The L.A. BlackBerry Storm Launch Party we brought word of to the CrackBerry blogs yesterday is now over, the crowds have cleared, and what we have left to share are some nice photos and thoughts from the event courtesy of those in attendance (thanks BGR and BBNews!). More thoughts and lots of photos after the jump!
Launch Party Recap - Highs (and lows)
This wasn't your average RIM/Carrier BlackBerry smartphone launch party, which is typically showered with awesome food, free booze and free devices at the end of the night (and is also rather difficult for the average person to attend as it's invite only for employees/partners/VIPs). This event rather was a free concert, featuring Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters and was open to basically anyone who took the initiative to want to stand in line (assuming you texted earlier that you wanted to go).
While a whopping 500 people were on hand to make it a good party, sadly only four Verizon BlackBerry Storms were present for people to get their hands on (and no free Storm IOS you were given out at the end of the night. This event was a hype builder for the consumer public... an event to get people talking about the Storm, which it has! Consensus is that the live musical performances rocked!
BlackBerry Storm Impressions - Highs (and lows)
As for the four BlackBerry Storms on hand, the takeaways here were both postive and negative... pretty much in line with the findings in my BlackBerry Storm First Impressions Review. Nobody could argue with the awesomeness of the Storm's display, and most agreed that the hardware itself is very nice. Reports on the Storm's software performance were not quite as positive though, as the device software present appeared to still be in need of work - it's still laggy and the sensitivity still needs to be dialed in (swiping and accelerometer events not always accurate).
Think back to my hands-on first impressions, and these were issues I addressed early in the review:
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.
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.
At DevCon, the OS running on the Verizon Storm I played with was version 18.104.22.168, and it sounds like the Storms present last night were running 22.214.171.124 - which should be improved to what I used but based on some of the comments obviously appears to have not solved all of the issues as I reported them earlier.
Reading through some of the live blog post comments and forum posts, I noticed there was some calling into question of last night's hands-on impressions. But if you read carefully and between the lines, I think the observations of what was reported have mainly been accurate and in line with what I and others reported earlier.
If you look at all of the pre-release Storm reviews written on the web to date, the authors have always said (myself included) that the device they reviewed was pre-release and that there were software kinks present and that they should be worked out by the time the device goes to market. And from there, the reviewers ignore the obvious/present bugs and write to how the device should perform at launch (you focus on the device as it is meant to be).
The big difference with yesterday's commentary is that this was a Launch Party! This wasn't RIM's Co-CEO swinging by LapTop Mag's or Engadget's offices to show off the pre-announced Storm, nor the situation of getting hands-on time with the device at the BlackBerry Developer Conference... in these cases you are clearly told the software is still beta so you put your observations into perspective and the reviews reflect that.
Going into a Launch Party and handling a soon-to-be released smartphone, you're expecting to handle the device as it will be at launch!! Your expectations are a LOT higher... performance matters. And if lags/glitches are present, it's going to be very difficult to overlook them when reporting back as you're focusing on what's in your hands right now, not as it's intended to be, and rightfully so.. this is a "Launch Party" afterall.
My takeaways from last night?
Based on the observations from the L.A. Launch Party, it's obvious that there's still work left to be done on the Storm's OS (at least beyond version .53) to make it silky and smooth, which is of course what we all want it to be when it becomes commercially available.
If Verizon is already holding a launch party for this device, they obviously plan to release it sooner rather than later. Even if were to be delayed for 10 to 14 days past the current rumored dates (mid-Novemberish, on sale by/for Black Friday), the odds are it's going to launch before the end of the month, regardless of whether the software is fully up to snuff or not. If this is the case, the Storm as it is on Day 1 may not be the same as it will be after month one, two or three upon further software revisions (think Rogers Bold). I obviously have high hopes that the Storm that gets released will be lag free and dialed in, but with time sort of running out we'll just have to wait and see. As I made note of in my hands-on impressions, my "love" for the Storm is directly proportional to how well the software on it is going to run. I want to love it lots at release, so hopefully we won't be disappointed. I like the Storm's hardware and SurePress /OS concept a lot - it just needs to perform.
Push come to shove, I think more than any other BlackBerry to date the Storm is a device we're all going to have to spend some time with before we can draw any definitive conclusions. First impressions are first impressions afterall (even if it is 7,500 words of first impressions.. LOL!). It was easy for me to look beyond the beta stuff and get a good sense of what the device will be like and I think I gave it an even-handed review. But now I just want to have one to call my own so we can really get our relationship started... and I can decide whether I love, Love or LOVE the Storm!!
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