Test Center review: BlackBerry Storm bridges business and lifestyle
The first touchscreen BlackBerry pairs RIM's familiar enterprise strengths with superior ease of use, but Wi-Fi goes missingFollow @infoworld
E-mail attachments can be viewed on the BlackBerry Storm without being bounced to a server. Attachments can be saved to flash memory and transferred via USB, or attached to outbound messages. Images and video shot with the onboard camera, a 3.2-megapixel device with optical auto-focus and a very bright LED lamp (I was able to shoot an analog clock from 15 feet away in total darkness), can be saved to flash memory or sent via e-mail or Multimedia Message Service.
RIM got perspective rotation absolutely right. All the BlackBerry Storm's applications, including the entire library of existing BlackBerry and Java MIDP software, operate in portrait and landscape mode without having to be rewritten for it. Screen orientation flips easily and only when you want it to, unlike the iPhone and Touch Diamond, which sometimes have trouble figuring out which way is up.
Voice dialing, multistandard IM that runs in the background, and a loud speakerphone are not afterthoughts or accessories. Updates and software are delivered over the air without requiring a connection to a PC or Mac. BlackBerry Desktop will manage the BlackBerry Storm entirely by Bluetooth. This app is available only for Windows. It runs fine under Boot Camp's Windows on the Mac (and should run fine in a VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop Windows virtual machine).
Driving the Storm
If you've seen one icon-grid home screen, you've seen them all, and flick to scroll is everywhere as well. The BlackBerry Storm does pop-up menus, so you don't have to chase back to Settings to change app-specific parameters. A convenience button on the left side brings up an app switcher. The BlackBerry runs software in the background, and every so often, conflicts within and among apps will lock up the handset. This is one of a handful of issues that will make Storm users glad for Verizon's over-the-air firmware updates.
[ Does the iPhone beat the BlackBerry for business? See "iPhone 3G's enterprise scores are in" and "iPhone OS 2.2 update doesn't fix key business flaws." ]
The BlackBerry Storm's on-screen keyboards operate like real BlackBerry keys. You glide your thumbs across until you get to your key, then press it down for a satisfying click. Buttons and menu items light up under your finger, so you know where your click is going to land. You never lift your finger off the screen to tap, so both one-handed and two-thumbed operation are easy. The Storm's whole touchscreen is one big button, like the new Mac notebooks' touchpads.
Gliding around the screen is not a metaphor for a pointing device. There is no cursor, although something like it is sorely needed for positioning and selection in text fields. I recommend choosing a larger system font, a setting that the BlackBerry Storm applies globally (thus, the BlackBerry is the best choice for those with imperfect vision) to make buttons and other controls larger and easier to hit.