what you said completely. I have a storm and have done every single upgrade possible and it still does not do what it should. By far the worst blackberry to date. I am actually looking forward to switching to another type of phone because I have lost so much faith in RIM. That would probably change if verizon had the 8900 or even the bold. I can't change carriers because where I live there is no other option. I truly envy you being able to have a good phone.

I can't believe you gave up on the storm so quickly and I'm even more shocked that you can't work one handed on it. I think you have forgoten how long it took people to adjust to the trackball. You can have a whole lot of function with the storm if you are willing to get used to a new style of Berry. I've noticed that my berry button also functions as the click on the trackball did with my curve and other little changes like that make it faster. Now yes the O.S. is definitely in need of some help, but upgrades are fun and you know it.

I'm just surprised you gave up on the most functional touchsreen on the market so quickly.

"think you have forgoten how long it took people to adjust to the trackball. "

LOL... all of about 18 seconds...

the Storm is a gimmicky joke to me... i feel like I'm playing Simon Says. when they get rid of the moveable screen, i might consider it. no wifi? this is 2009, correct?

I love my storm, I have a locked, out of the box OS 9530 on the Telus network, and I love it, that being said, I have tried the OS upgrades, and they have irked me so much, i downgraded to the out of box OS that Telus offers, granted i have not tried a Verizon storm, but my storm works perfectly for me, and I'm not bragging, I'm sure that some people here have had hell with their storm, and the OS works great for them, but when i look at my storm, i compare it to the 8350i curve i also have and i look at it, yes, the keyboard shortcuts are amazing, and fast, but the blackberry storm is the phone i have been looking for, "flashy" and other things, but full functional as well, it is a sleek phone, and i wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

That being said there are things about it that upset me, IE. touch screen takes some time to unlock, and i am so anti fingerprints it bugs me when i have little finger prints on the screen when have to text right after i cleaned the screen.

but to each his own, glad you found a device that works for you, and your still with blackberry, that's what matters the most.

Does anyone else out there think that NOT including the fastest wireless connection available is more than just a slight oversight. If RIM wants to have a real bite out of the Apple then they should have done so on this phone. It looks awesome, has all the cool features that we want and then some, all except the obvious one. I love my 8310 but want streaming video. Don't make me throw a tantrum. The Bold is nice, albeit bulky and not as pretty, but can't we have this highly polished and most refined Curve to date utilize 3G technology to really have an impact. Or is it just me wondering?

I think the phone will sacrifice battery and form is it had 3G.

According to the 8900 review from crackberry:
"It would be great to have 3G on the Curve 8900 but that would mean sacrificing the size and weight of the Curve. To get similar battery life with 3G as we are used to on EDGE or GPRS requires bigger batteries and space for that extra radio. With rumors of a 3G Curve kicking around for a while now, it'll be interesting to see exactly what the casing of this device looks like when it hits - I doubt that it will clock in as small and leightweight."

I am relativly new to blackberry, had played with friends ones in the past and seemed to like it. I got the storm back in november and after the update to .75 i havnt had any real issues. I dont do the leaks cuz of bugs and such. Although im new to blackberry not new to smart phones. Previously i had two windows mobile phones which were awful. freezing, turning off, calling people at random not giving me my calls or texts or emails. Since ive been on the storm ive been much Happier. Its a little buggy at times, screen wont tilt and such but other than that no problems for me.I guess cuz of my previous phones which flat out pissed me off I can deal with little things. And the 8900 looks like a good phone, I am quite content with my storm.

As stated earlier, there is a BB for every demographic user from flip to touchscreen. How many other companies can claim to have "quality" products for the various users out there? Nokia and Palm maybe! If the Magnum is for real, it will be a game changer for the better (qwerty + touchscreen). Where do people get this so called sexy crap when talking about the Iphone? It has an average look and the G1 is the ugly baby of the entire market. The sexiest looking phones on the market are the Storm and 8100 series Pearls.

As far as the Storm is concerned, I love this thing! I agree with Bonnie Cha from CNET when she stated how much she missed the trackball and it would have worked well on the Storm. Look how much it helps the G1 or the Sidekick, two phones that are garbage in my opinion, but the trackball gives it that extra something.

Overrall, a Blackberry is the smart kid in class, Iphone the cool kid, and Android or Palm are the guys that work hard to be like both of them.

I love the flashiness of my phone. Most times I pull it out at work someone says "ooh nice phone". Then I give them a little demo; show them Poynt, Slacker, a clip from the Dark Knight", and they're genuinely impressed...

Until I hand the damned thing over. Watching someone else try to use my phone is painful. It always starts out the same; a little smile - "aww man this is cool". And then their face changes to confusion - "what is this little rotating circle thingy? It's not doing anything." And then they hand it back.

Done. From there on out, if a BlackBerry Storm comes up in a conversation, that person is going to say they played with one and didn't like it.

There is a SERIOUS learning curve on this phone. I am the only one I know who owns one, and the only one I know who knows how to use it. This isn't an iPhone, it just kind of looks like one.

Previous to my storm I had an 8830 and a 8330, the storm is "cool" but as for functionality speed and reliability it does not hold a candle to any of my previous models.

I just went the same way from 8820 to 9500 and now 8900 and I am happy, yes not flashy like the 9500 or even iPhone but so damm quick and easy small and just perfect to use.
I just need my BB to call , receive and send mails and sms, the 8900 is perfect, even if i haven't sold my 9500 because it wasn't that bad.......mmmmmmmm, what now, well both a great ........the keyboard on the 9500 is great to use specially suretype and at night.......

I like both .........

I've been reading great things about the Storm all over the place. I've got Tmo and Verizon plans are so unattractive in terms of price that I can't even imagine switching, but I went to a Verizon store last weekend to try the Storm.

Those of you who love the Storm have serious Blackberry goggles on. It's buggy as HELL. There is a quarter second delay after each time you press the screen, which threw me off completely - you have to wait an extra second to make sure it accepted your input.

Unlike many, I got used to the keyboard pretty quickly - within 5 minutes I was typing mostly error free, and the automatic correction feature is great. The screen clicking could have been more crisp, but i didn't mind it.

But still, let's be honest, the Storm it's WAY below iPhone quality, and if RIM wants to catch up they better be doing some serious customer input studies.

I'm new to the BB world, though I have spent a great many years looking through the store-front window drooling, or holding my friends' BB for them.

Then, I mentioned to my boss that I was interested in a BB for work and that the Storm seemed kind of cool. I told him how much more productive I would be. He thought about it and said he'd get back to me.

He came back two days later and said he agreed, he'd get one for himself first. If he liked it, mine was next. If he didn't like it, I could have his.

Well, he barely uses the functionality on his Storm (he's from that older generation, what can I say?) yet he's experienced many problems and has done several OS replacements and has spent time on the line with Verizon tech support.

I handled his BB for him on occasion and decided early on that I didn't like the tactile touchscreen. In fact, I like my girlfriend's Instinct much better, but a smart phone it is not and I was locked down to Verizon because of work.

So, after some researching and price point hunting, I settled on the Curve 8330 and am very happy with it. I hope to make it my first phone that I own for four years before upgrading to BB's latest and greatest at that point.

Great article/blog.

I had kinda figured that if a storm user were to back to the curve/bold form factor that they would find it is faster. This also makes me wonder why the Bold did not get more internal mem. I really want 3g for use with sling player,but I want the internal mem of the 8900. Am I the only one who wonders this?

Hey BM,

Thanks I read the whole article and can very much relate to it! I want cool like my iPhone buddies but need to be productive and a physical keyboard is the only way for me to do it. Tried the Storm but kept getting too many errors. Tried the Pearls for form factor but get as many errors. While the big Storm/iPhone screen is better to look at it's a physical QWERTY keyboard for me.

-- Robert.

Well, All I can say is this is one Sexy phone and it is very efficient for the way I do business as well. I'm glad I got it.

I really don't give a ish what a thing looks like. I just want
it to work. But then again I am a grown man who cares not what
the rest of the world determines is the "must have" And I
have no desire to impress others with my possessions. In short
I am not a small-minded sub 30 y/o who needs to be all hat and
no cattle.

I went thru basically the same thing, but with the iPhone, which I've owned since they came out. I missed having a physical qwerty keyboard and an OS that can be quickly navigated (the iPhone is simple, but not always quick).

Now I have the BBerry 8900, which is in fact not boring and a nice-looking phone, and I am getting things done much more quickly. The iPhone is great for certain things, like video and games, but I need to be productive.

I did take a look at the Storm, but it clearly was an iPhone-like form factor, and I thought the clickable screen was gimmicky and a distraction, so I stayed with the tried-and-true Curve form factor.

I've had the 8900 for a week, and I'm more satisfied overall than I was with the iPhone. I would compare the 8900 to a product like the original Palm Pilot (which I also bought when it came out), in terms of being an attractive and very efficient device and OS for its time.

It's not so bad. It will get better. I'll give it another week, another update is bound to fix it.

People come ON this is a bad relationship we keep trying to talk ourselves into! This is the very pretty to look at, all our friends want her, dumb....high maintenance ....schizophrenic girlfriend your mom told you not to date.

But she is fun to touch!

Good article Gary! I find the 8900 to be just what you said it is, reliable, fast, and easy to use - especially if one comes to it from an 83xx device. It is interesting the way some Storm owners get upset when there's a perceived slight to the Storm. My provider doesn't offer a storm, or I probably would have tried one out, too.

Some people should to realize that building one thing up doesn't really mean someone is tearing something else down, and I got that Gary was only saying why he switched - with honesty. If I had bought a Storm and then had to spened a lot of time figuring out how to work through a lot of bugs, BlackBerrys may have lost some of their luster for me, so it is probably a good thing I didn't get one.

If I come from a Blackberry Pearl (8100 is the only Blackberry I have been using) how I will feel with the storm?

(Keep in mind i really love my Pearl just hate that it is sometimes really slow)

Thanks for info :o