BlackBerry Storm: First Look!

by Rob on October 22nd, 2008

I had the pleasure of playing with the BlackBerry Storm for about an hour today and was unsure what to expect going into the demo. It would either be REALLY good or REALLY bad and it all hinged on whether the “Touchscreen Button” worked as advertised…

It did and let me tell you, the BlackBerry Storm absolutely ROCKS!

The idea is that merely touching the screen highlights the selected area but doesn’t initiate the selection. You have to press the entire screen “in” and your selection is made. I’m sure you can see why I was a bit nervous going into the preview- I was skeptical as to whether this could even work “as advertised”.

Take a look at what most would consider the 3 biggest on (and soon-to-be on) the market… the BlackBerry Storm, T-Mobile G1 and Apple iPhone side-by-side-by-side:

The technology in the BlackBerry touchscreen is called SurePress and the first time you use it is almost an odd/eerie experience. Why? Because it works exactly like it is supposed to. When you press the screen in the area where a visual button is… it feels like you’re pressing an actual, physical button in that location!

I was pretty amazed by the Storm and am kind of wishing I could be playing with the TouchScreen right now… it all seems like a figment of my imagination.

The only downside of the SurePress touchscreen is that it seems as though the speed of typing/texting may have a ceiling. In portrait mode everything is fine.. you’ll mainly only be texting with 1 hand in this case. But in Landscape mode, using two thumbs… you can’t type TOO quickly because the entire screen is a button. I predicted this might be a problem but its really not much of an issue… the gains of SurePress far outweigh any minimal loss of speed… mainly because the portrait QWERTY works quite flawlessly.

Verizon Wireless is going to hit a homerun with this device and customers who MAY have been wooed to T-Mobile or AT&T for the G1 or iPhone have a great reason to remain loyal. On top of the amazingly cool touch screen is a 3.2 Megapixel digital camera with auto-focus, image stabilization and FLASH (thank god). All too many camera phones lack flash and it renders the camera useless for practically 12 hours of the day.

These days they’re saying, “it’s all about the applications” and Verizon Wireless is addressing this need as well. In addition to VZ Navigator and a Verizon branded goodies, the BlackBerry Storm will have access to the VZAppZone which is essentially Verizon’s answer to the iPhone Market. At the moment the App Zone is only enabled on the Moto Q and Moto Q9c but it should see a ton more action once the masses flock to the BlackBerry Storm.

Check out more information on the VZAppZone directly from Verizon’s website: http://support.vzw.com/faqs/VZAppZone/faq.html

You can bet it probably won’t have near as many applications as the iPhone App Store and/or the Android Market but this is a great step forward for Verizon in terms of software and plenty of needs will likely be fulfilled.

In addition to the touchscreen success you’ll find RIM’s highest resolution screen ever, a loud and vibrant speaker phone, a world phone that will work in dozens of countries and… the phone comes PRE-PACKAGED with an 8GB MicroSD Card. Oh yeah… and praise the lord they’ve included a 3.5mm headphone jack to make life lovely for music goers. Thanks for that… its the details that win people over!

Browsing the web was pretty enjoyable… even without the typical “trackball” that RIM is known for. Instead, there is a touchscreen option that toggles between a hand and a mouse pointer. Use the “hand” and you’ll be navigating as you would any touchscreen phone. But use the mouse and drag it into position, clicking the screen in on a link you desire and voila! Definitely a cool feature that will enhance web browsing… we’d like to see this on more phone’s as it worked like a charm.

The HARDWARE that we tested the Storm on was production level but the SOFTWARE was beta… and  you could tell. The browser wasn’t very quick and there appeared to be some slow glitches… restarting the device fixed that at one point. But thankfully it was Beta Software and they should get most of those main issues resolved in time for a November release.

Regardless of everything else we’ve always said the success of this phone will be 100% dependent on whether or not the “touchscreen button” (SurePress) works or not. If it DOES work then the phone will be a HUGE success because we know that with the rest of the details, RIM & VZW can get enough right to make this thing a winner. If it DOES NOT work then the phone will flop – who wants an all-touchscreen phone that doesn’t “touch” very well.

Well that issue is now put to rest – at least in my mind. The SurePress TouchScreen is nothing short of brilliant and I can almost guarantee that you’ll love it when you use it. It takes the functionality of a normal touchscreen and brings it to a COMPLETELY new level. Huge props to RIM on this!

The BlackBerry Storm has just made its rounds on the FCC website so we know that a relase is imminent.

And it looks like something may be imminenet from BestBuy as well… BGR has scooped up an internal inventory sheet that lists the BlackBerry Storm as being “in-stock” on November 16th. So when will it go on sale and where? Still a mystery but it looks like the folks at BestBuy will get it at SOME point.

On top of that, Verizon themselves unleashed a TON of content about the BlackBerry Storm that include some of our favorite type of media… VIDEO! Engadget has them all embedded in one page so we figured it would be easiest to send you there for the goods!

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