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At 12:01am EST this morning, just a day before Verizon releases the BlackBerry Storm to the general public, the embargo lifted and the net filled up with reviews of the BlackBerry Storm 9530. Some of the reviews are positive, others are pretty even handed with the pros and the cons, and a few are downright nasty toward the Storm. Push come to shove I think all of you Storm Chasers should wait until you have a chance to play with the Storm for a bit before making the verdict of whether it's right or wrong for you. In the meantime, we have assembled a bunch of the Storm review links after the jump along with some of my own thoughts on the subject. There is plenty of reading material here for you to kill the day while you wait for tomorrow morning to finally arrive!
Verizon BlackBerry Storm Reviews
I'll add to the list as I stumble across more reviews - you can drop any good review links you come across in the comments and I'll get them up here.
Be sure to check out CrackBerry.com's latest links on the BlackBerry Storm. We still have our in-depth 7,500 word Pre-Release Review that makes a good read, and now that we have a Verizon BlackBerry 9530 in our posession have added a few new pieces to the mix: the Verizon Storm Unboxing, a Storm Bumpy Ride Typing Test and a Real World iPhone 3G vs. BlackBerry Storm Web Browser Speed Test.
As for a CrackBerry.com followup review... that's coming, but I'm going to give it a few days. Between the reviews that surfaced today everything is pretty much covered in detail, and I still need to get some more time spent on the Treo Pro for the Smartphone Round Robin event that's taking place. Plus, it seems there may be a newer beta version of the Storm OS floating around, and in true CrackBerry fashion I'd like to track that down if I can - always looking ahead.
Some Thoughts on the BlackBerry Storm Reviews...
After reading through the threads in the CrackBerry Forums, I know some of you are feeling a bit disappointed in the Storm after what has been written in this round of reviews. It's a bit of a swing from the pre-release reviews everybody had posted previously. When writing a pre-release review where it's known the hardware and software is beta, you need to write about the device as you expect it will be, not as it is at the moment. When it comes to final release time, it's a whole other ball game of course... you write about what the person is going to be using when they walk out of the store.
Now that I have been using the Storm for a bit, and after reading the other reviews that have surfaced, here are some of my thoughts/advice on the device that I think are relevant if the Storm is a device you're considering purchasing:
1. Get to Know it - More so than any other traditional BlackBerry with a physical keyboard, you need to invest a few hours into getting to know the Storm. It wasn't until I got off a three hour flight where I played with the Storm the whole time that I really got comfortable. If you want to become proficient and efficient with the Storm, you need to learn how it wants to be used. Once you learn how it likes to be rotated, tapped and swiped, learn the shortcuts and dial in your customizations, only then can you really start to decide whether or not it's for you. And seriously, the Screen/Keyboard settings do make a difference. I have my Swipe Sensivity dialed all the way up to six now (default is 3) and the Key Rate set to fast (default is normal) which has really improved both the navigation and my typing on the device.
There's also some 'quirks' you need to learn. Like on the homescreen and menus, you need to 'tap' on what you want to highlight it (then press to confirm). You can't just 'lightly' touch the screen, then drag around your finger and have the 'active' icons trace the route of your finger before you press. Yet within homescreen folders with four icons or less, you actually can slide your finger on the glass and the active icon moves with your finger from one to the next (you don't need to lift and tap again). The same is the case within certain apps - like within the Pictures app - unlike the homescreen and menu where you need to tap (not press, but tap) to highlight an icon to become active, here you can put your finger down on the screen and slide it and the active links (All Picture, Picture Folders, Sample Pictures) will move as you slide your finger. Another slightly quirky thing is that you can make the keyboard appear on any screen. Sometimes it's useful - like within the email app if you show the keyboard you can actually use standard shortcuts like T, B, R and L. But on the homescreen if you show the keyboard, it doesn't matter what letter you type, it just opens the phone app - there's no real use for it to be an option here from what I can tell. These aren't really bad things - just quirks you need to learn and know about so you know what you can/can't do. And likely these are things that will with time get addressed in future OS versions as more people use and give feedback on the Storm.
There's a lot of good in the Storm too, but again, you've gotta give it that chance and learn how to use the device.
2. Not Going to be As Efficient - Some people gripe with the trackball BlackBerry that you need to do a lot of scrolling... but damn, find me another smartphone that's as quick to get things done - you can't. By having the trackball, menu key, and back key all located central on the front of the phone (you don't have to move your thumb over a half inch in any direction to basically have full control over the OS), it's very fast to use with only one hand. And of course RIM's physical keyboards are second to none when it comes to typing out messages.
No matter how much you master the Storm, I don't think anyone will be able to match an experienced Bold user in terms of getting things done fast. This isn't necessarily a fault of the Storm's design, but a trade-off you see with all touchscreens. You can use the Storm one handed to get around, but it's not as easy nor fast as using a trackball BlackBerry one-handed (you need to move your thumb further to tap things) and though I'm getting pretty darn fast on the Storm's touchscreen keyboard (in both full QWERTY and SureType modes I might add), the mechanics of it all mean I'll probably never be as fast as I can be on a Bold or Curve. Plus things like rotating the device and switching between one hand and two hand use simply eat up some time. There may be some places where RIM can speed up using the Storm, but no matter what they do I doubt this type of device will offer as fast of a user experience as the trackball BlackBerry (this goes for other touchscreen smartphones too).
That said, there are things you'll be able to do on the Storm that you will never be able to do on another non-touchscreen BlackBerry - give it a few days and you'll see the first games come to market that take advantage of the built-in accelerometer. And man oh man is the Storm's display NICE. There's always a trade off. Are you a consumer? Or a power user? The Storm is a BlackBerry so you can use it in either setting, but obviously the Storm is going to show its strengths more so to the consumer customer base. Most of the reviews that surfaced at 12:01am today came from journalists who likely own corporate issued BlackBerrys and are power users by definition (I'd gather they get a hundred or two hundred emails a day). What will be more interesting is to read all of the consumer reviews that pop up in the CrackBerry forums over the weekend once new owners get a chance to become familiar with the device and comment on it in more of a real world consumer setting.
Take Aways - Are the points above bad things? It's up for you to decide. You need to invest time getting to know any smartphone, so point #1 shouldn't come as a surprise. My only issue here is that most people make their purchase decision on a device by reading about it online or playing with it for a few minutes in store. While reading is good, it's not the same as using the device, and like I said, a few minutes with the Storm isn't really enough to make an informed decision, as those first few minutes aren't really the same as after you put in an hour or two or three. Though a lot of you are going to be sold the second you pull up the sample trailer video and crank up the speakers... daaMNNN!!!! As for point #2, that comes down to you. If you send 100 long emails and texts a day and pure communication is your priority, the Storm may not be for you. But that's why RIM has a lineup of devices. They know not every form factor will appeal to every person. That's why there is a Pearl and a Curve and a Bold and not just a one size fits all device. The Storm wasn't built to be the one and only BlackBerry. It was built to be one more option within the BlackBerry arsenal. For some of you it's going to be wrong, and for some of you it's going to be OH SO RIGHT!
As for what I'm going to be carrying in my pocket.. Bold, Storm or Curve 8900??? The answer is simple... ALL THREE.