BlackBerry Storm Hands-On First Impressions!

BlackBerry Storm Hands-On First Impressions
By Kevin Michaluk on 25 Oct 2008 05:07 am
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** Update: December 8th, 2008 - Listen to our BlackBerry Storm Review Podcast>>
This review follows up the pre-release review, after having own and used the Storm **

A Pre-Release Look at RIM's First Touchscreen Smartphone

Finally! Here it is CrackBerry Nation, my first hands-on impressions of the BlackBerry Storm. Unlike my BlackBerry 9000, KickStart and Javelin pre-release reviews, this won't be the first one of the BlackBerry Storm up on the net, so I'll do my best to make up for the tardiness by at least making it the best. Though it is articles like this where I wish I was an actual journalist and not a BlackBerry Addict turned wannabe-blogger... no making fun of the number of times you see the words Sweet and Awesome in the paragraphs ahead! :-)

Regular readers of CrackBerry.com will know I've been dying to get my hands on the BlackBerry Storm for months now. Earlier this week it finally happened while in Santa Clara, California, at the BlackBerry Developer Conference. Research in Motion didn't have an official BlackBerry Storm exhibit setup, but both the 9530 and 9500 could be found in limited quantity within the exhibition pavilion at a few booths, including Verizon's of course, and occasionally could be spotted in the hands of individuals roaming the halls within the hotel conference area. The pavilion booths were constantly packed with people who appeared to be as excited about the Storm as I was, and the people I tried to corner in the wild dashed on me as soon as they glanced my name badge (for some silly reason I think they had the impression I'd try and roshambo them and take their device when they were down for the count) so though the Storm was present at DevCon, getting real quality time with it wasn't as easy as one might have hoped. Luckily and thankfully, I managed to do just that and on Day 1 of DevCon spent an hour of QT with the Storm (I will never forget my first time!). An hour flew by in the blink of an eye press of a touchscreen, and though no photos or videos were allowed at that first encounter, by the time I boarded the plane for the flight home two days later I had managed to steal away a few more precious minutes with the Storm and all said and done have quite a bit to go off of to bring you this review, though more time would have allowed me to dig deeper into the details.

* Disclaimer: As with our other pre-release reviews, please keep in mind that all of the BlackBerry Storms I used at DevCon (featured in images/videos in this review) and have based my initial impressions on are pre-release hardware devices that were running beta software. *

Since I know many of you have been waiting as long a time to read this review as I have been waiting to write it, I'll make no effort to keep it concise and short. And where I'm lacking images or info I'll borrow from some of the other excellent content that has already surfaced on the web. You can visit our BlackBerry Storm Super Page to access all of that.

Read On For My Initial BlackBerry Storm Impressions >>

 


The Makings of a Storm

BlackBerry Storm Official Before we move into the hands-on, let's recap some of the discussion points and key features/specs surrounding RIM's first touchscreen BlackBerry smartphone.

Background Info:

  • RIM's first touchscreen smartphone, purpose-built for Vodafone/Verizon
  • CDMA/World phone is the 9530. Vodafone/GSM edition is the 9500
  • 9530 will also become available in Canada from both Telus and Bell
  • 9530 gives customers 3G EV-DO Rev. A/CDMA technology - and (2100Mhz) UMTS/HSPA and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM for global use
  • 9500 from Vodafone supports (2100Mhz) UMTS/HSPA and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM networks
  • Exact pricing/release date not yet "officially" confirmed. Should hopefully be out on both Vodafone and Verizon prior to US Thanksgiving (current rumors are pointing to a Sunday, November 16th launch on Verizon - so think Monday the 17th to hopefully be in store). On contract pricing likely to fall within $200 - $350USD range (cheaper the better!), with outright purchase price suggested to be as high as $700USD

Key Features/Specifications:

  • BlackBerry OS vesion 4.7
  • Size (L x W x D): 4.4" x 2.4" x 0.55"
  • Weight (battery included): 5.46oz or 155g
  • Memory: 128 MB RAM, 1GB internal storage, plus expandable memory via MicroSD card (8GB card bundled with purchase)
  • Battery: 1400 mAhr removable/rechargeable
  • Display: 3.26" High-resolution 480 x 360 pixel color display, Transmissive TFT LCD, supports over 65,000 colors and touchscreen navigation
  • 528Mhz processor
  • Stand-alone and assisted GPS
  • USB port: MicroUSB for charging and high-speed data sync
  • 3.2 MP Camera with flash, autofocus and allows for video recording
  • 3.5mm stereo headset capable, Bluetooth supports A2DP (stereo)

The Storm packs pretty much everything a smartphone user could want, minus one thing - WiFi. Leading up to the Storm's official announcement, the possible inclusion/exclusion of WiFi on the Storm was one of the most discussed and debated topics in the CrackBerry forums. Of course it would be nice to have WiFi, but for this BlackBerry Addict it's by no means a deal breaker. Plus this way I have something to look forward to in the Storm "2" that will surely and eventually roll into town.


A Preamble Ramble About the Pre-Release Devices Reviewed

All of the Storms present at DevCon that I got my hands on, both 9530 and 9500 models, were running beta software, and it was apparent. Having handled the Bold, KickStart and Javelin with pre-release software I've come to have a feel for it and would estimate that the Storm's OS as I played with it was probably 2 or 3 revisions out from what will ultimately be approved by the carriers and loaded onto the devices that go to market at launch. And like the Bold, I'm sure RIM will continue to work on the OS even after the device goes on sale. Don't let my "2 or 3 revisions out" estimate make you think for a second that the Storm's launch will be delayed though - it's likely the devices at DevCon weren't necessarily even loaded with the latest OS and I'd even bet that as I held the Storm in my hands for the first time an even newer version of the Storm's code was being compiled in Waterloo.

As for the beta glitches, I didn't experience anything fatal. The device was stable - no lock-ups or exceptions in the times I played with it, which is much more than I can say about the earliest versions of the OS I sampled on the Bold and Javelin (which had the device randomly rebooting, freezing up, experiencing glitches with the media player and camera and generating exceptions all the time - that's what you have to go through when you build a new device and need to get the OS working on new hardware). I'd fathom that what is mainly left to do on the Storm's OS as I played with it are optimizations for memory usage, speed and sensitivity. There were times when the menu and screen transitions / orientation changes were lightning quick (pun intended!), while at other times they lagged a little (and sometimes a lot). Sometimes the accelerometer worked perfect, while other times it was a bit less accurate. This was also the case with my swiping on the touchscreen. Sometimes it was loving my finger, and other times that wasn't quite the case. None of this is of concern to me at this point though, as in every respect the device showed much more time of how it will work when the OS is tweaked up and running smooth vs. any moments of lag.

With the exception of the hour spent on a Verizon Storm, my hands-on time with other Storms was limited. The Verizon Storm I spent the majority of the time on was running OS 4.7.0.51, and while I didn't make note of the code on the Vodafone Storm's, I did notice that the 9500 seemed to be running a bit smoother than the 9530s. I don't *think* this was in my head, so maybe the networks/radios played a slight difference here (9500s roaming on AT&T vs. 9530s running on Verizon).

I can't wait to see the Storm loaded with final code. I love the Storm (more to come on that later), but the extent of how much I love it is directly proportional to how fast it's going to run in final form. The BlackBerry Bold's speed has me spoiled, and for me speed is a huge part of the user experience - once you have it, you never want to give it up. I don't expect the Storm to be quite as fast as the Bold when all is said and done (528Mhz in the Storm vs. 624Mhz in the Bold), but so long as the Storm can be as speedy as it showed it has the potential to be, I think Storm users will be in for a real treat. And if it hits the market and still shows some random spots of lag, I have a feeling a few more OS upgrades will have things smoothed out quick.

When it comes to hardware, my initial understanding was that the Storm hardware I was handling at DevCon was in final commercial form, though I did hear at one point over the course of the Developer Conference that wasn't quite the case and that the final hardware would be slightly different. I don't have any secondary confirmation on this yet, but my further understanding has it that the Storm hardware in final form would feature slightly different edging to the touchscreen (reduce/lower the outer gap) and that the screen would ride on one "dome" vs. two. If this is the case, I assume we never saw these particular units on hand as they are in manufacturing or locked down at provisioning centers waiting to get loaded up with code and shipped out to Vodafone and Verizon.

As for the touchscreen flex / LCD discoloration issue that's made for lively discussion in the forums, I think I can safely squash that one. Out of six or seven Storms I handled (one for a while and the others briefly), I never experienced this once. However, I did talk to another person who said they noticed it on a Storm they had handled. My thought here is that it may have been a problem on an earlier hardware revision, but is solved now and won't be an issue moving forward.


HANDS ON WITH THE BLACKBERRY STORM

RIM's Guiding Touchscreen Premise - Separate Confirmation from Navigation

When the first rumors of a touchscreen BlackBerry surfaced, I had no idea what to expect. Would we see an entirely new BlackBerry Operating System, or would we see RIM adapt their existing OS to touchscreen input? While I sort of had grandiose dreams of the former, RIM took the latter approach for their transition to touchscreen and I'm happy report it works great.

Though obviously different, the BlackBerry Storm user experience is very similar to previous models. With all BlackBerry smartphones to date, the premise has always been to navigate to where you want to go, and then click. With the 8700 and older trackwheel devices, you scrolled and clicked. With trackball BlackBerry smartphones you roll and click. And with the BlackBerry Storm you touch and click. Or rather, you touch and press. The Storm's touchscreen was originally dubbed "ClickThrough", but RIM has recently changed that up and is now calling it SurePress, which I do think projects a softer visual image and keeps their branding simplified since RIM already uses the SureType name in reference to their non-full qwerty keyboard.

The premise behind the touchscreen design is that you "touch" the display to highlight what you want to do and then physically "press" in on the screen to make it happen. Corresponding to the press, the entire screen physically presses downward into the phone and quickly rebounds upon lifting. Though it is the entire screen that's moving, the actual sensation actually feels localized to the area just under your fingertip. Having now used the device, I can understand all of those touchscreen haptic / tactile feedback rumors we reported on earlier. It's not that the tipsters were reporting bad info (what they were holding in their hands were indeed early versions of this device), but rather the vocabulary used to describe what they were feeling was a bit off the mark.

BlackBerry Storm SurePress
SurePress touchscreen on the BlackBerry Storm (photo credit)

When I first read about the SurePress concept I was a bit skeptical as it gave me the impression of being inefficient. Think about it - you're now carrying out two steps on the Storm vs. one step on regular touchscreen phones where the navigation and confirmation is carried out in the initial touch event. How wrong I was! Just because there are two steps to SurePress doesn't actually mean there have to be two steps! When it comes to typing on the keyboard or selecting items that you are sure about, you simply tap with a bit of "force" (not a lot of pressure is actually required to make the screen go in... just think of it as the same amount of pressure that it takes to type on a standard BlackBerry). So when it comes to you carrying out actions that you are sure about, the Storm is really like every other touchscreen phone. But when it comes to make accurate selections when many clickable options are in close proximity, say on menus or in the web browser when many clickable links are present, SurePress allows you to always hone in on what you want the first time by lightly touching the screen, and then pressing anywhere on the screen for confirmation. Once an item on the display highlighted, you don't actually have to even press in on that location to activate the item - pressing anywhere on the screen is akin to pushing the enter key. This comes in handy when selecting an item that's surrounded by many other clickable items as you can simply click on an empty part of the screen to ensure you don't accidentally select an adjacent item.

It's kind of crazy - in the end SurePress seems like a simple, mechanical solution to a very complex problem that companies have been trying to address through some crazy means for a long time, but it is pure genius through and through. And in the case of SurePress it seems that at least one other company already feels good about the concept. Apple's newly announced Macbook and Macbook Pro feature a glass multi-touch trackpad which pushes in and out like a giant button. Sound familiar? I haven't checked yet to see if there are any Intellectual Property rights on this concept to be fought over, but regardless, it works.

Form Factor

At 155grams (5.46oz), the BlackBerry Storm is a dense little phone. I personally wouldn't call it "heavy" as that feeling of weight makes it sturdy and gives the impression of top-notch build quality, but there is no doubt that the Storm is meatier than it looks. This actually is the opposite of the BlackBerry Bold. Whereas the Bold looks like a big device, at 133g it is deceptively light in weight for its size. The weight factor really sort of shocked me at first touch, as visually the Storm's form factor is so similar to the BlackBerry Curve 8900 (Javelin) I recently reviewed. Comparing the Curve 8900 to the Storm, they share a similar upper body (3.2 MP camera, hidden lock/mute keys), similar dimensions/layout down the side, and a similar overall appearance, but where the Curve 8900 has a physical keyboard the Storm has giant display and the bottom of the Storm is really the top reversed and features the control buttons sans trackball. Yet throwing the Curve 8900 on my kitchen scale right now, it weighs in at under 120 grams. I guess the Storm's display, underlying mechanism, and beefed up chassis/metal battery door all contribute to the Storm's weight.

BlackBerry Storm and Bold Side by Side
BlackBerry Storm and Bold side by side

In hand, to me the Storm feels better than the Bold (little bit narrower) but not as a nice as the Curve 8900, which in my opinion is basically the ultimate form factor for a non-touchscreen smartphone. Compared to the iPhone 3G, I think it's a matter of personal preference. The Storm is a little shorter, but also a bit thicker. I placed the Storm in my front jeans pocket (yes I was tempted to dash and not return it) and it was definitely ‘pocketable.'


The BlackBerry Storm, Bold and iPhone 3G hardware compared side by side

Looking around the perimeter of the phone, as mentioned the BlackBerry Storm is similar to the Curve 8900 in most respects. The left side of the phone features the Left Side Convenience Key, but unlike the Curve 8900 also features the MicroUSB charging/syncing port. On the Curve 8900 this is located on the bottom right corner of the phone (which I'm still not used to - I'm glad it's on the left on the Storm). The right side of the Storm features the Right Side Convenience Key along with Volume Up/Down keys as well as the 3.5mm headset jack. Also like the Curve 8900 (or I guess in reality the Curve 8900 that will feature this similar to the Storm), the top of the phone has two hidden buttons - a dedicated lock key on the left as well as the mute key on the right, which you can hold down two seconds to enter standby mode.

The front of the Storm is dominated by the Storm's massive display. Above display is standard ear speaker (it is a phone after all!) and the good ‘ole LED notification light. Below the display are the standard BlackBerry buttons. Send/End keys on the outside, with the BlackBerry button/menu key (I still don't know what to call that button) and back/escape key in the middle.

The back of the Storm features the 3.2 megapixel camera which is located under a lens cover which helps keep the dust and pocket lint out while providing a much sleeker look. The battery door is made of metal and will be available in different colors to provide for a personalized look. The door latch mechanism is different than the one on the pre-release Curve 8900 I raved about earlier, but is also equally sweet. There are two little sliding latches on either side of the Storm's battery cover that allow the door to be removed. The back door also features a speaker port and two little "feet" that give the Storm some lift even when sitting on the table thus allowing for the sound to escape. Speaking of speakers, I found the Storm's to be quite good. Not quite as good as the premium get-up on the BlackBerry Bold, but the units I played with weren't too tinny (maybe a bit tin, but definitely better than the existing Curve 83xx series).

Under the hood there is room for the 1400mAh battery, SIM card and MicroSD card. While some people would prefer an externally accessible MicroSD card, I much prefer RIM's approach on the Storm. For the frequency with which I actually change my MicroSD card combined with the ease of removing the battery door, I'd much rather have it out of sight. I'd be willing to be bet just about anybody I could remove and replace the MicroSD card on the Storm (or Curve 8900 for that matter) faster than they could on the Bold, which by the time you fiddle with the door and get your finger nails grasping at the ejected card, tends to take a while. The slide in / slide out friction-fit mechanism on the Storm is much easier.

Another a new non-familiar to BlackBerry feature to the Storm that's located under the battery door but is not in sight is the internal accelerometer which allows you to rotate the orientation of the Storm's display between horizontal and portrait modes. Some people have speculated that the rotation of the screen is 360º, but that's not the case. You can only view the Storm's display three different ways: upright (portrait) or horizontal (landscape) in both directions. Having the phone viewable both ways in horizontal mode makes the phone equally friendly for both left and right handed users. RIM chose to not allow for the phone to be viewed in portrait mode upside down since it would kill the intuitive nature of the phone/menu buttons, which are required for use of the phone (it just wouldn't make sense to have them upside down when that's the ‘top' of the phone).

Keyboard

Drum Roll Please.... I know you're all waiting for this one.... Typing... on... the... BlackBerry... Storm... is....... Awesome! That doesn't mean it is immediately easy to type on with perfect accuracy, but it shouldn't take a Storm owner long to become proficient with it.

Landscape, Full Qwerty - When you turn the Storm sideways and the keyboard goes into full QWERTY mode, the keypad/letters are HUGE. When you ‘touch' a letter, the key you are on glows in a purple haze, which actually looks pretty cool when typing in the dark. I almost think that's where the BlackBerry "Storm" name may have come from -- you can almost visualize it -- you'll be sitting in a dark movie theatre and the guy seven rows in front of you will be pounding out a message on his BlackBerry Storm which in the dark just looks like sheet lightning radiating from his hands (at least you'll have one too so you won't get mad at the guy for using his BB in the theatre).

Within a few seconds of using the Storm's keyboard, I came to a conclusion - the Storm's philosophy of separating navigation from confirmation doesn't actually make any difference for typing accuracy. The reason for this being that when you type fast, you are not waiting around for confirmation of which letter you are on before pressing down on the display. You simply aim and press (just as you would on an iPhone or any other touchscreen smartphone). What makes the Storm's keyboard easier to type on than its competitors in landscape mode is its physical size combined with the click (tactile feedback).

BlackBerry Storm Keyboard
BlackBerry Storm Keyboard in Landscape/Full-QWERTY (photo credit)

Because each letter on the keyboard is BIG and is separated from adjacent keys by ample spacing, the strike zone for each key is hard to miss... once you get used to it. Existing BlackBerry users are familiar with slightly tighter keyboards, so I think most of those who first pick up the Storm will likely be making a few typos until their thumbs get used to the ample keyboard space.

The tactile feedback comes into play not for accuracy, but for generating rhythm in your typing which helps improves speed. It's kind of like playing sports or dancing where the key to being fast/smooth is to always have your legs bent and be loose. That's sort of the situation here. When you type on an iPhone for example (yes I own one so I'm not ignorantly/blindly saying this), your finger hits the screen and you have to sort of manually lift it off and type your next letter, which is sort of like having your legs locked/being stiff. It's not a huge deal, and I know lots of people who can type fast on the iPhone (myself included), but on the Storm's keypad you keep that bounce going, which keeps you loose, smooth and fast.

The distinct click also lets you know that you made a key press, and only one key press. So when you make mistakes, which is bound to happen (people make mistakes on non-touchscreen keyboards too!), you basically stop right there and correct it. Or, like on a regular physical keyboard, you just ignore it and keep typing away. Unlike some other touchscreen phones, it's very hard to run completely amuck when typing on the Storm.

But again, I want to stress, in landscape mode it's not the separation of navigation and confirmation that make the Storm's keyboard a king among touchscreens for typing, it's actually the physical size combined with the push feedback that make the difference when typing fast. You can really dance on it.

Will I be able to type as fast on this keyboard as on my full-QWERTY BlackBerry or will the touchscreen slow me down? My answer.... You will be slower, but it shouldn't be by too much. While the rebound after typing a letter seems quick (doesn't seem to slow you down), the issue is that every letter typed on the touchscreen keyboard is a distinct stroke met with a distinct click. To illustrate this, think about typing the word ‘are.' On the Bold's keyboard for example, after you type the ‘a' you move your thumb over and type out the ‘r.' But once you type out the ‘r' you simply roll your thumb over to the left one space and you've already got the ‘e' pressed, without need to life your thumb and strike again. On the Storm, the ‘r' and the ‘e' become two distinct keystrokes, which takes more time as you are losing out on the speedy "rolling" effect. Keep in mind this isn't definitive - it won't be until the Storm is out on the market and we log some real time with it that we can conclude this. But my hypothesize is probably pretty accurate in this regard.

One last cool bit about the full-QWERTY keyboard. Hovering on a letter (not tapping it) for two seconds brings out alternate forms of the letter. So if you want to spell é, simply hover on the e for an extra second and select é on the drop down.

Portrait, SureType - Easiest BlackBerry SureType keyboard to type on EVER! In portrait mode, the Storm's SureType keyboard is big and roomy, and you can pound out messages with one hand quite comfortably (or two if you prefer). And when it comes to SureType auto-suggesting words, the touchscreen adds to the efficiency as you can quickly tap the suggestion you want to use vs. rolling the trackball around to make it happen. Though I'm by no means a SureType master, my hunch is that once practiced you will actually be able to type faster on the Storm's SureType keyboard than on the Pearl's (flip or candybar). And if SureType isn't your thing, you can always revert back to Multi-Tap in portrait mode, but why would you want to?!

Switching to SureType
Switching to SureType

Now that I've said the Storm's separation of navigation from confirmation approach doesn't make a difference when typing at full speed, it DOES make a difference when typing slow or when in a bumpy environment! When do people type slow? How about in meetings when you have one eye on your boss and one under the table at your BlackBerry with less than full concentration given to the smartphone. Bumpy? How about being a passenger in the backseat of a NYC taxi cab weaving in and out of traffic taking you from the airport to a meeting. One of the best traits of a BlackBerry with a physical keyboard is the ability to slow-type messages in conditions that are less than ideal - and the Storm does not sacrifice that ability at all.

* Update: I'm actually writing this paragraph 30 hours after this review initially published. Why? A comment to this review pointed out another benefit of the SurePress concept that I missed out on in the paragraphs above - preventing accidental keystrokes. With a lot of other touchscreen smartphones, it's easy to accidentally type letters you don't want to by way of "lazy thumbs." After you type one letter, if you 'drag' your thumb over to the next vs. cleary lifting it off the touchscreen, you're going to type a bunch of letters along the way. With SurePress, this is fine - you can drag your thumbs all you want as the keystroke only registers upon press. I overlooked this as on the iPhone (the other touchscreen smartphone I have the most experience with) I tend to hold it my left hand and peck with my right index finger, but for anybody using a touchscreen other than the Storm and typing with both thumbs, accidental presses is definitely a problem, and it's a problem the Storm solves. End Update. *

One last feature I noticed on the BlackBerry Storm was the ability to pretty much bring up the keyboard within in any application or part of the OS (any screen I attempted to do this on anyway it seemed like an option) by hitting the BlackBerry Button / Menu Key and selecting Show Keyboard. While this option makes sense for some screens, I wasn't sure why this would be there on every screen. I assumed RIM's famous keyboard shortcuts would be gone on the Storm (don't think it's possible to do a three key combo like Alt + Caps + H and bring up the HelpMe! screen) but I do have a feeling there may be even more to this keyboard story yet!

Storm Keyboard Video - The Video below features a BlackBerry user (not me) who hasn't used the Storm for all of two minutes typing out a messages in both QWERTY and SureType modes. It's not best example of speed and mistakes are made (new user + awkward angle to hold a smartphone at while typing on it), but it also shows how the mistakes that get made are easy to correct. So when you watch the video, be sure to keep it in context. Once I actually get a Storm in my hands to call my own I'll post one of me typing on it nice and fast with next to no mistakes.


A first time Storm User typing on the touchscreen keyboard

 

Display

After a monster section about the Storm's keyboard, thankfully we can keep the paragraph about the display nice and short. The Storm's high resolution, 480 by 360 pixel, 184 pixels/inch, transmissive TFT LCD display supports over 65,000 colors and is simply fantastic AMAZING. Is it glass? I didn't get an answer on this (honest to god it slipped my mind!), but if it's not glass, then it's something that feels equal to glass.

The BlackBerry OS looks great on it, the apps I've had a chance to play with look good (should be nice and easy to view/edit excel files) and the video playback is awesome. The Storm's display also seems to be pretty responsive to the touch (will address that later). As for smudging, it's kind of funny... I never noticed any on-screen smudges when I actually had a Storm in hand and was using it. It was only when looking back at the few photos that I managed to snap where some images showed a pretty smudged up Storm (which you can keep in mind was being handled by literally hundreds of people).

I don't think many people (any people?) will be able to find bad things to say about the Storm's display, as is the case with the Bold and Curve 8900's displays as well. To the eye they are all seriously bright/crisp/sharp/etc., but the sheer size of the Storm's display (it makes the Bold's display look puny when the devices are placed side by side) makes it a winner in my book. Just don't drop it! The Storm seems pretty solid, but I'd rather not find out what would happen just in case.


A short Speed Racer clip played on the BlackBerry Storm

 

Other Hardware...

Standalone and Assisted GPS, 3.2 MP camera, just about every radio known to man... in the limited time I had with the BlackBerry Storm I obviously couldn't put every aspect of the device to the test but I'm sure it's safe to say the above will all live up to high standards we all have for RIM's hardware.

General Storm Use, Navigation and Gestures

When handling the Storm for the first time I couldn't help but think back to the Smartphone Round Robin we held a year ago. If you're not familiar with that event, the editor's of the different Smartphone Experts websites swapped phones for a week each. Over the course of a month I gave up my BlackBerry Curve and got some real hands-on time with the AT&T Tilt, Treo 650 and Apple iPhone. My big takeaway from the Round Robin was that I found both the Curve and the iPhone to be the most intuitive devices to use (and thus my favorites), even though their ideologies (full touch vs. no touch) were at opposite ends. With both of these devices, it's always clear how to hold and use the phone. With the iPhone every possible option (item to tap) is displayed on the phone at any given time, while on the BlackBerry you know to use the menu key for all of your options and are never confused by method of input (keyboard/trackball). When it came to the Tilt and Treo 650, I was less able to get comfortable with the devices as I was always a bit uncertain over how to best hold/use the phone at any given time, due to the mixed methods of navigation and input available (for more info check out the Round Robin website). You'd think that more options should be better, but at least for myself I like to keep things simple and efficient, which I believe is at the core of RIM's smartphone philosophy. As David Yach, RIM's CTO of Software, said at the BlackBerry Developer Conference, it's all about the red light test - you should be able to pick up your smartphone and accomplish anything you want to do in the time you would spend waiting at a red light. He also put it another way... the BlackBerry experience is all about adding an hour to your day by giving you the ability to turn all of those one minute chunks of time we all waste into productive time.

With all that said, I found the BlackBerry Storm to be a little less immediately intuitive than a standard trackball BlackBerry or the Apple iPhone. With a trackball BlackBerry, I'd immediately pick it up in my right hand, put my thumb on the trackball and roll/click away (even for doing something like taking pictures this basic grip wouldn't change). But with the BlackBerry Storm, I wasn't quite sure at first if I wanted to hold it in my right hand and attempt to swipe, hover and tap with my thumb, or hold it in my left hand and use my index finger to get around. Push come to shove, I don't know that there is a right or wrong way, as it's designed to work both ways. I'm sure with just a bit more time I'd find my favorite way to use the Storm, but within that first hour I was definitely tossing it back and forth between hands quite regularly. Though I am also sure the always-logical guys at RIM have given some thought to this question and I would love to know exactly how they suggest holding the Storm for optimal use in any given situation.

BlackBerry STorm in Portrait
BlackBerry Storm in Portrait (photo credit)

When it comes to what's available on the operating system, the Storm will be very intuitive to existing BlackBerry users, but I could see it being a little less intuitive to first time BlackBerry owners. Again, looking at the Apple iPhone, one of the friendly aspects of its full touchscreen user interface is that every option you have is viewable on the screen. It's basically WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). This approach does mean you're likely to have less options/functionality on any given screen (like C&P) and it's not always the fasted for getting things done (dialing a number, quickly checking/responding to a new email, etc), but it does make the phone very easy for new owners to use since there's one path of navigation for any given task. Since the Storm puts a ton of items under the menu key, it doesn't sacrifice on BlackBerry functionality at all, but it does mean new-to-BlackBerry owners will want to be clicking the menu key regularly until they find out all of the Storm's BlackBerry Operating System's secrets.

With speed of use in mind, RIM has taken the approach of making an application's most used/needed functions available on the display vs. hiding them under the menu key, so in situations where your thumb/index finger is already swiping and tapping away, you'll be less likely to need to move your finger off the screen and onto the menu key. A good example of this is within the web browser, where the zoom in / out / url / cursor view buttons appear once you quit being active on the page. Another great example along these lines are the up/down scrolling arrows that become visible at the bottom of screens that have more to display. In the situation where you are holding the Storm in your right hand, scrolling up/down by tapping on these arrows is much more convenient than having to shift your grip and swipe with a finger. It really shows that in RIM's transitioning of the BlackBerry Operating System over to touchscreen input that they are thinking every step of the way about what can speed up and improve the end user experience and have it stay true to the traditional BlackBerry user experience. Nicely done RIM.

Storm in Landscape
Homescreen in Landscape (photo credit)

With no trackball or scroll wheel to be found, I know many of you are wondering what it will be like to get around and navigate on the Storm. From my experiences, pretty darn easy! The Storm's screen size and resolution give every item you want to select a big strike zone so you press on it accurately. Even when accessing options on the menu, I think most people should be able to simply press on items with authority in one smooth motion. Though if the spacing is too tight for those with big hands or chubby fingers, again, the SurePress display permits you to highlight what you want to select first, and then push in on the display for confirmation so you never miss-press. Application icons on the Storm are nice and big, and the Storm mimics traditional BlackBerry smartphones in a clever fashion - when on the homescreen you get a condensed selection of icons, along with your selected wallpaper and full notification list at the top of screen. Turning the Storm horizontal is the same as pushing the menu key, and displays the entire ribbon of apps. Very slick.

While pressing selected items was a no brainer, at first it seemed the Storm wasn't totally fond of my swiping technique though I did quickly improve upon it. I'm guessing my past experience with the iPhone may have tainted this initial experience somewhat. From what I gathered, the Storm uses more of a touch and slide approach to swiping/scrolling vs. the flick approach that seems to work well on the iPhone. Within the Storm's Screen/Keyboard settings on OS4.7 there are touchscreen options labeled Tap Interval, Hover Period and Swipe Sensitivity. I never had a chance to fully explore the effects of changing these settings, though I'm assuming I'll be able to use them to precisely dial in the touchscreen to my liking.

Touchscreen Options
Touchscreen Options

While keyboard shortcuts may be in short supply on the BlackBerry Storm, the passion and ingenuity behind them is still present by way of what I have currently dubbed for now as "SureCuts." I already mentioned one SureCut above in the keyboard section - the ability to hover over a letter for an extra second in order to have it display alternate forms of the letter. Another cool SureCut occurs within the mail application. If you hover on a sender's name or email subject for a few seconds, the inbox begins filtering to show related messages (awesome!).

Other notable navigation improvements on the Storm don't relate to the touchscreen, rather to enhanced functionality of the menu key (err.. BlackBerry button). First, when selecting a highlighted item on an open menu, in addition to tapping the screen with your finger you can actually just click the menu key again and it will act like an enter key (or touchscreen click) and select the item. This is a big time saver considering RIM has given a lot of though to what item is always highlighted by default on any given click of the menu key, so more often than you might think you will be able to just click the menu key twice to make a desired selection. The other notable improvement, which I think needs to be made in future OS upgrades and made available to all existing BlackBerry smartphones, is the ability to launch the Application Switcher by simply holding down on the menu key for two seconds. I personally always set my Left Side Convenience Key to the application switcher, but having it as a hold on the menu key makes way more sense and is a real multitasking time saver.

An hour with the Storm went by in seconds, so I wouldn't doubt if there are many more shortcuts and SureCuts to be discovered still. I did manage to get some text copied and pasted, which was a relatively simple task thanks to the Storm's multi-touch functionality. By putting my fingers at the start and end of the text block I wanted to copy (tapping and then dragging allows you to hone in on your exactly location) I was able to highlight the text and then click the menu key to copy it to the clipboard.

A big part of the BlackBerry OS philosophy is discovery. You can pick up the basics and learn how to navigate around the phone in a minute or two, but in the weeks and months ahead you discover little tips and tricks that push you away from BlackBerry Newbie status to Expert status. I think the BlackBerry Storm follows this pattern of discovery. All in all I was really impressed with the Storm's user interface and functionality and am already jonesing for one to call my own. I'm still a Storm newbie, but am sure if I had my own I would become an expert in no time!!

Native Apps

I didn't have *that* much time with the BlackBerry Storm and for much of that time I simply stared in awe, so suffice to say I didn't get too deep into the Storm's native apps, never mind gather much sense for what 3rd party apps will look like on the Storm (I can't wait to see some apps that make use of the accelerometer... get on it developers!!). The following are some of the highlights:

BrickBreaker - the first app I tried out. Yup it's there, and it is AWESOME. The touchscreen motion combined with the Storm's big and bright display make this the most addicting version of BrickBreaker yet.


BrickBreaker played on the BlackBerry Storm

Web Browser - like the Bold, the Storm does a solid job rendering web pages (adios Opera Mini), but thanks again to the big display I'd take the Storm over the Bold for web browsing in a heartbeat. Navigation within the web browser is pretty simple on the touchscreen, and the Cursor mode makes it easy to drag the page to wherever you want to be. As mentioned at the Developer Conference, RIM wants to make the web browser the second pillar of the BlackBerry experience, so I expect they will be continuously working on the browser to make it better and better.


A short BlackBerry Storm montage showing off the Web Browser, Calculator, Menu actions and Video Camera App

Camera - Having the Storm's full screen as a viewfinder makes for a solid camera photo taking experience. I didn't spend too much time here, but the touchscreen controls made it easy to zoom in and out and snap a picture.

Phone App - Click the Green Button and the BlackBerry Storm is still an easy to use phone!

I think it's pretty apparent that the BlackBerry Storm will be the most application friendly BlackBerry to date, thanks in part to the Storm's massive touchscreen which equates to a better user experience. Bigger is definitely better when it comes to apps. Another untested feature that we know about on the Storm is compatibility mode - which will allow the Storm to run older applications that weren't even created for the device! Compatibility mode allows the Storm to convert trackball events to touchscreen events - so if you're one of those BlackBerry Addicts with 50 software purchases in your ShopCrackBerry Software account, have no fear as they should work without issue on the Storm. I'm definitely excited to put this to the test.

That's All For Now Folks!

One of the inevitable questions that will pop up in the comments to this post are "So Kevin, are you going to switch to the Storm or keep using your Bold?" In anticipation of the question, my first response is I DON'T KNOW!!!, my second response is DON'T MAKE ME CHOOSE! and my third response is AH HELL, JUST GIVE ME BOTH. I guess the good thing here is that this decision will be partially be decided for many of us based on the Storm's carrier offering. Looking at North America - if you're on Verizon / Telus / Bell, the Storm is going to be no brainer for you... get ready to wait in line! If you're on AT&T, T-Mobile, Rogers, etc.... then it becomes more of a struggle. Do you jump one carrier ship for another? Or do you unlock a Vodafone Storm and live with EDGE speeds on your GSM network? Or go for the Bold, which is one fast and smooth device. Or if you a fanatic about form factor, do you stick it out and wait for the Curve 8900. At this point, I'm pretty sure there's no one right answer and you can argue the decision any which way you want (sorry I'm not more help here!) based on written specs and features - for some of you, you'll just have to wait until you actually get these devices in your hand and decide from there which BlackBerry will be your next. 

Seriously, every smartphone I have ever used to date compromises somewhere along the line. Think about BlackBerry smartphones historically - the BlackBerry was a communication tool first and foremost, dominant from 9am to 5pm, built for people who have stuff to do and need to get it done. Think about the Apple iPhone 2G - the not-so-easy-to-type-on touchscreen made it less effective as 9am to 5pm tool, but that same screen made it a media winner and a dominant choice for 5pm to 9am fun... maybe not as good at getting stuff done quick as the BlackBerry, but a good choice for people who were looking for stuff to do. With the introduction of the BlackBerry Bold and iPhone 3G, with the Bold taking the BlackBerry's media capabilities to a new level and the iPhone 3g beefing up its enterprise attractiveness (sort of), the two companies have begun encroaching on each other's distinct 9am to 5pm and 5pm to 9am turfs more and more.

Enter the BlackBerry Storm. With its easy to type on touchscreen keyboard, the Storm is just as effective as any other BlackBerry for the work day, but with the benefits of a BIG ‘ole touchscreen isn't about to call it quits when happy hour begins. Sure, there's still some room for improvement: WiFi, more RAM and better graphics support... but sum up all that the BlackBerry Storm has to offer and it's surely one of the first smartphones to effectively bring you the best of both day and night, with little compromise in between!

 

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Topics: Device Reviews

Kevin Michaluk Kevin Michaluk "Founder, Editor in Chief " 3922 (articles) 3285 (forum posts)
136 comments

Kevin Michaluk

Sorry for the delays in getting this up! Took me longer to write out than I thought. Over 7,000 words... 13 pages single spaced in word. Egadz! At least if it doesn't win the award for best review it'll certainly win for being the longest!

Just after 4am as I published this. Did a quick spell check but wanted to get the story up asap as I know a lot of you have been waiting for it.

Will do a proofread in the morning and make any necessary changes, so if you notice and little errors in the time being, try to ignore them!

Hope you enjoy the hands-on!!

derekdevine

No need to apologize, you do a fantastic job every-time!

driphter

Very Anti-Climatic! Great review Kevin! Best review on the net for sure. But, somehow this review took the preverbial "wind out of my sails" I almost feel dirty and let down after reading what you had to say about the Storm. Looks like a nice entry by RIM into the touch screen market, but I am not sold yet. I haven't used a Bold yet, but it seems that is THE way to go right now.

When you want the best you go with the best. The Bold is the pinacle of what RIM does, the Storm (while it will be succesful) is like the Keebler Elves giving up cookies and going into fruits and vegtables.

I think I will stick with my curve and wait this one out. Some might say I'm nuts, but the Storm seems more Toy than Business Solution. Don't get me wrong, I like toys, but after time most great toys loose their luster.

Thanks again for all of your hard work and keeping us up to date. You sir are Wicked Awesome!

Kevin Michaluk

Interesting take on the review. I don't think Anti-Climatic is what I was going for... more like even-handed.

In your case, I think what it comes to is that you probably should't make up your mind on the Bold vs. Storm decision until you get a chance to hold/play with each device in your hands.

You could honestly argue pros and cons against each other for the Storm vs. Bold (vs. Curve 8900) pretty much any way you want to when it comes to features/specs. WiFi vs. No WiFi, Huge Touchscreen vs. Smaller non-touchscreen, Faster Processor in the Bold but 3.2MP camera in the Storm, etc. etc.

Priority and passed device history will play factor to. If you're a longtime full-qwerty BlackBerry guy, you may find the transition to the Storm to be a bit more difficult, while the Bold is the pinnacle of what you are used to - the same BBOS and form factor punched up with serious speed (and an awesome display). Conversely, if you've been longing for a touchscreen, or are a Pearl user looking for an upgrade, making the move into the Storm could likely be the preferred way without even having to touch either the Bold or Storm.

myka401

I too driphter agree with you

Can you tell us about the loudness of the clicking sound? Will it annoy people around us? Can it be shut off?
Thanks

Anonymou

Never heard a click when I pushed the screen when I first got mine. It was easy to find the volume leave for this though, but I still have never turned it on, so I don't know how loud or soft it actually is.

Stonewall

Thanks for going the extra mile (I mean kilometer Eh!) Kevin

Anonymous

GLASS OR PLASTIC SCREEN!!!!!!????????

Anonymous

Not sure, but if it were glass how would you be able to actually "press" on the screen. Anyway, planning to get one within the month this thing comes out.

Outtacontrol891

The storm is lookin good! But I still think I'll stick to the 8900

forte831

Falling asleep as I read but awesome review man!

nicoburp

Thanks for your opinion for typing with the Storm, now I am SURE that I want one!!!

Does the screen look so great? I mean the Bold's is so awesome... Is it really better?

kablaamo

Thanks Kevin! -from all of us addicts who sneak out of bed at the wee hours of the night waiting for your review to post despite our angry girlfriends who are sick of hearing about "storms" and "bolds" and "who is this guy kevin anyway and why doesn't get a get his own boyfriend so he can stop hogging mine!" I'm telling you man, some chicks just don't get it.

eager2own

Outstanding review!
You succeeded in adding to what was already out there. You seemed to think of everything (for example, your discussion on slow-typing issues).

(and I'm glad you were able to address the ghost glow/distortion/discoloration that we've seen in other videos)

phikai

He said something about the distortion...NON ISSUE

DurangoJim

Great review and thanks for working so hard for all us addicts!

DurangoJim

Great review and thanks for working so hard for all us addicts!

DurangoJim

Great review and thanks for working so hard for all us addicts!

Chase17

The whole right side of the text of the review is cut off slightly? Great review, thanks.

NamelessLiar

mine was that way too, but it seems to be working correctly now.

dynot

After waiting so long for this review I gotta read with the last few word cutt-off!!! WTF Kevin....fix your page.

I know you gotta make a dollar or two but move your ads further to the right!

Shooperman

It's chopped off in IE, but with Chrome it shows up fine.

Great job on the review Kevin. I've been waiting for this one and you did not disappoint! Now if I can only figure out a way to upgrade without paying full retail (wife used my upgrade to get her Curve last month!)...

Kevin Michaluk

Had one missing little line break that caused it wrap funny in Internet Explorer.

Should be good to go now. Sorry about that!! Was working in Firefox and Chrome. Don't use IE much..gotta remember to always check on IE from now on.

dynot

thanks kevin....will prob move over to firefox some day!

great job....hope it comes to rogers sometime soon.

SLVR6

Great review Kevin!

pipotobe

I didn't have a doubt that the Storm would be an amazing device. But you've just confirmed that I will lose two devices for this one. My BB pearl will have to go and my Ipod 80g too.

Thanks a lot:)

Kevin Michaluk

Oops. Sorry about that :)

NamelessLiar

Quick question Kev. Since the Storm will support GSM/GPRS/EDGE, would I be able to use it on T-Mobile?

I know that I couldn't use the CDMA, but what other issues do you think we would encounter if such an attempt were made? I'm sure I'm not the only non-Verizon/Vodafone user that is itching for a Storm...

avanderlinde

Awesome Review Kevin!

Just one question, how sturdy is the screen? Meaning does it feel flimsy? Like plastic or is it glass? I see in all the forums people going back and forth but was hoping maybe you can answer this question.

I guess soon enough we will hear horror stories from people who accidently drop the phone... I know with the Iphone at least the screen is made of glass.

Thanks so much for your hard work and dedication! Can't wait to try this phone out for myself!

Kevin Michaluk

If it's not glass, then it's something that feels hard/sturdy like glass... to me anyways!

Vin

In the RIM press release for the Storm it says that it's glass:

" Sleek, elegant design with contoured corners, stainless steel back and chrome accents surrounding its large (3.25") glass lens; its exceptional 480 x 360 resolution at 184 ppi is crisp and bright with eye-pleasing clarity"

Addict with no fix

Kevin: I can't believe the amount of time I spent yesterday checking Crackberry, so I was so exicted to come down this morning to find your review!

Great job and thank you for all your efforts. I have become an addict solely through crackberry since I don't even own a Blackberry! I decided it was time to get one and went to your site first.

I am buying one of these the first day it comes out, if I can. Never been an early adopter, but with 40 right around the corner, it is time!

Mr.Torben

can you navigate across a displayed webpage that extents past the resolution of the screen (by zoom or otherwise) diagonally?

wasn't that a big complaint by iphone users, you need to go up and over to go from one corner to the opposite?

Jon Jarvis

Wow! I know the storm is coming to VZW, but the one Kevin tested has an AT&T logo on it?

bradley83

That's a Vodafone version of the Storm roaming on AT&T network...

Bradley83

I've had one of the original iphones since it's debut and while it's been amazing at keeping me entertained it's terrible for productivity. (because of the fun factor maybe?)

That said the one ingenious feature I cannot give up is visual voicemail. Please tell me, will the Storm have this feature?

Anonymous

yes but there's a monthly fee of like 1.99 from verizon

hal1

Did scrolling around the browser seem jumpy? Is that what you meant when you said it could use more graphics memory?

Casper TFG

Great report as usual Kevin! Thanks!

Re the Storm browser you said "goodbye Opera Mini" but one question about the Storm if I may!

Q - To scroll down a page do you HAVE to swipe to move up or down a web page? Or (like Opera Mini) does pressing a key allow you to toggle up or down web pages? (each toggle moving to the next area)

Reason I ask - IMHO This is one of the coolest things about Opera Mini - the ability to toggle up or down web pages with key presses and it is what is a drag about the BB browser (operating the scroll wheel gets tedious) or just to the very top or very bottom via key clicks...

So if you were reading the Crackberry Forum, could you get a thread up then 'bang' down that page, speed reading it with an easy key press to move it along each time? Or would you have to be 'swiping' all the time?

Many thanks,

spangler07

Try pressing SPACE in the BB browser. I think this is the feature you're looking for. It moves from one "space" to the next... I use it all the time!

woodi68

Casper, if you hit the Space bar in the BB Browser it takes you down a full page like a "PgDwn" button (not sure about the PgUp). Or hit "B" to go to the bottom and "T" to go to the top.

Anonymous

shift+space will do a PgUp.

Anonymous

In your BB browser just use the space bar to change pages :) Forget the wheel.

SOADFreak1989

I've been waiting for this review for sooo long! You've made me now set an alert in my 8830's calendar on the day the Storm comes, so I can get my ass up grab my $700 and wait in line at my store in NYC.

Thanks Kevin! What would we do without you?

Anonymous

Does pressing on the screen feel the same as pressing on a mouse button?

I also want to point out that with the bigger screen, it is a lot easier to work with and view spreadsheets and word documents, a plus for a business user.

Thanks for the revies Kevin!

naviwilliams

...now what on earth am I to do. Wait for the Storm, or get a BOLD? You know, me being a gadget person, I'll probably have to get both, regardless!

So, thanks Kevin.

Anonymous

does anyone know when and if the bold is still coming out for verizon as well???

gmny

Ive heard may 2009 for the bold

Motifman22

Kevin, I know you metioned this in your review, but do you think they will add more screen to cut off the gap between the bottom of screen and buttons, or will they just make the phone physically smaller. Either way, they HAVE to get rid of that wasted space! Every little bit counts with a small device.

Every time I see a picture of the Storm, this is driving me crazy...

Cooknn

So glad I'm not alone on this! I was very happy to read that the production version will most likely deal with the display area. It just looks wrong the way it is off center. As with you, it is all I see every time I look at the Storm. Unfortunate because there are so many positive features!

From Kevin's Review:
"I don't have any secondary confirmation on this yet, but my further understanding has it that the Storm hardware in final form would feature slightly different edging to the touchscreen (reduce/lower the outer gap)..."

Robb Gio

Great review. Can't wait til I upgrade my job which my wife and I agreed as a stipulation before I get my storm - it's motivating me to search for jobs! Was wondering, I use Rhapsody, and will this "phone" be supported as a device to use with Rhapsody-to-go, or Vcast, or both, and also can you use bluetooth headphones to listen to music? Also can you use the bluetooth to transfer data to a computer instead of using the usb cable option? Also will the touchscreen work just as well with a screen protector on it? Also, would anyone predict how soon the next version of the storm would come out with wifi? Also, does anyone have a guess of when Verizon will roll out next gen wireless, and is it likely that this phone will be able to use it? Also, this comment box is buggy - at least on Chrome

cromag_rickmanus

Definitely the most concise, well-written, thorough Storm review out there. Perhaps the most thorough CELLPHONE review, and it hasn't even been released yet! You sir, are friggin awesome.

Queen4111

What did yor comment mean, "the people I tried to corner in the wild dashed on me as soon as they glanced my name badge (for some silly reason I think they had the impression I'd try and roshambo them and take their device when they were down for the count).

Did they think you were going to STEAL it?

It sort of looks like that they knew RIM did not invite you to the Oct 1st private review on purpose and they did not want you to even touch the Storm at the Dev conf!!!!!!!

woodi68

I assume they ran from him thinking he would take them hostage until he figured out everything there was to know about it. They also probably didn't want to spent three hours explaining their discoveries about the device with him. As much as I would love the attention having this device I can see how bloggers chasing you might be a bit... exhausting! :)

secretsexyninja

I am definitely getting this phone! I have been checking out crackberry on a regular basis.... 5-10 times a day, and I don't even own a blackberry! >_< lol The storm will DEFINITELY be my first blackberry. I can hardly wait!! :D Thanks so much kevin for such an awesome review. Appreciate it.

Ian Ma

Hey Kevin,

You mentioned the cut and paste feature with the multi touch but didn't really talk about any of the other options. What other things could you do with the multi touch function? Did pinch work for zooming? I've heard both it does and doesn't.

Thanks!

urmomFTW

The two questions that I havent seen answered ANYWHERE is:

A) Does the clicking noise come from the button depressing or is it a sound from the phone?

B) If it is indeed a pseudo-click sound, can it be made silent through an option menu? I just think it could get potentially annoying through alot of use...Especially to others around you..

Anyways, Kevin, a great review and well worth the wait man!

Cheers!

JamesMullen

How sturdy was the storm? right now I am using an original LG VX9800 (version just before the EnV came out). I'm wondering if I could just use the storm, and get rid of my Ipod, Car GPS, and Palm TX. Also (this might just be a BB question in general) how many e-mail accounts could you have to push e-mails to the storm?

Anonymous

You can set up up to 10 personal email accounts with the 29.99/month data package

CGSCOT

Fantastic review as ever from Kevin !! Storm looks amazing & just keeps looking better with more & more reviews :)

MuDvAyNe

Keep up the good work. You have just made me want the Storm even more now. I can't wait!

B.L.A.I.R

Kevin,

Thanks for the fantastic post. I do have 2 follow up questions.

Seeing that the web browser is one of the most important elements for me on the storm, did you find the lack of a "pinch" gesture to be a negative considering you have this for your iphone? Does the double tap zoom in and out feature suffice? This is my biggest concern, and I even posted this topic in the forums.

Second, the overall scrolling and flicking with the web browser seems very choppy and lacks the smoothness of an iphone's safari browser. Am I correct on this front? Do you think changing the settings would change this?

I response to these 2 questions would be greatly appreciated by me and many of your readers. A lot of people switch to the iphone for the web browser, and we are anxious to have something on par in regards to the storm.

Thanks.

mahen915

I can probably address your question about the overall chopiness of the browser. This can only be attributed to the fact that the OS is not final. These are issues that can easily be fixed with a software update. I expect the final OS that will be shipping the Storm will have the Browser working quite smoothly.

golfnut

you never dissappoint when you do reviews. Even at 4:00am! I can't wait to see this phone in person to give it the final verdict.Again, great job as always, Kevin! Get some sleep.

sethjk

Will the storm support multiple web pages/tabs like the iphone?

woodi68

Every review has said no.

Casper TFG

Crackberry community waits patiently while Kevin sleeps..

;-)

Anonymous

good review...lil lengthy...hey did anyone else notice "AT&T" on first shot in the review of the Storms screen in the wireless carrier banner?

SpeedingNoodle

Yes, dude, this was covered. He was using the Vodafone Storm which was roaming on the AT&T network.

coldconfession13

hey kevin I thought you said that wasn't you playing brick breaker?
"BrickBreaker - the first app I tried out. Yup it's there, and it is AWESOME. The touchscreen motion combined with the Storm's big and bright display make this the most addicting version of BrickBreaker yet. "

so you do suck at brick breaker :-P

lol jk just yanking your chain

Kevin Michaluk

In my first hands-on with the Storm, no pics/video were allowed. So my first session with BrickBreaker wasn't recorded. And I said...in the vid those aren't my hands playing BrickBreaker. Wise ass!

Crystall09

Awesome review Kevin! You never let us crackberrians down! We thank you!!

As for the device... I... am... STOKED!!!! I can not wait until I can get my hands on this device!! I am with T-mobile now and love it but I want one of these phones so bad that I am going to have to switch over... or get an unlocked vodophone and use it with T-mobile... Can't make up my mind.

Again thanks Kev!!!

Anton Wahlman

There is an interesting irony applying to Blackberry in relationship to the Verizon-Vodafone ownership structure. As you know, Verizon owns 55% of Verizon Wireless, and Vodafone owns the other 45%. When a Verizon Wireless user of a Blackberry 8830 or 9530 goes abroad, he can roam onto a Vodafone network. In fact, it is so prioritized. However, when a Vodafone user comes to the US, he cannot roam onto Verizon Wireless at all. Obviously, that's because the Blackberries sold in Vodafone territories don't include CDMA/EVDO, but why? The Verizon Wireless devices (8830 and 9530) include GSM/HSPA as well as CDMA/EVDO, so why shouldn't Vodafone do the same? Vodafone owns 45% of Verizon Wireless, but its users end up roaming on AT&T and T-Mobile USA when visiting The Leader of The Free World.

grooves

It's simple... its probably cost. The number of users that travel to the US from Europe regularly is probably pretty small. Considering the fact they will probably sell tons of these, the additional cost of CDMA radios is probably enormous when multiplied over that number of devices. The cost of roaming on ATT/Tmoble for the few users that do travel to the US is probably a lot lower than the cost of CDMA radios in every storm.

On the flipside, Verizon has no choice but to install the GSM radios for roaming as the majority of the rest of the world has no CDMA coverage.

copndoc

I really enjoyed your review and think you covered all the basics and then some. Good Job! Now if I can only get one! I'm with Alltel and since they are supposedly going to be bought out by Verizon, maybe a Storm is heading my way. I certainly hope so! Thanks for the great review!

Justadye4

i crave it. im switching from at&t when this phone comes out, it will cost me $175 which to a non working college kid is like 2 weeks of food, but i the benefits definately outweigh the cost, i mean its a friggin storm right?

heavilytat2ed

The release date!?!?!? Did they even mention a round about date at the convention?

Kevin Michaluk

The current rumor is November 16th for Verizon. Which is a Sunday... so maybe come Monday in store.

Vodafone could have it sooner.

Bob worth

I know the LG Dare allows you to write a phone # or note with a stylus, etc. which then appears on the screen so you can call that #. Does the RIM Storm have this feature?

trtian1

How does the new upgrade mobile gmail 2 work on it and how does it look?

anonymous24

Hey Kevin I heard that the Storm was going to have Vcast and Mobile TV is that true?

Anonymous

Kevin - your summation hits a key point. The market wants/needs choice, including a choice of keyboard vs. touch screen, sizes, prices, form factors, carriers, etc.

Apple (arrogantly) tries to pretend like one model will suit the world, but the truth is that the iphone will remain a niche.

danger872

u did a great job....this has to be the best review u did

Anonymous

Great review Kevin, but I think you are still underestimating an important benefit (for typing) that comes from separating navigation and confirmation (as you put it). I agree that the big keys and the tangible feel of the screen make a big difference, but separting confirmation also improved accuracy for me (in the brief few minutes that I tried it) because I tend to occassionally drag my fingers/thumbs (especially thumbs) on the iphone screen rather than perfectly lift and strike each time. With the Storm, that didn't matter because touch and confirmation aren't the same, whereas it messes me (and a lot of other people) up on the iphone. I feel like I'm playing the old game "Operation" when I'm typing on the iphone cause (unless I type super slow) I keep brushing the edges accidentally letting my other thumb touch the screen when it's not supposed to. Small point perhaps, but I think it is the kind of thing that will make a huge difference over the life of the product given how often I type during the day.

Kevin Michaluk

That's a good point. I may go back and edit that in as another benefit.

I guess for me when I type on the iPhone, I hold it in my left hand and peck with my right. With this method you really never drag your finger on the keyboard causing the mess-ups like you described. But if you're thumbing on the iphone, i could see this happening for sure (dragging and getting multiple clicks).

an hour with a phone just isn't enough!!

jpg

awesome review kevin! i am currently with qwest, which lucky for me just sold their wireless division to verizon. so i get to switch to a better network without paying the etf and i get 20% off this amazing device!

woodi68

I know this is all speculative with Verizon so far, but we've seen a couple hints at the two types of GPS, assisted and normal, assisted being used for VZNav and "normal" supposedly for other applications. I assume you were inside a GPS-free building when you were playing and thus didn't get a chance to test it out. Also, I assume you couldn't have really tested this since it was a Vodafone roaming and not the Verizon model.

Excellent, excellent, excellent review. I like the balance you added to this review. You were plenty positive with it (and excited at times), but like you said you were still very balanced.

(I love the comment about the old "Operation" game and the iPhone. HAHA!)

squash

Like you said, Kevin, for us qwerty guys, it's a big adjustment. I've never liked the touch screen, or wanted one, so although I know why RIM almost HAD to come out with one, it definitely targets a certain crowd caring more about media than the traditional business crowd that RIM is used to creating for. Emails, general web browsing, SMS, address & cal, etc.

On top of getting used to the new keyboard, you'd have to get used to have fingerprints all over your screen. That might be irritating.

Long live the trackball...

kmflame

Hi

Reading your specifications i read that both phones run the UMTS/HSPA network (my 3g network uses that), after reading that I made a preorder to Europe (since my brother lives there) but i just found that both phones uses 2100Mhz. Does that means it will not work here? Because here it runs at 850mhz and they have said that the phones that are 2100mhz will not work here.

I am fucked? cuz I can not cancel the pre-order.

Thanks

Brandon Terry

does this mean that us at&t users will be able to buy our own gsm storms or do you think at&t will just come out with their own?

Valace2

Commercials, the entire compliment of technical specs, hands on reviews... What in the hell are they thinking? The hype is gone, dead, ka poot. Your review was excellent but what in the hell is the god damn point. The f#ckin thing isn't comin out for another god damn month if not more. These leaks were not leaks they meant for this information to get out. What in the hell of problems could have been bad enough to push the release back an entire god damn month. Thanks for the review Kev, you bugger at least they decided you were important enough to let you see one. The rest of us who get to twitch in anticipation get to suffer. And then who is next??? VZW's business clients that who with those f#ckin First Touch events. What a load of crap. I have seen more GOD DAMN BLACKBERRIES in the hands of normal non business folks than I have those overblown, overhyped, apply frigin IPHONES!!!

Valace2

BITE ME. I needed this thing to come out before the end of November. I am on a family plan and was planning on stealing one of my inlaws upgrades. They are actually leaving on the 14th of Nov SO as it stands I am looking at full frigin retail. SO YES VZW IS SCREWING ME!!!

BB_Storm4me

I apprecicate your hard work on the detailed review.

I've been a Treo/Palm user for years. I was looking to replace my Treo 700p with either the Treo 800W, Treo Pro, HTC Touch Pro, BB Bold, or BB Storm (and had my eye on a few others). Well, I didn't want to give up the Verizon network (had Sprint for 3 days and gave up AT&T before Verizon) for a new cool device, now with the Storm I'll have it all.

Wifi missing is no big deal, coverage is spotty and there's always the different security issues to deal with. I have the unlimited plan, so I don't need wifi to save minutes.

I've been watching the Storm for quite a while now, and I'm preparing myself for my new addiction. My 700p is always at my side and many people think I'm using a BB, so I might as well join the BB ranks.

Your review and seeing all the BB software on Crackberry just sealed the deal for me. All of my BB Storm questions have been answered, so I'll probably be one of the crazy people waiting in line to get mine on day 1.

Just one more question...what other BB models are close enough in size that most of the cases (not skins) would fit the Storm? I'm especially fond of the horizontal wallet style (some storage for money and credit cards)leather cases.

woodi68

What is that bottle in the first photo? Are you saying you were intoxicated during your trials? Is that why you forgot to mention a couple things? LOL

:)

michperu

I am going to switch to the Storm---
Pero estoy inseguro si adquirir uno para la esposa! tal vez es muy grande para sus manos o bolso.

Anonymous

i think your wife can play with yours when you get it.. then she can decide about the size as far as the rest goes :P

aalen56

i guess it's not that big of a deal, but i take it the verizon version of the storm does not do voice and data? i tried it on the simulator and it told me that i needed to finish up my call before i could access the web.

kev83202

Designed to provide you with access to your voice and data services at the same time, it helps you get more out of every day.
Take phone calls while sending and responding to email or browsing the Internet
Maintain GPS-based directions or maps on your display even while taking a call
Snap the perfect picture and send it out even when you’re already on the phone
Discuss and revise Microsoft® Word, Microsoft Excel® and Microsoft® PowerPoint® files—edit while using the speakerphone

aalen56

I did see that as well. That's actually why I thought it had voice and data. However, if you read the fine print it will indicate that voice and data is only possible on gsm models only.

"1. Simultaneous voice and data connectivity is only available when the BlackBerry Storm smartphone is connected to a HSPA GSM network."

sheesh

What I want to know is.. Why on earth RIM doesn't send Kevin new devices to review??

He does the MOST thorough reviews on their devices, is ALWAYS open minded, tells it like it is AND he's got one HELL of a following on this site.. this is probably one of their BEST sites for pimping their devices.

I just don't get it..

Sirhill

Great review Kevin. I must say that this is by far the best review that I have seen or read. But I also must say that as a curve lover i will stay in that brand of phone from rim. I can not wait for the new curve, being a tmo user that is going to be my best bet. Great review again and keep up the good work.

i.e. I am very jealous of you right now cause you get all of the goodies. I wish i was in your shoes sometimes and than again maybe not.GREAT JOB

Solomos1

Any ideas as to why they are using a less powerful CPU for the Storm compared to the Bold?

sarky

bold = flagship
the difference is miniscule and they are from different chip makers so the real world difference will probably be unnoticable.

Anonymous

I use a Pearl 8130 and have become very interested in switching to the Storm when it becomes available. But I'm curious about it's potential for really good apps.

I've used the iphone before and was really impressed with the beauty of the apps that have been developed for it. Even simple things like Koi Pond and Labyrinth show it's ability to entertain during down time.

Does anyone know if Storm developers will have the tools to be able to create apps like these, with the same level of graphics and responsiveness?

I think the quality of apps available is what will really make or break the Storm.

Thanks!

markcb

Brickbreaker seems really smooth on this device, I hope that telling of all the other applications and OS in general.

I do have to say though I'm not generally happy that RIM uses Java, but I guess if you throw enough CPU power Java can run OK. But I suppose you get faster development with Java. Trade-offs. It's life.

Housing184

For us BOLD Die-Hard fans who rather have the BOLD than the STORM with all its bells and whistles, If I was to purchase a BOLD would I be able to run it on VERIZON? being that Verizon is GSM band compatible? Thanks in Advance! Die Hard Verizon User!

Anonymous

No, because the STORM itself is what is GSM compatible, not VERIZON

Anonymous

I'm looking at going from a Palm Treo to a Blackberry. I have never used a Blackberry before. Should I wait for the Storm or go with the Curve?

ZachB

I would just get the curve and return it when the storm comes out... i'v been told that the storm will be release on nov 4 compete with the bold

Sr Daddy

OK so whenow is RIM going to totally knock the wind out of AQpple's sails and release this thing on a US GSM carrier? I know rim signed an exclusive deal w/ verizon and all but darn, please come to att!!!!!!!

Any whispers out there yet

dreamquartz

Thanks for advertising the world's greatest beer.

Cheers,

Have one on me

Mario Vic

Does the Storm Sync with Outlook ??

Thanks,Mario

Anonymous

I have the same question, can someone please let us now. Also can you "Sink" appointments, calendar, contacts wireleslly?

SpeedingNoodle

Judging by the screenshots of desktop manager 4.7 and the icon that says "Synchronize" or whatever, I think it would be a safe bet that it syncs with Outlook.

mrharley

I admit that I did not read every word, since that review was pretty long, but I did not recall seeing anything about the battery life. With your limited use, you may not have had the chance to really test it. I got an LG Dare, which I returned and got a Curve 8330. The biggest thing I didn't like about the Dare was the battery drainage. I was literally charging it 2 to 3 times a day. I was afraid to leave the house without having a full charge, as it took no time at all to go from 4 bars to 2 bars. Verizon personnel told me that because of the applications that were running and the additional power consumption in the touch screen phones, that I should not expect to get anywhere near the battery time stated in the specs. I didn't believe them and asked to try another battery, but was told that I will be surprised at how long it will last when at 2 bars. My phone shut off mid call and I am not a heavy user. On my second trip to the store, I luckily had a salesperson direct me to the BB Curve 8330 after discussing the battery issues, as well as the limited capabilities with the Dare. My obvious question is: will the Storm be quicker to discharge the battery than other models with a keyboard and scroll wheel? That can be a big consideration for a lot of us.

sethjk

I was just reviewing the dimensions and I realized it's the same thickness of my current phone, the pearl. With all the talk of its bulkiness, I really expected it to be a tad bit thicker. Good to know there will be no pocket issues (as already mentioned by Kevin)

mcyoung

Kevin,

Your review was awesome, very thorough. You are definitely the most thoughtful and concise reviewer. However...I'm dieing for your next podcast. Where is it??!!

Kevin Michaluk

Getting Recorded Tuesday...sorry for the delays!!

Beau79

A while back I kept reading about a Gobi "hybrid" chip that was to be used in the Storm. Now that they phone is somewhat near launch, did they use the Gobi chipset or not?

Anyone?

Thanks!

Anonymous

I was able to get my hands on a developer version last week (GSM). I have to admit the phone is pretty nice. It's not as bulky as I imagined it to be. The whole "tactile" feature takes some time to get use to. BB's approach is turning the entire display into one really big button. My concern is that if people carry it in their pocket, gunk could accumulate and interfere with the tactile mechanism.

Anonymous

Thanks for the great thorough review! I can't wait till the storm is out. I confess to not being a BlackBerry mega user - but the storm is quickly converting me... It's going to replace my current pda and cell phone. That's right x years later I'm finally going from 2 to 1 gadgets because I'm finally getting one that has a nice sized screen and does everything I want.

I resisted the iphone - in part because I refused to switch cell providers and because it's great for some things but as a business tool in the 1st generation it wasn't one - SO I figured I could wait until the next generation of cell phone/pda's came out and see the response to the iphone.

WOWOWOWOWOOWOWOWOW! Has BlackBerry ever raised the bar. I can hardly wait. If Verizon called me up tomorrow and asked me if I wanted to test it on their network in the area - I'd ask which store to pick up the phone at... ahh, tomorrow would be nice, have a feeling we'll all be waiting till mid-November.

yet2do

Great review Kevin! This may be a repeat comment or in the wrong section...any idea when this phone (or the bold) would end up on Sprint???

pittsy12

Any word whether wi-fi capability will/can be part of a software upgrade? Or would we have to wait until the Storm v2 comes out?

Luigi Pagano

I have had the blackberry curve for 8 months and can i tell you such a joke the phone is horrible. i have gone through 4 phones in 8 months this phone sucks

retrogroov

I am a Verizon Wireless retailer, and I was privy to a sneak peak at the Storm on Thursday, and it is absolutely amazing! This will be a HUGE win for BlackBerry and Verizon Wireless. The touch screen is there--the 'Sure Touch' is a step above the iPhone. The fact that the phone is Rev-A makes tethering speeds equal to that of a pc aircard. Removable memory, picture messaging, Rhapsody, Vcast, iTunes media Sync...just an AWESOME DEVICE all around. I cannot wait to get my hands on one for myself. They are shipping soooooooooooon!

cahurt78

I want this phone now please! Great REVIEW!

Anonymous

Well, I went Blackberry yesterday after much prodding my my crackberry addicted daughter. I'm not a happy camper! Right now, my Storm has been "stuck" in a "Verizon Logo" mode for one hour. I was willing to put up with the slightly off-kilter "6" and "9" keys -- I figured out where to hit them just right to make them work. But, now I'm ticked. The damn thing won't turn off or on, and that's not good.

While listening to my favorite song, it just stopped in the middle, and none of the keys would work for about 15 minutes. Who needs this?

Anonymous

I have had my storm (#28 of 40 at our local verizon store) for approximately 36+ hours. I love it. I work for a tech company and took in on Friday. All the iPhone owners were green with envy over my landscape email typing, cut & paste, sharper screen, etc. Don't get me wrong the iPhone is nice, and the Storm is not yet the iPhone killer (although pound for pound, the Storm is as good or better), but the Storm has more potential and came out of the gate with more features and a better platform (ala Blackberry). Another plus is Verizon. For all their faults, their network is much better than A?&?. Heck, they are going to put in a signal booster in our building so the A?&? customers can get enough signal to use their iGear. Needless to say I did not get much work done on Friday. Shhhh.

Patg

I bought the Storm on the first day. Outstanding phone. However, a package deal was offered with a the new Jawbone2, car charger and holster. Problem? You cannot voice connect using the new Jawbone2! i checked with Verizon store techs and they were astonished it wouldn't work. Question...Why in this age of police monitoring whether or not you are using your cell while driving, would Verizon offer the JB2 where you have to take your phone out, dial or speed dial your desired number (taking your eyes off the road) in order to call someone? The JB2 works very nicely but you can't use voice commands. Anyone else see a problem with this packaging or a solution?

Anonymous

I LOVE it! It's gonna take a while before the software is as easy to use as my old EnV. You can't download ringtones or games... But the phone itself is amazing. Browsing is easy. I will say, it's gonna take some time to get used to typing on the touch screen.

jefflin

Helpful information, thanks.
I also find a useful and cool software for Blackberry Storm 9530, 9500, which can convert dvd or video to Blackberry storm, so you can watch dvd movie with your blackberry on the go.

I find it below:
http://www.dvd-ripper-copy.com/blackberry-converter-suite.html#116

Grub1221

The Storm does not only compete with the iPhone, it blows it away. I dropped AT&T sold my iPhone and went out and bought the Storm and signed up with Verizon after only playing with the Storm for about 3 days. Let's face it the iPhone is a toy, nothing more. It's horrible with email, it is not enterprise ready, and the security...oh ya there is none. The Storm is an efficient, productive, tool, that ALSO has all of the fun features. The click screen...amazing! Blackberry did its homework and deserves to be rewarded for once instead of all the eccentric Mac fanboys defending their toy till the bitter end with nothing to back it up with. Blackberry and the Storm are leading the way, dont let anyone tell you different until you actually have a chance to test it out.

amna

So, I have T- Mobile, but am currently in the UK...so my husband bought me one here.. and am bringing it back with me :D
Anyways, your review is awesome. I just finished charging my Storm, and was having trouble with beginning to type. But, you gave me hope..I will learn. Also, I agree, I think the screen IS glass. I think people are confused as to how it clicks...they don't realize that the ENTIRE screen moves down..so it can quite possibly be glass.
Well, thanks for the review, time to go test it out now :D
-ab

fondoo

after reading your review. i went out and purchased the 9500 to use on AT&T. i was anxious on getting my hands on it, since i already owned a bold and javelin. after playing with the storm 9500. i really wish it had wifi. i love the large display, but i think i'll go back to the bold. the bold has the wifi and its so much faster.