5 minutes with the Blackberry Storm

If you’ve not been living under a rock lately, you should have noticed all those Blackberry Storm adverts that Vodafone is pushing lately, with over £1 million spent on promotion!

Anyway, I had a chance to have a quick play with the device at some random Vodafone store which was lucky enough to have one to demo with.

First impressions: very lovely looking device. 430×360 screen, bright, good definition.

Now, the main thing that everyone has been raving on about is the touchscreen, as this is a major departure for RIM who is known for their emphasis on messaging and physical QWERTY-based keypad phones. How does it play with just the screen alone?

The spring-mounted clicky screen (known in RIM’s marketing speak as SurePress) sounded very interesting when I first heard about it – it solves the issue of touchscreens lacking proper feedback, ignoring all that haptic feedback stuff. Press down, and the screen goes down, and clicks. Like a big button. Being capacitive, it is pretty sensitive to your fingertouch, but you cannot use styluses (or any other object) on this.

SurePress: I had my doubts before I demoed this – what happens when you want to use more than one fingers (like two thumbs) to type, like you would do on a normal physical keypad? Would you have to depress the screen before you can ‘type’ another letter (as Engadget thought), or does the Storm have some other trick up its metaphysical sleeve? 

I found the touch feedback great for menus, navigation, general usage and dialling. Typing an email/note/whatever was more awkward, but it does still allow you to type reasonably quickly, given time to practise – when you press down to type a letter, the screen goes down, but you can still enter other letters without having to depress the screen. So it is still quite usable if you like your touchscreens.

I still find I make too many odd niggly mistakes when finger typing on touchscreen keyboards however, and the lack of error correction and letter feedback doesn’t help (it is hard to see which letter you are pressing at times). Personally, I would prefer a proper keypad, but you might like using the screen far more than me!

The rest of the phone – all quite standard – it does audio and video playback, various messenging apps, web browsing (still slow though), phone stuff!

There is one gripe though: the adverts mention ‘Designed for Vodafone’ (or Verizon) – so the phone comes with 3G, but no WiFi connectivity – guess who dictated this! If the Bold can do it, why not the Storm? Quite a poor move on Vodafone’s part, as all the other major smartphones come with WiFi as standard – very useful when there is no 3G connection available. 

Nevertheless, it is very well built, and it spices up the choices available, but the OS does feel slow at times, and not entirely polished.

My conclusion? Nice to look at, nice to feel, not so great for me to use. The Vodafone rep I was speaking to made a good point: Bold for keyboard lovers, Storm for the media mad. (She loves her Samsung Omnia to bits, so she could claim to be relatively unbiased on the Blackberrys).

Anyway read this for a more in-depth review: http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2008/11/20/verizon-blackberry-storm-review/