Having made its name with keyboard-toting handsets for the corporate email crowd, RIM heads off in a different direction — aimed squarely at the iPhone. It’s the first touchscreen BlackBerry boasting a clickable touchscreen, a 3.2-megapixel camera, GPS, and a host of media features.
What we like
The Storm’s touchscreen is very impressive, it’s big, bright and sharp, which is shown off to best effect when viewing photos or watching videos. The Storm feels like a well-designed handset – it looks stylish but feels rugged. RIM has adapted its BlackBerry software for the touchscreen, and it works well, even if it’s not quite as snappy as the iPhone. The media features are excellent, whether you’re listening to music using the standard 3.5mm headphone port, or watching videos.
The BlackBerry Maps app that works with the Storm’s GPS is very usable too. As you’d expect, the email features are powerful, and work with popular webmail services like Gmail as well as corporate email servers. Then there’s that ‘clickable’ touchscreen, which you actually press down to select buttons and menu options, rather than tapping as with the iPhone. On the plus side, this gives you physical feedback, more like a real keyboard. Some people will find this clunky but we like the concept.
What we don’t like
If you’re used to an iPhone, adapting to the Storm’s clickable keyboard feels like a pain. In fairness, if you’re trading up from a previous BlackBerry to the Storm, you’ll like it better than the iPhone’s tap-keyboard — which was presumably RIM’s thinking. Another noticeable difference when compared to the iPhone is the lack of multi-touch, so no pinch’n’zooming in on websites and photos.
But the single biggest omission from the Storm is the lack of Wi-Fi, which is becoming an essential feature in this level of smartphone — particularly those whose users are likely to be data-hogs. Finally, the 3.2-megapixel camera works well under optimal lighting conditions but in more gloomy climes, it’s a bit disappointing.
RIM certainly hasn’t fallen on its face with the first touchscreen BlackBerry Storm — it’s a stylish and feature-packed handset that does a lot of things well. However, the lack of Wi-Fi and the debatable merits of a clickable touchscreen keyboard may push existing BlackBerry owners towards the more traditional Bold.