As you may know, RIM's first touch-screen smartphone was introduced a few weeks ago, and I'm sure that every CrackBerry addict wanted to know if it can provide a messaging and keyboard experience that you expect from a BlackBerry. I was able to spend a good amount of time playing with it at the BlackBerry Developer Conference, and let's just say I wish I could use profanity on this Web site because the virtual keyboard is bleeping amazing.The screen takes a little adjusting to, as you actually have to push down harder than you normally would on an iPhone 3G or an HTC Touch Diamond. RIM calls this SurePress, and it makes the entire screen one gigantic button.
This is highly awkward at first, as I'm used to treating my touch screens like a delicate flower. But it becomes second nature in no time, and it makes typing amazingly familiar. Holding the phone in portrait mode and hitting the keyboard button brings up the SureType keyboard, which I despise. I know many Pearl users say it's actually quicker once you get the hang of it, but I like having once-click access to each letter.
I flipped the Storm sideways and the landscape, full QWERTY keyboard came up. The keyboard's large (about half the screen), and each press feels incredibly familiar. It's not just haptics, or a buzzing screen -- each letter feels like you're pressing a separate button. BlackBerry aficionados are going to have very little trouble adjusting to the keyboard, although you may have to get used to holding it in landscape mode if you're like me and have an irrational dislike of SureType.
The smartphone's nowhere near perfect, though, as the user interface is a bit clunky and bland. Flipping through photos showed a noticeable stutter, multimedia interface was OK, and the Web browsing didn't blow me away (it was fine though). I was obviously using prerelease software, so many of those bugs could and should be ironed out before it's released.
But all I cared about was how the keyboard felt, and it was incredible. The lack of Wi-Fi's still a bit of a bummer, but this is going to be a fantastic device. It's still a somewhat different experience than typing on full keys, so try it before you buy (release date's still unconfirmed, but I'm hearing rumors about middle of November). But I can honestly say the keyboard blows the iPhone, or any other touch-screen phone, out of the water.
The handset's smaller than it looks in pictures, but it is a tad chunky. The screen's gorgeous, and I could easily see myself watching a TV show on this thing. Is the Storm good enough for people to switch to Verizon Wireless? I think a lot of that depends on if Verizon will lock down things like GPS and Bluetooth. But if you're already with Big V, this is an incredible handset that's worth getting excited about.
I've been told I'll get a review unit as soon as those start rolling out, so I'll give you a more in-depth breakdown of the first touch-screen BlackBerry as soon as possible.
Edit: They're calling it SurePress now, instead of ClickThrough.