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When Apple announced it was entering the cell phone business, many speculated that the company had bitten off more than it could chew. But the original iPhone and iPhone 3G have been tremendous hits for Apple and AT&T, and other wireless operators have scrambled to have their own touch-screen "iPhone killer."
But with its robust set of features and enterprise-friendly history, the BlackBerry Storm may give Verizon Wireless a viable alternative to Apple's popular handset.
The Storm is the first touch-screen BlackBerry, and Research In Motion knows that being able to easily and quickly type messages is vital to its customers. But figuring out how to make a usable virtual keyboard can be tricky, as RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis once famously said that he and his friends can't type on the iPhone's glass screen.
To combat this problem, RIM implemented what it calls SurePress, which uses a suspension system that lies beneath the screen. When customers want to select an icon or text, they have to physically push down on the screen as they would a tactile button. This approach may take some getting used to, but RIM said it should enable mobile professionals to be more productive with their messaging.
The Storm's 3.25-inch screen is a tad smaller than the iPhone's, but RIM's device packs a higher resolution. RIM's smartphone also has a better camera than Apple's handset, and it can send multimedia messages and cut and paste.
The handset is still a BlackBerry, so it will have support for multiple corporate and personal e-mail accounts. It also has security features that may make it easier to get on your corporate network than Apple's handset.
The touch-screen BlackBerry can download e-mails and surf the Web via Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A network, but some may be turned off by the lack of Wi-Fi. There's also built-in GPS that can be combined with 3G for turn-by-turn navigation and location-based searches.
RIM has been increasingly going after the consumer market with devices like the BlackBerry Pearl Flip and the inclusion of more "lifestyle" apps. The Storm continues that trend, and it features robust multimedia capabilities, including the ability to sync songs from iTunes.
Verizon is hoping to draw in the iPhone crowd by aggressively pricing the Storm at $199, the same price as the entry-level iPhone 3G.