Yes, yes, it looks like an iPhone. I mean really with that sleek 3.5-inch touch-screen display. People in the elevator at my office mistook it for the iPhone. But an iPhone the BlackBerry Storm is not.
The latest generation of the popular corporate mobile communicator is the first touch-screen device from BlackBerry and it obviously took its lead from the most talked about phone in the past two years. The Storm goes on sale Friday from Verizon Wireless but we were visited this week by Verizon’s Irvine folks, who demonstrated all that the Storm could do. Check out the photo slide show.
Curt Keller, Verizon Wireless’ director of data sales, gave us the quick tour. While 30 minutes of play time really isn’t enough to really get to know a gadget, I feel that it is all I needed. This won’t be my next phone. But I believe the corporate world, BlackBerry fans and smartphone lovers will and should be excited.
Watch the video, produced by staff videographer Robert Whitfield:
Keller said he’d only been playing with the Storm for about week. Plus, the model he had was not the final product. That could explain why, as you can see on the video, it wasn’t easy to scroll down a web page by sliding a finger down the screen. Typing was hard too — you have to press harder on the screen than you think. But then again, I have a hard time typing on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard (which I don’t own, by the way).
Another first-time feature for a BlackBerry was that it could play movies. But for many smart phone users, that’s far from unique. [Correction, 1:50 p.m.: The Storm isn't the first BlackBerry that can play video but it is the first one available from Verizon. AT&T recently launched the BlackBerry Bold, which has a video player.]
]With a 3.2-megapixel camera, it also records video — something the new T-Mobile G1 (aka the Google phone) doesn’t do, but many other phones do.
However, I did like several features. Mobile versions of Microsoft Office tools — Word, PowerPoint and Excel — are available. And unlike many other phones where the software can only be read or written to, the Storm lets users create files on the phone. Why anyone would want to create a spreadsheet on a 3.25-inch screen beats me. But hey, I’d love to have that option.
Another plus over the iPhone: Photos taken with the 3.2-megapixel camera can be easily sent like as a multimedia message (or MMS) to another phone. (I can’t believe Apple didn’t build this feature in, but apparently someone has found a way around this.)
Also, there’s a removable battery, something the iPhone doesn’t have. Keller made a good point. If a CEO was using an iPhone and the battery died during a business trip, he’s out of luck until he can plug in.
Several applications are also available and can be downloaded to the phone. Software tools for the Storm include Facebook, Flikr, all sorts of IM services. … More are coming although no where near the scope of the iPhone Apps Store.
Another cool feature is Visual Voice Mail, which Verizon offers on a few other premium phones. This looks like an e-mail inbox because it displays a list of voice-mail messages. But instead of having to call in, just hit the ‘play’ button to hear the voice message. Technically, it’s just a nice interface. Hitting ‘play’ is a shortcut that dials “*86″ and “send” to get messages.
Also, I love that the Storm isn’t too proprietary with its cables. It takes standard 3.5 mm stereo headphones and uses a micro USB cable to transfer files and charge.
Some of the other details I feel are important to highlight:
Verdict: Strange, but one feature really turned me off on the Storm: the not-so-sensitive touch-screen. Again, the unit Verizon showed me was a pre-production model. With the launch just a few days away, I’d wait to hear what real users have to say about it.
I’m also not a BlackBerry user so I don’t really understand the intricacies of why its nickname is the crackberry. However, I’m definitely impressed by what I saw. With all the new entertainment options plus the useful features absent from the iPhone and Google phone, the Storm is a great new phone option that has a few minor dings.
Interesting BlackBerry Storm posts from the web:
More cell phone posts: