Switched On: Writers on the Storm

What happens when the efficient menu-driven user experience of the BlackBerry meets the discoverable new user experience of finger-driven touch? The answer for the BlackBerry Storm has been that the BlackBerry experience wins, and who loses depends on what you were expecting from RIM’s first departure from a physical keyboard. While adorned with a few on-screen buttons and simple gesture support, the Storm is much less of an iPhone-like experience than, say, the T-Mobile G1.

The Storm’s main advantage over other BlackBerry devices is that it has a larger screen, not necessarily one that is controlled by touch. However, to accommodate the removal of its trademark keyboard, RIM has taken touch-screens into a literal new dimension by requiring users to depress the screen to activate a button on the screen, which lowers and springs back like a giant keyboard key.

The screen’s ability to respond to presses as a physical button (like the trackpad in Apple’s new MacBooks), helps provide a more natural feel to typing on the Storm; the feedback is certainly more satisfying than the solely visual feedback that the iPhone gives. Just because it feels good, though, doesn’t mean you should do it.

While the screen’s response may result in faster proficiency particularly as it (unlike the iPhone’s keyboard) can be used in landscape mode while sending e-mails, fast typists may be frustrated to find that the screen sometimes cannot return to its “up” position fast enough to be ready for the next letter.

And then there is the issue of editing the inevitable typos that tapping out text on virtually any smartphone entails. It’s unfortunate that RIM – while retrofitting a touch screen with so many of its user interface conventions — decided to ignore a well-received BlackBerry navigation aid in the scroll ball that HTC has implemented well in conjunction with the T-Mobile G1’s touch screen.

A scroll ball makes it easy to get between letters for editing. And with no iPhone-like magnifying glass user interface convention or other method for dynamically zooming in on small text, spot-editing on the Storm can be a frustrating tight squeeze. The Storm will usually provide a word or menu of words to replace the mistyped one, but navigating it too can be thorny in the limited on-screen real estate with the keyboard on-screen.

The classic BlackBerry form-factor represented by such handsets as the Curve, 8800 and now Bold was itself a screen upgrade from the first BlackBerry two-way pagers. With the rise of the Web and media demanding a bigger screen, though, there is potential for a BlackBerry with a side-sliding keyboard (similar to HTC’s Touch Pro) that delivers an even more comfortable keyboard and the large screen while restoring the sense of proportion in the user interface at the expense of a little girth.

The typing feedback provided by the Storm represents an advance over those that offer only visual or haptic feedback, but for many of the BlackBerry’s biggest fans — even outside of Soviet Russia — the clickable keyboard will depress you.


BlackBerry Storm sells out hard and fast

We don’t have official confirmation of this yet, but we’re hearing from all over that Verizon’s launch of the BlackBerry Storm has so far been a raging success — from what we can tell, it’s sold out nearly everywhere, and the online store is buckling under the load of thousands of eager buyers. Sounds like RIM’s on track for a hit — any of you have any luck scoring a Storm today? How’d it go? Digging the SurePress screen? Hit us up in comments!


BlackBerry Storm now available on Verizon

by Thomas Ricker,

You’ve read the review, now Verizon’s BlackBerry Storm is available for purchase for $200 on two-year contract. Really, what’s left to say — you’re either ready to pull the trigger or not.


Google Sync for BlackBerry gets into your contacts

If you’re a BlackBerry user or a prospective user, and also happen to be a Gmail enthusiast, you’re going to be a lot happier than you were yesterday, because Google’s just added over-the-air contact syncing to its Google Sync application. Previously, the app was only able to sync up calendars between the cloud and RIM devices every two hours. Now you can get your names and numbers in the mix, so it looks like the nightmare days of having one list of contacts in Gmail and another, totally different one in your ‘Berry are apparently at an end. Sure, Google’s timing on this seems a little convenient to us, coming as it does just before the BlackBerry Storm launch, but we’re not going to complain about something that makes ours lives easier, okay?


    BlackBerry Storm review

    By now most of us have heard this story in one fashion or another: when Steve Jobs and Apple were in the planning stages of the iPhone, the first carrier they brought the device to America’s largest network, Verizon. Even if you haven’t heard how the tale ends — Verizon refused and Jobs took his multi-billion dollar ball to AT&T — you surely know the outcome. The iPhone has soared to become the ultimate smartphone, the must-have accessory that everyone from celebrities to your mom wants — nay, needs — to have in their pocket. It’s changed the landscape of modern cellphones, put a serious dent in the sales of competing devices (just recently overtaking the venerable RAZR as the best-selling domestic handset), and unquestionably raised the bar when it comes to expectations for features in new handsets.

    It may seem unfair to open up the review of RIM’s latest BlackBerry — the Storm — with a history lesson on the iPhone, but if you understand the market which Verizon and RIM hope to capture, then you understand the Storm, and it helps put this critique in perspective. The Storm, a widescreen, touchscreen, device boasts many of the same features as the iPhone, but adds innovations like a clickable display, and comes packed with RIM’s legendary email and messaging services. Mainlined into the biggest (and some say best) network in the States, the Storm is an almost deafening blast to the competition at first glance, but does it hold up on closer inspection? Read on to find out.

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