I really, really want to like Verizon's new BlackBerry Storm. I want to love it. Why? Well, competition is good, and in the year and a half since the original iPhone launched, no other phone has been able to match the performance of its touchscreen or Web browser. HTC's Touch Pro and G1, and Samsung's Epix and Eternity have impressed me as of late, but none of these devices offers the fingers-on touchscreen experience of iPhone. Apple needs competition, and I've been using my iPhone more and more for Email and messaging and frankly am getting tired of its virtual QWERTY board and lack of MMS support. Someone needs to kick Apple in the pants so they activate the landscape QWERTY board for message and/or release an iPhone Pro with a physical keypad already.
Sadly, I don't think Storm is going to kick Apple all that hard. People will buy the thing, for sure, as it's a touchscreen BlackBerry and it's on Verizon. But hardcore BlackBerry users will no doubt find the SurePress touch-and-click system frustrating and/or limiting for heavy-duty Email and messaging use. I really don't think the system provides that much of an improvement over traditional touchscreen keyboards, and power users may find it limiting due to the fact that fast thumbs can outpace the speed of Storm's mechanical click action. Storm's predictive text system isn't on par with iPhone's correction software, either, as I talked about in last night's post.
Beyond that, I started experiencing some serious lag time when using Storm this morning. Sometimes apps opened right away and sometimes the screen rotated as soon as I tilted the phone ... but more and more I found myself waiting for a response and/or watching that little clock tick as Storm struggled to catch up to my requests. Word is that a new firmware build greatly improves the performance of the BlackBerry OS 4.7 that Storm ships with, but there's no upgrade yet being made available to handsets.
That said, Storm's screen is beautiful, its speakers are loud, and the combination of Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A network, RIM's legendary email system, and the best Web Browser ever to grace a BlackBerry's display makes for a pretty potent little mobile communicator. Storm also sounds great during good old fashioned voice calls - I left myself a voicemail from a very noisy coffee shop this morning, and Storm's dual-mic noise cancellation system worked like a champ. The phone's speakerphone is also quite loud if you're into that sort of thing.
Personally I'm still more interested in Bold (or the forthcoming Curve II / Javelin) than Storm. That's mainly because I've been yearning for a real keyboard on my phone. I've found that buttons work better for me than a touchscreen does when it comes to typing - and typing is something I'm doing more and more of on my handset these days. I don't really know that Storm's clickable touchscreen is much more than a semi-gimmicky attempt to "innovate" and separate itself from iPhone. But it might be - the masses will have to decide that.
Storm's definitely worth a look if you're interested in the Brave New BlackBerry with a touchscreen, or you've been yearning for another slick multimedia phone on Verizon. Personally I still like the LG Dare and I'm very intrigued by the rumors that Samsung's Omnia may also be coming to Big Red soon. But Storm might just be a firmware update away from being a very solid multimedia computer that also doubles as a great phone and Email machine. I just wish there was a way to type on it without having to click the screen. But hey, maybe you'll love the click. Go get your fingers on it and find out!