Less than 12 months have gone by since Verizon debuted the original, much-anticipated BlackBerry Storm. This was to be the ground-breaking, iPhone-killing hybrid boasting all the best qualities of a BlackBerry with a large touchscreen borrowed from RIM's Cupertino counterpart. In reality, this smartphone offered slow performance and crashed frequently.
The BlackBerry Storm2, slated for release later this week, seeks address many of the problems Verizon and RIM experienced with the first Storm, and I was optimistic as I opened my demo unit box. Unfortunately, my initial impressions are that this device fails to deliver on all the promises. Though the Storm2 fixes a lot of problems, there are still areas seriously lacking.
I've only been playing with the Storm for a little more than a day -- check back early this week for a complete review.
BUILD & DESIGN
Hardware-wise the device looks pretty much like the first generation, minus the chrome trim on the sides and the four physical keys (the talk, hang up, return, and BlackBerry keys). These are now an extended part of the screen, with sensors beneath them.
Though more responsive, the new screen still has some misses, which at times has left me wondering if there bottom four keys are broken due to my inability to click them. Additionally I've noticed the phone refuses to switch from landscape to portrait when it's laying on my desk.
Like the original, the Storm2 lacks a physical keyboard, instead offering an on-screen one. While this generally works fine, there are still issues. After pulling up a page that requires typing it's not always apparent how to hide the keyboard. Similar problems calling up the keyboard are apparent when trying to enter numbers during a call.
The BlackBerry Storm2 9550 does indeed correct many of the issues that plagued the old Storm. The original was lag-laden and screens froze regularly. The Storm2 answers back with what seems like plenty more horsepower to make portrait-to-landscape switches, menu scrolling, screen switching faster, more responsive, and the new OS even adds some visual pizazz to the process.
The Storm2 also boasts Wi-Fi (b/g), whose lack was a major detraction from Verizon's first Storm.
BlackBerry OS 5
Perhaps one saving grace of the device however, is BlackBerry OS 5.0, which gives us a peek at what's to be the new standard for RIM's smartphone.
The latest version of this operating system provides a lot of nice features for the new device. Chief among these are the ability to sync contacts over the air with a service like Google's contacts, the option to choose one of three keyboards in portrait mode -- multi-tap, sure-type, or full qwerty (like the first generation iPhone) -- an enhanced ability to customize notifications, and tweaks that improve the overall user interface.
A BlackBerry OS 5.0 upgrade is expected to be available for current Storm users later today (Sunday October 25) or tomorrow -- and will be a welcome addition for all of you users.
The new operating system version will be covered more extensively in the full review, along with the other features of this smartphone.
The BlackBerry Storm2 desperately needed to fix everything the original Storm lacked, and then make up some serious ground -- so far it seems to underwhelm. Sure there's Wi-Fi now, the styling is improved, the transitions and responsiveness have been ironed out, but the phone is still not seamless.
It's not the phone that Verizon or RIM wants it to be. It's still clunky on the inside, and using it is not as intuitive as it should be. I find myself second guessing if I struck the right keys, and it almost seems as if the voice quality on speakerphone has decreased.
The Storm2 makes up some lost ground, but it seems to be too little, too late. Verizon and RIM needed to knock it out of the park, but they could barely manage a double. Perhaps it's time for RIM to consider retiring the Storm line in hopes of blue-er skies. Why not integrate a touch screen into its other rock-solid devices (I'm drooling thinking about a BlackBerry Bold with a touchscreen), and put all its focus on what it does well?
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