Late last fall, two significant new BlackBerrys came on the market: the Bold and the Storm. Between the two of them, RIM has accomplished several "firsts" for a BlackBerry, but which is right for you?
Both devices feature reliable call quality, BlackBerry's robust messaging system, GPS, and similar menu layouts; however, there are quite a few differences. Each device's strengths play towards different target markets, so don’t think you can buy either one and be equally happy.
Part of the differences between these two models is that each is only available from a different wireless carrier. In the U.S., the Storm is offered only by Verizon, while the Bold is exclusive to AT&T.
The BlackBerry Storm
The BlackBerry Storm has several fun features that make it an attractive device to a specific set of customers. It boasts an innovative high-resolution touchscreen, 3.2 MPx auto-focus megapixel camera, a slew of instant messaging programs, decent battery life, and visual voicemail. These all make the Storm a fun device to browse the Web, take pictures, listen to music, and stay connected with.
This is the first BlackBerry with a touchscreen, and this display also has several other positive attributes, including its size, brightness, resistance to scratching. Unfortunately, the touch screen keyboard (like that of other touchscreens) is difficult to type accurately on, and the click-screen actually makes it harder to type quickly. Additionally, the SureType keyboard layout in portrait mode makes it nearly impossible to handle the device and type one handed.
The Storm lacks Wi-Fi, and in my experience Verizon's EV-DO network is slower than AT&T’s HSDPA network.
But the biggest strike against the Storm is its lag. Both the Storm and the Bold are susceptible to lag, but they experience it in very different ways. The Bold mostly experiences delays when multiple applications are open and running. Similar issues plague the Storm, but to a greater extent.
Even with the latest update, browsing pictures and data intensive applications tend to stop the Storm altogether, and on several occasions of using it I have had to remove the battery. And the simple action of flipping the phone to switch screen orientation more often than not produced delays.
Freezes on the Bold are fewer and the device is usually able to recover before I've cracked open the back.
When lagging I noticed the Storm sometimes displays a lightening bolt, presumably for its namesake. A device that anticipates enough lag for this subtle addition spells trouble.
This smartphone is a contender for those media-centric users who want an iPhone-like experience without making the leap to a different carrier. This could be because they are grandfathered in to Verizon contracts, are unhappy with or unwilling to switch to AT&T’s service, or because they want more robust messaging features.
The Storm should also be perhaps considered by users who are coming from a traditional cell phone can find a capable and fun device that can do a little more for casual use. Those who should not adopt the Storm are traditional power users, and anyone who wants instant information and ease of typing.
The BlackBerry Bold
For the users out there who dislike the Storm but like the idea of a BlackBerry, you won't be disappointed by the Bold. This smartphone features a slew of features ideal for taking the office with you on the go, allowing you to maximize your productivity.
Compared to the Storm, the Bold is fast. AT&T's 3G network quickly delivers content, though it seemed slower on a recent trip to San Jose than it seems in Boston. (I didn't have any benchmarking equipment to test this, so you’ll have to take my word.) In places where AT&T's 3G service isn’t available and EDGE won't cut it, simply turn on Wi-Fi, connect to a hotspot, and you're good to go.
In terms of productivity, much of the Bold’s advantages stem from its traditional keyboard. The biggest advantage of the Bold’s keyboard over the Storm is that I can type one handed without looking on the Bold, and still be quicker and more accurate than typing in any configuration on the Storm, even though I'm looking at it.
Though both devices offer a suite of mobile Office applications, the Bold is much more practical; editing cell formula in DataViz's SheetToGo – the bundled Microsoft Excel equivalent – is easy on the Bold but hellish on the Storm, due to the ease of keyboard navigation.
Though the Storm may have a better looking web browser, it's still easier to browse on the Bold. URL typos are less frequent and easily corrected, making the experience easier. You’ll probably connect faster too.
The Bold Takes the Cake
For me, the BlackBerry Bold is my "go to" device. For most of the things I do, the Bold is easier, quicker, and more reliable than the Storm. The Storm’s touch-screen may be cooler and more fun to use, but at the end of the day – for productivity – the Bold wins out.
In case you weren’t convinced, consider the simple example of browsing through pictures. On the Storm, you have to swipe your finger across the screen, and often times, wait for the device to catch up. On the Bold, you press N for next or P for Previous, and there is very little lag, if any. Though it's not as cool looking, the Bold is more effective and efficient.
Not having a good 3G connection or Wi-Fi is a sure deal-breaker for the Storm. Meanwhile, innovative apps like Visual Voicemail (available on the Storm and long available on competitors like the iPhone) would be fun to have on the Bold – but just wait for the next system software upgrade.
If you're considering a Bold, you almost can't go wrong. If you're considering a Storm, be sure you know what you're getting into and ask yourself, "Why do I really want this?" The Storm is buggy, has pervasive lag, and connects slowly; on the plus side, if you want a device that makes and receives calls well, this is for you! Just don't cheek-hit the mute key.
For all of you enduring the cold weather this winter, keep this in mind as well – I can use my Bold without having to take off my gloves, but you'll need to go bare-fingered to use the Storm. And the Bold's good-looking faux-leather backing also stays warmer to the touch in cold weather than the cold metallic plate behind the Storm. This may be a small detail, but looking at the big picture, attention to detail is what puts the Bold ahead of competitor.
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