Damn those gadget hounds over at Engadget!! It seems as though they were able to get their hands on a BlackBerry Storm long enough to write up a brief impressions post. We’ve taken the liberty of pulling out the most important bits, as well as the best screen shots from their wonderful image gallery after the jump. Enjoy!
On it’s weight and size:
folks who felt that Apple was already pushing boundaries there won’t take kindly to this beefy phone. The traditional BlackBerry weight advantage is gone as well — the Storm’s large glassy touchscreen and related clicking mechanism, in addition to a very solid build means the weight certainly matches the size.
Does the touchscreen work?
So, about that touchscreen. We were skeptical, since we’ve seen so many touchscreen phones done badly, but the Storm is a real charmer. First off, you have to understand the approach RIM took, which was to interpret the existing navigation method (scroll ball) into a touchscreen environment without pissing off existing users who were just getting over their jog dials. That method boils down to two categories: navigation and execution. As in, with previous BlackBerrys you scroll the wheel to select the email / link / application, and then click the scroll wheel to open / click / launch the object. Now you flick the screen to scroll, tap to select, and click to activate. That means when you tap the screen to select a soft key or an email or an application on the Storm, the object is highlighted, but nothing actually happens. You have to click down to execute, and we really mean click. The entire screen is floating on a clicking mechanism, and clicks down evenly, which provides just the right amount of resistance and tactile feedback, while still allowing for rapid operations like typing. The capacitive touch on top is perfectly sensitive and accurate. We’ll get more into how well this works for actual usage (hint: pretty darn well) in the software section.
Texting Texting Texting!!
But the true test of any touch-based phone is typing, and we won’t hold any punches here: we’re in love. In fact, we like it enough to pit it against regular button-based keyboards, since it easily leaves traditional touchscreen typing (even that hokey haptics stuff, Nokia, LG) in the dust.
We’re even bigger fans of typing in SureType mode (two letters per virtual key), with the phone in portrait. The buttons are the largest of any SureType keyboard out there, you can type with one hand, and the touchability of the screen means it’s easy to select the right word when there are multiple options. Both options blow away the touchscreen alternatives thanks to the screen click, though SureType is an acquired taste.
In standard RIM fashion, one-handed navigation is a priority and totally doable, but now there’s actually room for two hands, which could speed all sorts of actions — click the app switcher button with one thumb, tap your desired app with the other, not mind-blowing, but helpful. There are other perks brought on by touch that will take a bit of exploration to discover. For instance, if you tap and hold the screen (without clicking) on an email address or an email subject for a couple seconds, the phone will search for related emails. Multitouch makes a reluctant appearance in the form of two-fingered selection. Hold one finger above and another finger below a block of text to select it, then tap and drag to fine-tune the selection. Unfortunately, stuff like two-fingered zooming and rotation isn’t happening here, but RIM promises to work on other helpful uses for touching — it feels a tad underutilized in its present form.
The browser still isn’t the best:
RIM has made great strides in the past year or so, but its homebrewed Java-based app still doesn’t quite match the Nokia / Apple / Google-favored WebKit in terms of rendering speed and accuracy. We also didn’t see the sort of smooth and effortless scrolling the iPhone provides, that no other touch phone has managed to replicate so far.