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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hands On with the Blackberry Storm


If you read the tech blogs (especially this one) with any regularity then you’re already familiar with the long and winding rumor road that leads to the touchscreen BlackBerry. Yesterday, folks from RIM and Verizon stopped by the Wired offices to give us a hands-on with the touch enabled device that they have dubbed the Storm, and we are now in full rumor-busting mode.

To put it mildly, we’ve seen a butt-load of handset makers jump on the iClone bandwagon since Apple’s device was announced in 2007. Without exception, every attempt has failed to come close to matching the iPhone’s nearly mythic combination of intuitive UI, responsive touchscreen, and gorgeous hardware. The Storm, though, gets closer than any device we’ve ever laid hands on.

And in one critical area — you might want to sit down for this — The Storm actually beats the iPhone.

Has your mind been sufficiently blown? There's more: sit back and enjoy as we explain what features make this device so cranium busting:

4-inch ClickThrough Touchscreen: This is the Storm’s prime-time killer feature and the reason why it gives the iPhone a run for its money. The Storm’s screen — like the iPhone’s — is sensitive to the bioelectric pulses in your fingertips. It’s responsive, bright, and requires only a very delicate touch. But when you want to select something, be it anything from music application to a text message, you have to press down on that screen until it clicks. It’s not much — essentially it’s the same sensation you get when clicking with your mouse — but it makes a world of difference. There’s no ambiguity to button presses. You know exactly what key you have pushed and what application you have selected. Text messaging is a breeze — I was able to compose a lengthy detailed SMS without a single typo. That’s a feat I have yet to accomplish with the iPhone.

Cut and Paste: Yes, Virginia there is text editing. Be prepared to access Word and PowerPoint files on the fly.

World Phone Capability: The Storm will operate on Quad-Band: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks Single-Band: 2100 MHz UMTS/HSPA networks and Dual-Band: 800/1900 MHz CDMA/EVDO Rev A networks. Meaning? It's compatible with virtually every single network on earth.

3.2 MP Camera: No real surprise here, but the unit takes some very good pics along with sharp video and clear audio.


The Storm could be called The Boulder. It’s that heavy. The device tips the scales at 5.46 ounces and feels even beefier when shoved in a pocket. It also lacks both video out and Wi-Fi — Verizon apparently wants you to use its data plan and nothing else. But that nearly doesn’t matter, as the ClickThrough screen is a flash of genius and more than makes up (upon first impression at least) for any minor quibble that we might have for the phone.

To say the Storm isn’t a direct response to the iPhone would be poopy- pants childish. But it’s hard to say if the Storm will eclipse the iPhone in terms of performance, applications, or even cultural cache.

Despite having some superior features, I doubt it will have the same impact on the cellular landscape that the iPhone has. But this is still the most fully realized version of a touch compatible iPhone competitor the Lab has seen yet. If the finished product is fully baked and competitively priced, Cupertino might be wise to worry. My biggest question? Will future versions of the iPhone crib from the Storm’s ClickThrough feature or will Steve just bite his lip, close his eyes, and just try to weather the Storm?

No pricing or availability has been announced as of yet. Verizon and RIM both assured us that it would be out before December 25th of this year. Once we get a fully realized version in, expect a review in no time, Labbers.

(Photos by Daniel Salo for