RIM BlackBerry Storm Review
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by Franz Bicar
The RIM BlackBerry Storm came out with a bang. Its hype and excitement was generated by almost everyone who wants an alternative to Apple’s iPhone. This is, of course, the first touch-screen BlackBerry. It features Research in Motion’s new SurePress functionality. Aside from that, it features a complete set of business capabilities that is inherent to BlackBerries.
In terms of its design, the BlackBerry Storm isn’t that much different from other touch screen smartphones. It looks quite similar to Samsung’s Omnia and Apple’s iPhone. It sports a black casing with silver accents and measures about 4.4 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and weighs 5.6 ounces. Its a bit bulky but these are common with BlackBerries. The Storm is a well-constructed smartphone. It has a nice, solid feel and the edges have a soft-touch finish to provide a better grip.
As with other touch screen phones, the Storm incorporates a wide display to accommodate the users’ fingers whenever he wants to manipulate or type on the screen. The Storm has a 3.25-inch VGA glass display which shows bright and sharp images. It shows 65,000 colors at a crisp 480×360-pixel resolution. The backlighting, font size, and font type can easily be adjusted. The Storm is also equipped with an accelerometer, so the screen orientation will switch from portrait to landscape mode when you rotate the phone from a vertical position to a horizontal one, left or right.
As mentioned, the Storm uses RIM’s new Surepress touchscreen technology. This means that whenever you select an application or enter text, you actually push the screen down like you would any other tactile button. In terms of text entry, the BlackBerry Storm features a SureType keyboard when the smartphone is in portrait mode and then switches to a full QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode. When using the keyboard or selecting applications, you do a simple finger touch over the item until it’s highlighted and then you press down on the screen to register the action.
Aside from the Surepress technology, users may also use a combination of fingertaps or swipes to perform different actions. Examples are tapping on the screen twice to zoom in on a web page or a picture, you can also do quick finger swipes to scroll though a page. However, the best part, the one that still isn’t present in one of its competitor, is the copy and paste functions. You just touch the screen at the start of the text and then with a second finger, touch the end of the block of text you want to copy - and there you go.
Other things that you might see on the Storm are the tactile navigation controls that consists of Talk and End/Power buttons, a Menu key, and a clear button. Unlike other BlackBerry models, there is no trackball navigator. On the left side, there’s a user-programmable shortcut key and a micro USB port, while the right spine has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a volume rocker, and another customizable button, which is set as the camera activation/capture key by default. The camera lens and flash are located on the backside, and behind the battery cover, you’ll find the microSD/SDHC card holder and SIM card slot. Finally, though not readily apparent, there is a device lock and mute button on the top edge of the Storm.
As for its features, the Storm is not that different from other BlackBerries - in that it is a business-centric phone. The Storm runs the latest BlackBerry OS 4.7, bringing an updated user interface much like the BlackBerry Bold and the BlackBerry Pearl Flip. You now get DataViz Documents To Go Standard Edition, so you can now edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well. If you want the capability to create new documents, you will have to upgrade to the Premium Edition. Other PIM applications include a Calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, a calculator, a password keeper, and more.
For e-mail, the Storm can sync with your company’s BlackBerry Enterprise server, with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise, to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. You can also access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts via the BlackBerry Internet Service. Like all recent BlackBerry models, the Storm has a spell-check feature that will look for errors in e-mails and memos, but not text messages. There’s also an attachment viewer for opening Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more.
As a phone, the BlackBerry Storm offers dual-mode functionality, so the phone switches automatically between CDMA and GSM networks to offer seamless international roaming–all while keeping the same phone number. In all, you get voice coverage in 157 countries and e-mail coverage in 62 countries.
The address book is only limited by the available memory with room in each entry multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, group category, or one of 32 polyphonic ringtones. Other voice features include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. You can also download Visual Voice mail from the BlackBerry Application Center. Bluetooth 2.0 is on board with support for a mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, serial port profile, phone book access, and dial-up networking. You can also use the Storm as a wireless modem for you laptop.
The BlackBerry Storm has a full HTML Web browser that you can view in Internet Explorer or Firefox mode, depending on your preference. You can check out sites in page view or column view, and navigate via pan mode or cursor mode. There’s also a collapsible toolbar along the bottom that lets you go to new sites, change views, and more. There is support for streaming media, including YouTube’s mobile site. The BlackBerry browser has greatly improved over the years, but it’s still not as easy to use as the iPhone and its multitouch screen.
The Storm’s multimedia features include a 3.2-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities, as well a flash, auto focus, 2x zoom, and image stabilization. In camera mode, you get a choice of three picture sizes and three picture qualities. There are white balance settings, and you can add various effects to your photos, such as black and white, and sepia. With the built-in GPS, you can also geotag photos.
The Storm’s built-in media player can play various music and video formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, DivX4, XviD (partial support), and H.263 video clips. There’s a search function, playlist creation, shuffle and repeat, and you get a full-screen mode for video playback. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags.
Like the latest BlackBerrys, the Storm also works with the BlackBerry Media Sync application so you can load your iTunes library. There’s 1GB of on board memory and 128MB of flash memory on board, while the microSD/SDHC expansion slot can accept up to 16GB cards.