Research In Motion's first touch-screen BlackBerry, from Verizon Wireless, boasts an ultra-fast Web browser and great multimedia. But the SurePress keypad takes some getting used to.
I've spent the past three days using Verizon Wireless's new BlackBerry Storm extensively. Quick verdict? If you type a lot of messages, steer clear. If you want a multimedia device more than a messaging device, then perhaps the Storm makes sense. Let's look at why.
The Storm comes to market just as touch-screen-based devices are beginning to take off with mainstream users. Blackberry manufacturer Research In Motion is meeting the competition head on in hopes of keeping customers from defecting to other devices. The Storm offers everything that BlackBerrys are traditionally known for: killer e-mail and messaging capabilities, tight enterprise integration, and solid performance and quality of voice calls.
RIM has adapted the latest version of its operating system fairly well for touch input. Some nice innovations in the e-mail application, for example, include the ability to quickly sort e-mails by sender or subject line. This allows you to zero in on a specific thread of e-mails in an instant. You do this by quickly swiping your finger across the subject or sender field of the e-mail. This is a nice touch.
With such a large screen, reading through e-mails is a joy. Rather than using a trackball or scroll wheel to zoom through the messages in your in-box, the Storm works like other touch devices and allows you to swipe up and down with a flick of the finger. With an e-mail open, you can also swipe your finger side-to-side to scroll through your messages without the need to return to the inbox. There are some software buttons at the bottom of the screen to send replies or forward messages.
The Storm will integrate with your business's e-mail systems and Internet-based e-mail just as any other BlackBerry. Setting up accounts works seamlessly. Enterprise IT departments have full control over many of the Storm's functions, so it is a solid business-oriented smartphone.
In the tests I performed on the phone, the quality and clarity of voice calls was excellent. The speakerphone was nice and loud, and pairing the Storm to Bluetooth headsets (both mono and stereo) was easy.
The browser performed excellently, too. The Storm has a full HTML browser and pairs it with Verizon's fast EVDO 3G network. Browsing speeds were blazing fast. I loaded lots of Web sites that are heavily laden with images, and the Storm pulled them all down quickly. Sites such as CNN.com, NYTimes.com, ESPN.com and others all loaded rapidly. Using your finger to pan around Web sites is simply the most efficient way to browse the Web on small devices.
What I liked most about the browser was a well-conceived navigation tool. The navigation page has the address bar, Google search bar, bookmarks and browsing history all accessible on one page. This means finding the Web sites or content you want is extremely easy.
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