A friend of mine was kind enough to loan me his brand new BlackBerry Storm for the night, which of course, turned it into a long night…
Here’s my impression of it:
The Storm is a beautiful device. I like most of the recent phone designs by RIM, but this one reminded me of the great Touch HD and has a full touch screen which makes it more sexy. This is RIM’s first touch screen device and I assume it was not easy for them to turn their OS UI into a completely finger friendly UI – but the results are quite good.
The Storm offers dual-mode functionality for world-roaming capabilities as well as EV-DO Rev, combined with GPS, a 3.2-megapixel camera, pretty responsive accelerometer and a long list of pre-installed applications, but the real highlight of this phone is the innovative touch screen.
I love it. It’s different from anything I’ve ever tried so far. Here’s how it feels like:
With a normal capacitive screen, a touch means activation, even if it’s a short touch or a touch by accident. When you touch a button – it’s as if you clicked it.
RIM took the capacitive capabilities, and turned it into tactile feedback, meaning that the touched area gets highlighted (see keyboard image below), but not yet activated (you see where you are but nothing really happens).
In order to really activate the button you are on, you need to press the screen. Yeah, that’s right – push your finger, and surprisingly, it feels like a real button! How you ask? because the entire screen surface is “clickable”.
It’s as if the entire screen sits on one huge button surface, so that moving the finger over screen virtual buttons only highlights the ones which will be activated in case of pressing the real button which is… the screen itself.
Got it? I hope so, because it’s not that simple to explain…
Anyway, the reason why I like it, is because: A. it’s innovative, B. it’s working pretty well, C. I got used to it pretty fast. D. It prevents accidental clicks when touching the screen by mistake.
There are drawbacks about it though, because the areas near the borders of the screen are harder to press, which makes it harder to use.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the Storm user interface is mostly finger friendly. It’s not as fancy as the iPhone or HTC’s TouchFlo, but it’s customizable, and simple to use. I did find some exceptions where the user interface is not well suited for fingers, but in those cases the tactile screen (that highlights the touched elements) helps to avoid mistakes. The accelerometer switches between portrait to landscape mode pretty fast and most of the applications take very short time to open up.
Two things bothered me about the user interface:
1. Some stuff seems to miss the final tuning, some UI elements are inconsistent with others (e.g. scrolling experience, buttons), and some stuff should be improved (when you enlarge the system font, the text in the lists become slashed)
2. Bugs, and a lot of them. I had some blinking objects, fading controls that suddenly came back corrupted, etc. I’m sure it can be fixed (maybe some of it is already fixed) – but still, worth mentioning.
If I had to put my finger on one thing that really annoyed me while working with the Storm – it’s the virtual Keyboard.
I’m a fan of RIM’s full QWERTY keyboards, I think they are the best, so for me, the Storm’s virtual keyboard was a big disappointment.
Two things I didn’t like:
A. In no full QWERTY in portrait mode. (How come!?)
B. The landscape full QWERTY does not have a good prediction algorithm nor auto-correction, just a spell-check (but a good one).
You can type the letters: K-e-y-b-o-a-r-… so it’s pretty obvious you are going to write keyboard, right? But then if you click F instead of D – it will still write Keyboarf, when it’s obvious that you meant to write Keyboard… (well, unless you’re a klingon…).
Virtual keyboards have a lot of inaccuracies, so auto correction and word predictions are very important. Storm does not do a good job in this area so you end up typing slowly and fearfully.
The Spell-check, on the other hand works very nice. Misspelled words are getting an underline and clicking on them pops up a menu with some corrections alternatives.
This may sound funny, but the Storm has an almost unusual loud an clear sound quality. I found myself investigating how it’s built, because I really enjoyed the music sounds it produced.
I was so impressed by the sound quality that I immediately compared it with my other devices, but there was no match there…
I didn’t get to test it too much, but I did noticed that the shutter speed is terribly sloooooooooow! Don’t ever try to capture events as they happen with the Storm, as I counted around 4 seconds from the moment you click on the button, until the picture is actually taken.
4 Seconds are just too much. And the worst part is that during that time, you see a black screen, so you can’t even tell if something was caught by the camera…
Especially if you had Soundwave fighting Autobot Jazz on a structure composed of BlackBerry Storm, lying on BlackBerry 8800, placed on top of a chubby HTC Touch Pro…
BlackBerry Storm comes packed with some useful software tools:
Memo-pad, tasks, audio notes, documents to go, spreadsheets to go, powerpoint to go, facebook, flickr, video camera, 2 games, and more. Of course, most of them are basic, and other platforms such as Windows Mobile offer them for free (or freeware), but in general it’s a good thing.
Don’t expect the Storm to be an iPhone replacement. It’s still a business tool more than an entertainment tool (with the exception of a good sound quality).
Like other BlackBerry phones, it is well equipped with office tools, push emails, and PIM applications, packed inside a great looking phone with an innovative touch screen.
Talking about the touch screen, it may be the reason why many people will suddenly want to have a Blackberry, but at the same time, the virtual keyboard might ruin the typing experience, lowering productivity, and keeping business people away from the Storm.
All in all, I liked the Storm, I liked the form factor and I liked the touch screen technology. I didn’t like the keyboard at all, but I assume there will be people who will argue about how good or bad it is.