First Go With the BlackBerry Storm

My brother-in-law got himself (for some reason, through some strange set of events understood only to him I think), a BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry’s “iPhone killer” (or at least, answer to the iPhone). I know I’m really late to the party, but I wanted to air a couple of quick thoughts about it.

Full disclosure, I’m an iPhone owner and have been accused of being an Apple Fanboy, but I maintain I can be fairly neutral. Also I only had about 3 minutes with the Storm, so my “review” is rather incomplete 🙂

  • Size – First of all it’s big, it felt more along the size of the Palm Treo in terms of bulk compared to the iPhone. I was actually really surprised at the size, I first thought it was one of the older smartphones (pre-iPhone era) when it was first handed to me. It looks like it’s actually a bit shorter than the iPhone, but is far thicker. Feels bulky regardless.
  • Accelerometer Portrait to Landscape mode switches took a couple of seconds, not nearly as long as some of the reviews I read. No worse than an iPhone under heavy load or in the middle of loading a webpage. Way worse than an iPhone not doing anything however.
  • Web Browsing – This is about the only thing I got to do with it really, I turned the phone sideways, clicked on the web browser icon (I don’t think I knew what I was doing at the time to be honest). I typed in and it loaded up. The display looked ok, it wasn’t a “mobile” browser look, but UFies isn’t a great example of a “modern” web page by any means 🙂 There was no multi-touch zoom, I didn’t try double tapping to zoom in as you do on the iPhone, but there was a big zoom button in the controls. Fairly boring.
  • Multi-touch – No (at least in the browser anyway. Probably not a big deal to someone whose never had it, and a huge lose to anyone who has used it and found it to be an intuitive way to work. No pinchy-pinchy zoomy-zoomy or un-pinchy-pinchy 🙁
  • Typing – OK, this is the biggest thing I think. Many people criticized the iPhone when it came out for using a non-tactile, software only keyboard. And yes, as a Blackberry (old style) user, the typing is way slower, more mistake prone, and much harder to do while you’re driving 🙂 The problem with the Storm I think is they scrambled for an answer to the iPhone and didn’t think about the keyboard or innovate the way that Apple did (who had no legacy to deal with and could start 100% fresh). Because of this the Storm keyboard doesn’t do things like display they key you hit “above” the point of impact. Not a horrible thing, but not as easy to see if you hit the correct key as easily.
  • Clicky-Clicky Typing – The other thing they did to differentiate themselves from the iPhone was to solve the problem of no tactile feedback from the keys. To do this they made the entire screen “click” when you pressed down on it (think the mouse buttons on a laptop touchpad). Just a little click, but it lets you know when you click a key and when you don’t. The issue with this is they aren’t solving the right problem. The problem with the iPhone keyboard isn’t the tactile feedback of clicking, it’s the ability to feel the keys. The reason that I loved the Blackberry physical keyboard was that I could feel my way through the keys without looking at them. Once you find they “home row” as it were, you can figure out where the other keys are. Apple’s iPhone has none of this so you have to (basically) be looking at the keyboard all the time to type on it.

    Secondly, the keyboard click is required, meaning if you just hit the key as you would on an iPhone they don’t register, they just turn blue. You have to click the keyboard down to register the key, which makes it much slower to actually type, as you have to push they screen for each keypress. Ugh.

    When apple created the iPhone they had a few innovations that people don’t actually realize right away. One of them is the keyboard is very smart, and you can basically stab at the keys and the iPhone will (for the most part) figure it out. That, plus the learning auto-correct and the adaptive keys (changing for entering URLs with a “.com/net/org” key or email addresses) are things that seem intuitive and an innovative way of making the best of a touch screen only keyboard. Of course, some of these things are only obvious after a fair amount of use.

    Short story is putting in a URL into the Storm’s web browser was slower and more of a “meh” experience than it should have been.

My two cents anyway, I’ll probably be able to see the phone more in the future, so I’ll add/subtract/adjust if I find some other revelations about it.