BlackBerry Storm review – hands on and buy now

BlackBerry StormI was asked to pop along to see the new BlackBerry Storm yesterday which is Vodafone’s answer to the iPhone on 02. The guys from Vodafone and BlackBerry were there to answer any questions and of course to let me get my grubby mitts on the next potential iPhone Killer so here is what I made of it…

The BlackBerry Storm (previously known as BlackBerry 9500) needs to be directly compared to the iPhone as both are now aimed squarely at the same lucrative audience of both business users and the everyday phone users with their rich featuresets and enterprise level functionality.

The BlackBerry Storm is slightly beefier than the iPhone at 112.5 x 62.2 x 14mm compared to the iPhone’s 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm but it’s hardly noticeable in your hand. The extra 20g weight (155g) compared to the 135g of the iPhone might be a bit more noticeable though.

Where does this extra bulk go then?

Well first off it didn’t go on a WiFi chip which is the most striking omission to the BlackBerry Storm’s specifications in my opinion. No built in WiFi means you will have to rely on the all you can use Vodafone mobile Internet data policy which is bundled with all BlackBerry Storm contracts. Obviously this isn’t really an issue if you are within Vodafone’s super fast HDSPA (3.5 G) areas, which are among the UK’s fastest data networks but browsing / emailing where there is a FREE, faster WiFi connection and only GPRS network coverage would seriously annoy me!

The large 3.25″ high-resolution screen (480 X 360 pixels) screen is very clear and crisp and will definitely make journeys fly when coupled with a few movies stored on a microSD™ memory card. The screen also makes viewing the images captured from the 3.2 mega pixel camera great as you can see the extra fine details this camera picks up compared to the 2 mega pixel camera found in the iPhone. This camera has auto flash, auto focus and 2x digital zoom and coupled with the in built Flickr™ and Facebook™ applications you will be able to upload your snaps quickly and easily to share on the web.

Browsing the web using this large screen and the built in BlackBerry browser is a good experience but is maybe a shade less pleasurable compared to the iPhone’s browser and even the bundled Opera browser on the latest HTC Touch handsets which are both top notch. However one advantage the BlackBerry Storm does have over its rivals is a feature called Cursor Mode which enables you to have an on screen mouse pointer and by moving your finger around the screen and clicking on any point on the screen gives you get left click, mouse like precision for web links and editing documents etc.

Music wise the inbuilt music player is good and is tightly integrated with Vodafone’s Music Store service where you can download new tracks, albums and listen to 30 second previews of the latest songs. Also for the majority of people who use Apple’s iTunes to organise their play-lists and music collections you will be pleased to know the BlackBerry Storm can sync with iTunes however this will only be with your own ripped content not Apple DRM protected music!

The inbuilt GPS in the BlackBerry Storm uses Vodafone’s Find & Go service which is much like other GPS technologies however it does come with a nifty search and share service built in to allow you to share and view places of interest people have uploaded via their GPS phones. The downside to this native Find & Go GPS service though is you only get 6 months Find & Go Sat Nav subscription with your new contract compared to the unlimited usage of the iPhone’s Google Maps software which seems a little stingy on Vodafone’s part.

BlackBerry Storm landscape typingIn the short time I had hands on with the BlackBerry Storm I couldn’t say I like the new “tactile-touch” on screen keyboard compared to the old faithful physical QWERTY keyboards found on other BlackBerry phones.

The “easy and precise touch screen typing that is claimed via this new on screen QWERTY keyboard (full QWERTY in landscape mode only) felt a little more like clunky and cumbersome compared to say the iPhone and HTC’s Touch Diamond on screen keyboard efforts.

The primary reason for the difficulties I had getting along with the new keyboard is the fact the BlackBerry Storm’s screen is built using a unique new technology where the screen is actually spring-loaded so the whole screen effectively acts as one big button. So rather than the keys sensing my fingers like other touch screen keyboards I had to physically press the screen down down to press the keys. I suspect you would get used to this new style on screen keyboard but losing the brilliant physical QWERTY keyboard in place of this radically different, push down, on screen version might put a lot of people off within their initial contract cooling off period.

All the standard enterprise level BlackBerry email functionality and remote administration features that Research In Motion’s (RIM) success has been founded on are still present and do set the BlackBerry Storm apart from its competitors in the corporate environment. However the other large target audience of ‘normal’ end users who Vodafone and BlackBerry are going after with this handset won’t really be interested in locking down certain features and applications so I can’t see these features selling extra handsets to these ‘normal’ users.

So in summary the BlackBerry Storm is the most consumer friendly handset that RIM have released to date and a lot of new ‘normal’ end users will buy it.

Click here to order the BlackBerry Storm – released Friday 14th November

The following summary table should give a good overview of the pros and cons of the BlackBerry Storm compared to the iPhone:

Feature BlackBerry Storm Apple iPhone
Size 112.5 x 62.2 x 14mm 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm
Weight 155g 135g
Messaging MMS, Instant Messaging, SMS, Email SMS, Email
In built storage 1GB 8GB or 16GB
Card Expansion microSD™ none
Data Capabilties HSDPA, GPRS HSDPA, GPRS
Battery life Standby: up to 360 hours, Talk Time: 5 hours 30 minutes Standby: up to 250 hours, Talk Time: 8 hours
Camera 3.2 Mega Pixel (2048×1536) 2 Mega Pixel (1600 x 1200)
GPS Built in Find & Go (6 months subscription) Google Maps (ulimited usage)
Connectivity USB2.0 USB2.0, TV Output
WiFi No Yes

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