CrackBerry Debate/Poll: Do You Want SurePress on Your Touchscreen BlackBerry?

By Kevin Michaluk on 26 Aug 2009 03:37 pm EDT
  What's your take on SurePress?

This one is going to be interesting.... Ever since RIM introduced the notion of a touchscreen that "clicks" with the BlackBerry Storm it has been met with some degree of polarity. There are those who don't see the need for it, there are those who love the concept of getting real tactile feedback while typing on a flat piece of glass and there are those who would maybe like it some of the time (but not necessarily all of the time).

RIM's SurePress design theory does have its benefits. Separating navigation from confirmation allows you to minimize accidental presses/taps (selecting something you don't want) - when browsing the web this is really handy in allowing you to hone in and click the right link the first time or still allowing you to type with accuracy in a bumpy environment (back of a NYC taxi cab). Of course, the main intent behind SurePress was for the device to be great for everyday typing and messaging. I hate to re-hash Storm 1's less than smooth rollout, but between the hardware design and initial software issues, using SurePress tended to be more of a challenge than convenience (though there are many a Storm owner who invested the time into the device and can now hustle with it).

The good news is that with all that we have seen of Storm 2 so far, the hardware design behind this next evolution of SurePress looks to be a lot better and early hands-on reports (including my own) suggest the device will be much improved for typing/everyday use compared to Storm 1, and easier for the average person to pick up and get the hang of immediately out of the box (keep in mind we're referring to Storm 2's tech as SurePress for this post though RIM may rebrand it - TruePress, ClickThru, VirtualClick, who knows!). That said, on CrackBery Podcast 040 we got onto the topic of Storm 2 and SurePress and I posed a question that's definitely up for debate... With SurePress, is RIM giving people what they want or are they trying to tell people what they think they need?

For the three of us on the podcast, we all sort of had the same feelings that while we prefer using a physical keyboard for typing/messaging, that when it comes to adjusting to using a touchscreen device we find it easier to use a fixed capacitive touchscreen (a la iPhone) vs. a clickable touchscreen (Storm). For me, one of the benefits of a fixed touchscreen is that it provides for effortless typing - I can type/click for a long time on a device like the iPhone without my fingers getting tired, which on a BlackBerry physical keyboard or the Storm's SurePress can begin to feel like work after a while (especially if you're a Crackie and spend a lot of time on it). My tapping dexterity/accuracy is pretty good, so when it comes to a touchscreen BlackBerry, for me personally I'd rather be able to disable SurePress or wouldn't mind if RIM simply made a touchscreen BlackBerry without a moving display (and spent some time tweaking how it treats swipe vs. tap instead of how to make it click good). That's not an easy statement for me to make - since the first time I laid eyes on the Storm I was excited for the potential of SurePress. But if you can only have one or the other, the benefits of effortless typing for me outweigh the benefits of a clickable one as stated above. Your thoughts may be different - feel free to debate in the comments and cast your vote!

So why is RIM so in love with SurePress? We had a couple thoughts here on the last podcast as well. One - RIM is an engineering company at heart that sees a lot of value in innovating and refining (and patenting) their own technologies (remember SurePress did win a Technology Innovation award last year!). They don't want to build an iClone, but something differentiated and better (especially at typing - RIM's has always been known for awesome keyboards), and a screen that provides movement/tactile feedback in RIM's eyes is a way of making a touchscreen better. The other thought here is that it's easier for RIM to bend the BlackBerry Operating system around the concept of SurePress (seperating navigation from confirmation - just like trackwheels, trackballs and trackpads do) where as making it work in a what you tap is what you get form might be more difficult. The other debate here is that for the time and effort going into refining SurePress on Storm 2, maybe RIM could have built a more touchscreen-focused OS vs. keeping the traditional OS and making it work with a touchscreen.

Is there a perfect solution? I know some of you reading this will be all for having an iPhone-style BlackBerry while others will be hell bent on SurePress being the only way to go, period. I think the optimal solution would be to give BlackBerry users the choice. We've already seen with the BlackBerry Storm 2 that when powered off the device's display is fixed - it doesn't move, but when powered up it becomes clickable. We've seen the tear down pictures and know that underneath the Storm 2's glass there are some pretty darn cool sensors/buttons/resistive things working together - if anything it looks over-engineered. Though we haven't seen it in an early Storm OS yet, my dream would be that this SurePress evolution (regardless of whatever technology it is using - piezo or otherwise) would allow you to change the click settings on the phone, from making the screen relatively soft/easy to click all the way up to where it's essentially a fixed piece of glass and you skip the navigation and go straight to confirmation with no click required (will still need some sensitivity for swiping around of course!). I think that would make every touchscreen BlackBerry user out there happy. Will Storm 2 have that feature? I honestly don't know... but regardless Storm 2 will be much better than Storm 1 and even if you can't turn off the click I have a feeling I'll be able to happily use it as my daily driver.

So what say you CrackBerry Nation? Love SurePress? Scrap SurePress? Or Give me SurePress that I can adjust/disable at my choosing? Sound off in the comments and cast your vote!

Reader comments

CrackBerry Debate/Poll: Do You Want SurePress on Your Touchscreen BlackBerry?


The SurePress is something that make the Storm unique. If it didn't have the SurePress it would be like all the other smartphones out there.

I had to go through the archives to find people's original thoughts on SurePress. I absolutely love and miss it. In a perfect world, the perfect phone for me would be the Torch 9860 (aka Storm3) with SurePress added.

Even on QNX, the alternative to a keyboard would definitely be SurePress. I welcome the tech, and pray for its immediate return.

I was disappointed with the original Storm's SurePress technology, but I will say that the Storm 2 SurePress technology appears to be a significant improvement and asset for the device. I'm waiting impatiently to test out the Storm 2. The SurePress looks beautiful.

By the way, I thought RIM dispensed with the "SurePress" title and re-named it "ClickThru" for the Storm 2. Can anyone confirm this?

I currently have the Bold 9000 and love it, but when the Storm 2 is released, I'm poised to check it out IMMEDIATELY!

as basically, the technology appears to be different enough to warrant a different name. For some reason, I thought RIM was going for "TruePress", though. Which would make more sense (people who own S2s reprort the click is consistent, or true, across the whole screen) - no more difficult corner clicking.

Of course, that makes sense, with the single-button configuration of the S1, the corners have the least mechanical advantage when the screen is pressed, as they are furthest away from the physical button. The S2s design looks like it would be even better (although probably overengineered) if it also had a central button, or at least some sort of support. Compared to the corners, the center just looks really fragile.

FYI, I also have the iPhone 3G and enjoy the touch interface, but I believe the Storm 2's touch interface will be superior. The video demonstrations of the Storm 2 SurePress looked incredibly easy to use & navigate.

How about the Magnum. If it has the same technology as the storm2, wow! With surepress we know the RIM is moving in the right direction.

Surepress allowed me to type quickly and more accurate than I could ever type on the Iphone, or any other touch screen phone that I've ever used. The Surepress on Storm 2, seems to allow for even faster typing, so I'd definitely want it, or at least the option to turn it on/off. However, I prefer it over just a great capacitive touch screen.

While the mechanics of SurePress may slow down your physical typing speed, it makes up for it in accuracy. If you were told to type this post on a Storm, and on an iPhone; as quickly as you can and without stopping to correct mistakes, in absolute speed the iPhone would come out ahead. But you'd likely have several more mistakes on the iPhone, thus causing the Storm to come out ahead in corrected WPM.

(this theory is based on an informal experiment I just conducted on my Storm and my iPod Touch 2G [which is the fastest iTouch-family device aside from the 3GS])

SureType is great for the menus, but if my Storm had the option to be a traditional touchscreen when typing text(also with text bubble), it would have crushed all other phones.
The OS is proven, but a more touch friendly design couldn't have hurt.

something like you mention is most likely very possible. If the click can indeed be powered off and on at will, it would be very possible to turn off the click on the keyboard, but reenable it when the OS senses a UI element being used. See my comment further down that mentions a "SurePress Hybrid" option. It works just like you mention.

The S1 would likely never see an OS with the option to turn off clicking, as there is no physical way to stop it from clicking, and because of that an option like this would likely slow you down (as you end up typing slower trying not to accidentally click)

I can see the OS Forum threads right now:

"Turned off my screen click, and now I can't stop inadvertantly clicking: WTF?!?!?!?!?"


"Turned off my screen click, but my screen still makes a click noise when I click it, WTF????????"

It's a design hack - a way to make the UI paradigm of the BlackBerry OS fit into a touchscreen device. All things considered, a creative way to fix the problem, though the implementation felt very cheap on the original Storm. Hopefully the multi-point SurePress screen will feel more solid.

I can see the brainstorming session when they first decided to come out with a touch screen Berry....

"Hey guys, WTF can we do to make a touchscreen device work with our OS, without having to write a completely new OS?"

"We should, ya know, make the screen click in like on big button, eh? Eh? Like one big button. And then when people are typing on the virtual QWERTY, it'll click, just like an old IBM keyboard, eh? And the finger can be the trackball since you roll the trackball with your finger anyways. And the screen clicks, so chicks will always want to 'click' your screen! That will be cool huh huh huh, Eh?"

"Good idea there, LarryBob. We'll call it 'SurePress'"

And thus the Storm was born.........

this is exactly what i always thought happened. it allowed them to keep the huge lists of texts instead of making buttons or intuitive menus

I have loved the surepress tech since the Storm first launched. My main gripe with touchscreens is the accidentally selected items when using them. This resolves that completely.

is what makes the storm what it is. as all new tech it hasn't been perfected. shameful that so many got bad phones and didn't give it a chance. it is the reason why i bought the storm and the reason why i will stick with this line of phones. it's very simple, if you want a simple touchscreen don't buy it. if you wanna try it out go to a store (or try it for the 30 day grace period). no need to go places and bash the phone because YOU don't like it. bottom line is if RIM focused on the OS and got that right first, with the hardware this phone would rule the smartphone market. everyone knows it's not due to the poor handling of the OS (mostly). RIM has to do something BIG to sway consumers to rebuy this or to get people on board......oh wait they did, they made it available to AT&T. lol

I commend RIM for creating the clickable screen technology and for further developing it. RIM tried something different and with the feedback they have received they improved it (TBD). That's how innovation happens. If Storm 2 is better than Storm 1, and RIM continues to improve upon its own technology, then imagine what could be possible down the line. If everyone created the same thing, technology and innovation would certainly suffer.

SurePress is what will transition the business user who is used to real keyboards into the realm of touch. With it properly implemented (it appears so this time), this should be enough to drive business users into the touch paradigm. You will notice that the penetration of Storms into offices is minimal to non-existent. Storm 2, with its better virtual keyboard, more memory and slicker user experience will hopefully make this happen.

Think about it, for most business purposes, touch screens are really not required - keyboards and trackballs do a fine job for contacts, calendaring and e-mail and editing documents.

I have a Bold now, and if Storm 2 implements SurePress well, I'm getting it for sure.

Personally, I despise touch screens for typing purposes, as do many people. Photocopiers and kiosks have them and there is something deeply unsatisfying by typing on a 2 x 4.

how can a reasonable judgment of the technology be made by folks who have yet to try it? i mean, wouldn't this poll be based on the technology that is forthcoming, and not one that is scheduled to be phased-out? or am i missing something?

When I use Opera mini, I do NOT click to select. Tap or double tap triggers links.

Doesn't that indicate that surepress is already app-dependent?

I'm pretty sure that's because the app doesn't support SurePress. The Storm as of right now cannot turn SurePress off.

the problem with this poll is that people are generally really dumb. Saying "Yes, I want both" is just not realistic, is it?

Having sure-press and not is like having 2 entirely different operating systems. Thinking that RIM should spend time developing their OS to accommodate those people who just want touch is silly. Its wasted time and effort that could easily be spent making their current OS's better

The weight of the store is my biggest compliant. I actually moved back to the Curve since the phone was too heavy.

Storm 3 weighing 3 ounces....that would be a HOME RUN!!!

I like it... BUT.. they have do something about the dust & crap that gets between the phone edge and the glass. I do work in a dusty environment and this isn't going to be good for 'long term use' out of the phone (right now I have it wrapped in an Otterbox though... hopefully that saves it)

I have to see it to believe it. Yes I know there has been video leaks but I would like to have the S2 in my hands playing around with it. I currently have a 9000 & an iPhone 3gs. I like that my iPhone is just completely touch but then againthine S2 "surepress" looks like it has been improved so I might just try out the S2 once it drops for AT&T. What was it now the 9520 or something like that? Then again once the 9700 drops I'll give up the S2.....

It's been working nicely IMO, and later when RIM finally give us a smoother OS, it's going to be even better..
.151 is good, but I'm sure RIM can do better..

I think it would be fine if it popped up the letters with sensing instead of turning the key blue. I don't see why you have to press the screen. It can obviously sense without being pressed.


However, if this "piezo" technology (or whatever S2 uses) allows the click to be variable, then a simple setting in the Screen/Keyboard to enable/disable it would probably not be hard to implement, and would give the user some choice (much as Windows allows either a single-click or double-click to select icons)

Perhaps the settings should be as follows:

SurePress Enabled - phone would work like S1

SurePress Disabled - single tap would highlight/drag/etc, and double-tap would select

SurePress Hybrid - OS would smartly determine whether user
was typing, or using the interface elements of the OS. While typing, click would be disabled and device would work like the iPhone. When using the interface, click would be re-enabled.

Having a mode where the screen doesn't have to be clicked would be good for those with "BlackBerry Thumb", a form of RSI caused by using a joint not designed for typing motions (i.e. the thumb) for typing.

Look, touch screens are a dime a dozen now. Even the cheapest crap phones have them and they all feel basically the same - dead, dull, unresponsive, and gives you limited options (no right-click, no hover, one action only).

What makes a BlackBerry a BlackBerry ? Attention to detail. That's why BlackBerrys have done so well. Just look at their keyboards and compare them to other phone's keyboards, like HTC Dream and even the Palm Pre. No comparison whatsoever.

If RIM can create this kind of quality feel and experience for a touch screen (as it does with its keyboards) which sets it apart from all the rest (it will literally be in a class of it's own), then keep up the good work.

RIM's bigger challenge will be to include hardware video acceleration and OpenGL in their phone and FAST, in order to truly unlock the potential of SurePress and take full advantage of what it has to offer.

I love the SurePress a lot.

Having said that, just having the option to turn it off will make the phone even better! I'll probably never turn the SurePress off, but knowing that we have a choice makes us feel great, right? :)

Storm 2's screen will improve the surepress. I have been with it since it came out and have learned to like it. With the new screen I think I'll be able to type even faster because (I think) you'll be able to hit the next letter even before the screen is done with the first click.
Iphone users will be in envy of our new speed :)

I hate SurePress with a passion. I would love my Storm to be solid glass like the iPhone, or at the very very least I should be able to turn the stupid feature off.

The storm 1 was my first venture into the touch screen world (not including my ipod) and surepress was the reason I decided to go with it. I like idea around it but can admit that some improvements are needed. Being able to disable it when I want would be a great improvement.

I've used both the Iphone and BB storm. The IPhone is clear superior in my view to good typists if that makes any sense. If I had to make a choice, therefore, I'd choose the Iphone type of keyboard - no question. However, the best option would be the choice of either keyboard.

Which is why RIM is not giving up in the surepress technology. For me I don't feel the need for such a response. I dislike artificial feedback mechanisms like the surepress or HTC/Samsung vibrate, or the false shutter click on a phone camera. They don't add any value.

However there are many folks that do want this kind of feedback mechanism offering them is a great solution so long as they can be enablbed/disabled.

Also the one thing I like about Surepress is that it offers another form of interacting with the Storm. Not only does it respond to a touch but it also clicks.

SurePress was intended to address two issues: First, the obvious fact that touchscreens have no tactile feedback while typing, and second, to allow two dimensions of input control from the otherwise one-dimensional touchscreen: touch versus click. As anthonyrizk implied above with his remark vis a vis the UI paradigm, the BB UI requires a distinction between *select* versus *execute*; without this distinction in the touchscreen, no apps written for thumbwheel/trackball/touchpad devices would work on the Storm, and RIM would have essentially forked the BB into two distinct devices, which would have been a nightmare for everybody. The need for this distinction means that RIM's only choices are either the track they're on now; differentiating the amount of pressure being applied to the screen, or else choosing to go with single versus double taps or some other way of differentiating touches in time. (Sorry. "Touches in time" sounds like a sappy 70s soft rock love ballad.)

I LOVE the control that this distinction gives me; I'm not married to anything I incidentally tap like on the iPhone (as I understand it). And I THOUGHT I would love the keyboard action with the tactile feedback of SurePress, but I was wrong. For me, nothing can match physical buttons, and I want them back.

The only reason I might stay with the Storm when the S2 comes out is the screen size. I don't fit in with what appears to be the mass market's desire for smaller and smaller devices; I'd rather have a screen the size of the Storm's (or larger) and a keyboard the size of my trusty old 7250. In fact, I would have switched back to my 7250 if not for its depressingly faint and colorless screen and of course its slower network capabilities.

Besides, if smaller phone size was really so prized by the market, then wouldn't the best-selling BBs be Pearls? And we'd all walk around with designer dogs in our designer handbags that match our designer small-format smartphones? Well, since we're not a planet of Paris Hiltons, smarten up, RIM, and put the wide back into your QWERTY devices so that we can aim for one button at a time again!

So what do I want in the Storm 2? Keep the touchscreen, but give me a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. (Keep smaller on-screen keyboards for portrait-only apps like the phone.) I know it will be thicker than the iPhone then -- horrors!! -- and weigh more than 3 whole ounces (I cannot believe that somebody actually posted that the Storm as it is is too heavy! Dude: Do you live on Jupiter or something? How is 5.5 ounces heavy?), and you'd obviously always be in landscape mode when typing, but it would absolutely be the best. phone. ever.

I think the perfect solution is to leave the click through function in place for everything except typing on the keyboard. Typing on the keyboard should incorporate a user selectable on/off feature which would allow the user to interact with the keyboard much like the iphone keyboard. If you prefer the click through functionality then simply toggle that feature back to "enabled" and away you go. I can't imagine this functionality would be difficult to program into the OS.

The absolute best option would be some kind of a sliding qwerty keyboard with a nice capacitive touch screen on top.

I definitely love SurePress technology on my Storm and I want to have it on my next device Storm II. I do have a huge expirience typing on iPhone while I'm driving my big rig and I can tell ya - it sucks:-))

From a female perspective I usally type pretty fast on a qwerty keyboard on the blackberry's I've had. My husband has recently purchased the Storm, which I have tested on. Let's just say if you have your nails done the storm is not very user friendly when it comes to the surepress. It seems I spend most of my time hitting the screen multiple times trying to type. Since the surepress requires your actually finger hitting the screen vs nails, my typing has slowed. So all you ladies out there that do maintain your nails test drive any surepress device before hand if your interested in what it has to offer!

Screw an iphone. If I wanted a hard piece of glass I would have gotten an iphone. If the storm or whatever touchscreen blackberry is released like an iphone I'll go right back to keyboard. I hated touch screen phones until RIM released the storm. Touch and click is genius, how can anyone argue? The Storm 2 technology looks sweet, hopefully they do the same or improve with the next generation touch screen cuz my contract ain't up for a while. Anyways, RIM should not go to a fixed touch screen, I love being able to slide my finger accross the screen and not ending up somewhere else in the phone.

SurePress is fine, but the Storm would be a better phone if you could see the letter you are typing like the iphone. The blue screen below the letter is hidden with your finger or thumb. I love the phone in general. It did take a great deal of time to get use to since I had a curve prior to purchasing the storm. I am up for a new phone in December, was considering the Tour only because of the ease of typing with a tracker ball and not the storms touch screen. Now that I have seen the information on the storm 2 I might change my mind. Change the display and I for sure getting the storm 2.

My wife used to have a Samsung Instinct. While we got rid of it for more than a few problems, I did like the touch feedback it had. You could move your finger across the screen, but the phone actually vibrated a little when you selected something to let you know that you had. I hate the SurePress option on the original Storm. I thought it was a neat idea until using it for a while. Given that option, I would much rather have just a plain screen.

I can now fly with the surepress, but the biggest problem is the fact that you can no longer see what the alternate character is like the old keyboards. Bring that back so you don't have to memorize where the '/' character is.