TechCraver Review: BlackBerry Storm

The BlackBerry Storm is being lauded as the “World’s First Touchscreen BlackBerry”. If I were to attach a marketing slogan to this device, it would probably read: “The Closest Any Executive Will Get to an iPhone”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPhone is a fantastic device. However, I will likely never own one because I will not settle for AT&T’s lousy voice and 3G data network. Anyhow, the Storm is the closest device to the iPhone that has yet to be released. Millions of corporate types who already have Blackberries throughout their enterprises are clamoring for a touch screen phone.

So, how does the Storm stack up? Let’s find out.

At First Glance

Upon opening the Blackberry Storm, you can see that it is a beautiful device on the outside. The piano black finish is dominated by a 3.25″ screen on the front panel with four buttons on the bottom including a send and end key, and the infamous Blackberry key with back arrow button next to it. The screen is a touch screen and uses both capacitive and resistive feedback. This means the screen senses where you are touching and requires a press with a corresponding ‘click’ to go with each touch.

Looking at the Storm from the side shoes a convenience key and a micro USB port which is also used for charging the device. The back of the device is mostly taken up with the large battery but also features the camera lens and corresponding flash.

Overall the build quality of this device is solid. It feels good in the hand, not cheap or hollow. This is consistent with the Research In Motion line, in general. On the negative side, I did notice some LED backlight bleed through on the bottom of the screen near the “Send” key, much like the bleed through on the E71. Noticeable, but not a huge deal.

Using the Storm

So, with messaging being the mainstay of the RIM line, how does the Storm do without a hardware based keyboard? Well results have been mixed with different reviews I have read, but I HATE the experience of typing and interacting with the Blackberry Storm. Many, many times I had typos and misspellings because the Storm’s onscreen keyboard failed to register my keystrokes. Or I would type an ‘S’ and the Storm would register it as an ‘A’ for example.

The Storm, in my experience, offers an inexcusably horrible data entry experience. I have blogged that I think touch interfaces are fine for navigating menus and choosing options, but not for entering text and numbers, and the Storm illustrated my point exactly. On the other hand, I also have an iPod Touch and entering data on this device is a dream. The iPod Touch registers my keystrokes with a high degree of accuracy…so, the inaccuracy and failings of the Storm are unique to this device.

On to interacting the phone: Using the touch pad to selection options on the Storm is passable, but not enjoyable. I found interacting with the Storm with one-handed operation to be very inaccurate and frustrating.

In terms of software, the Storm features the standard RIM suite. The browser, in particular, is slow and unresponsive. Verizon’s EVDO network is typically snappy but I found Internet browsing to be frustrating on the Storm. While the included browser is leaps ahead of previous RIM browsers, it still leaves much to be desired, especially compared to the iPhone’s Webkit-based browser and the one found on Nokia devices.

Switching gears to messaging – email and SMS messaging is fluid and quick on the Blackberry Storm. I like that messages are separated into different buckets for Text messages and email. RIM smartly used all the screen real estate for messaging and doesn’t clutter up the screen with non-necessary options or commands.

Another application I tried on the Storm was was the Facebook application. Facebook on the Storm brings social networking in a nice package. You can easily leave notes, see your friends’ status and upload photos from the Storm’s 3.2 MP camera.

Call Quality and Battery Life

If messaging is what a Blackberry does best, crystal clear calls come a close second, and the Storm continues this tradition. Combined with Verizon’s wide-reaching and always high quality CDMA network, the Storm is a dream to make and receive phone calls on. The earpiece is very loud and easy to hear on. Callers I made phone calls to reported that I sounded very good as well.

One very interesting note about the Blackberry Storm. In addition to being a CDMA phone for use throughout the United States, the Storm also features GSM capability with fast HSPA data access. So therefore, if you travel to abroad to Asia, Europe, or anywhere overseas, you can use your Blackberry storm on the GSM networks that exist there. Very Cool! However, an international calling and data plan are required. But this is a great feature that is rare in Verizon’s phone line up.

I found battery life on the Storm to be slightly above my expectations. With moderate data use and voice calling, I was able to get a good 2.5 days out of the device before needing to re-charge. Anything over 1 day of battery life with today’s media-rich 3G smartphones is good, in my estimation.

Media Features/Camera

The 3.2 Megapixel camera on the Blackberry Storm takes fairly good photos. Nothing like the 5 megapixel images that come off the Nokia NSeries, but good nonetheless. The images captured are good enough to post on Facebook, however the colors are little dull.

One note about taking photos with the Storm, this phone is very slow when focusing and snapping photos. Hopefully this could be fixed with a firmware update, but taking photos on this device is a time-consuming activity.

Consuming media on the BB Storm is generally good. The device comes with 8GB of included storage and the device will allow expansion via a microSD slot. iTunes will be happy to know you can transfer your unlocked music to the Storm via a Blackberry software package.

GPS and VZNavigator

The Storm features on-board GPS for pin-point accuracy in navigation and routing. I’m used to Nokia Maps, which is a navigation utility found on the Nokia devices I trial. I was anxious to give VZNavigator, Verizon’s navigation software, a trial run as well.

To my surprise, VZNavigator was easy and fun to use. The GPS found my location quickly and I found the software to be intuitive and accurate. I think Verizon charges way too much for the VZNavigator service, but if you already are subscribed, the Storm is an excellent terminal for the navigation VZNavigator provides.


In summary, I’m not that impressed with the Blackberry Storm. The mainstay of any RIM device is messaging, and with this in mind, I cannot recommend the Storm for entering text and choosing options in an operating system. Sure, the Storm has a great looking screen and looks fabulous as an enterprise messaging phone, but the beauty of the device goes out the window when you actually try to utilize the device.

Another note: I wish the Storm came with Wi-Fi for data access. On my Nokia devices, when I am out of range of a cell signal or in a weak area, Wi-Fi makes for a snappy way to get online and carry out business.

However, opinions on the Storm vary. At my work, we just deployed about 100 Storm devices and overall users are happy with the device.

My opinion if you’re interested in the Storm – go to your local Verizon Wireless store and trial the device heavily. Also, keep in mind Verizon gives you a return period so exercise this option. If you get a Storm, test it heavily in those first 14 days.

5 comments on “TechCraver Review: BlackBerry Storm
  1. Thanks for the review. The Storm seems like it’s a good first try at a touchscreen phone for RIM but it definitely has some areas for improvement.

    Trying to type on my iPod Touch is horrible… if it’s a similar experience typing on the Storm then I definitely won’t be getting rid of my Blackberry with an actual keyboard.

  2. Pingback: Teknovis » Blackberry Storm

  3. No wifi? Hadn’t even realized that. What brand of browser is it? RIM’s own creation?

    What’s your favorite Blackberry device all around?

    We just got an iPhone 3G for my wife and she was also interested in a Blackberry. Ultimately though, the iPhone was $100 cheaper, the mobile web experience is far superior, and just easier to use all around I think.

  4. Has anyone actually found any tech support who knows ANYTHING about their international dialing? So far, I have had FOUR different suggestions from them, ranging from “you have to subscribe to another voice/data plan ad $69/mo” to “you need the international value plan at $3.99/mo” (come to find out, that is for dialing FROM the US to other countries), to two entirely different quotes for a per-minute fee when you are in another country. I still have no idea if I have to DO something before I leave to make it work in Europe! (I was told when I bought it that I do have the SIM card necessary, but I’d have to ‘activate’ something. But, no one at Verizon knows what or how to do that!)
    Has anyone actually DONE this?

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