Hands On: BlackBerry Storm launching Friday

Posted in Review by Darrin Olson on November 20th, 2008

BlackBerry Storm hands on reviewAs I am sure you are all aware, Verizon Wireless is launching the much-anticipated BlackBerry Storm tomorrow. This device is RIM’s first delve into a touchscreen mobile phone and swing at taking some of the market share away from Apple and the iPhone. We had a chance to get our hands on the Storm on the eve of the launch day and had some fun playing with the touchscreen and its unique clicking technology.

Obviously the most interesting part of the Storm is the single big button of a screen so we’ll just cut to the chase. The touchscreen in general works as you would expect, sensing your touch on the glass and allowing you to scroll through things like lists, menus and across maps. What’s different about the touchscreen on the BlackBerry Storm which sets it apart from other touchscreen phones is that the glass display is like a single large, mechanical button.

BlackBerry Storm landscape viewWhen you lightly press your finger on an item on the screen it will not take action on the item, but simply select it or set focus to it. To take action you must press a little harder until the entire solid display physically depresses down a tiny distance. This gives a very intuitive and clear sensation of a button click as if you had really pressed a button. The display is not flexible in anyway, but it rests on the phone at multiple points, so for example pressing in the bottom left corner will angle the display to the bottom left corner only instead of depressing the entire piece of glass down evenly. It’s actually pretty neat and works very well. The display is very crisp, clear and most importantly large!

Using the keyboard was especially interesting. Turning the BlackBerry Storm on its side will automatically turn the display sideways as well and provide a full QWERTY keyboard with generously sized keys. You have to go slow enough to let the screen pop back up after the previous key press and I found it to be a little bit more cumbersome than using other touchscreen devices, or devices with real buttons for that matter. Tipping the phone back upright gives a more compact keyboard with multiple letters on each key, just like you would see on the BlackBerry Pearl.

BlackBerry Storm with the VZ NavigatorThe only things we didn’t like was that it really didn’t have that little “zing” you could do with the iPhone and scroll through things as if you are sliding them across a sheet of ice. Also, the edges of the display seemed to leak a little of the backlighting out from the sides and looked like an awesome place to make an impressive pocket lint collection. The device doesn’t come with a case so unless you get one separately you’ll be cleaning this out often.

Current BlackBerry users will find the navigation really easy to pick up on as the Storm has kept the four main buttons for answering calls, the BlackBerry menu, Go Back and Hang Up/End to help with getting out of where you currently are in the OS and getting that handy dialog menu at any time. A nice addition to the OS interface on the Storm is the folders. The system has folders that can be used to organize applications much like you would on a PC or Mac.

BlackBerry storm inside the back coverOverall the device seemed very well built and sturdy to hold. It has all the cool business-centric features of the current BlackBerry devices coupled with an awesomely large display and convenient touchscreen. Of course it also has a 3.2MP camera, GPS, a fast, fast browser and something we did not expect to see – a SIM card. Inside the back cover nestled right next to the battery and the 8GB microSD card (which is included with the Storm, BTW) is a removable SIM card making the BlackBerry Storm a 3G world phone capable of hooking up to networks in many places around the globe.

The BlackBerry Storm launches Friday November 20 in the U.S. with Verizon Wireless for $200 with a two-year agreement.

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