The ability to mechanically click the entire screen (RIM calls the feature Click-Through technology) is the centerpiece of the BlackBerry Storm's touch interface. As with the iPhone, you can scroll and select by dragging and tapping with your fingertip. But to initiate action, instead of double-tapping, you confirm a selection by physically depressing or clicking the screen.
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Four hardware buttons at the bottom offer additional -- and traditional -- BlackBerry and phone navigation aids: Red and green phone buttons for accessing phone features and ending calls, a button with the BlackBerry icon for accessing menus, and a return button.
Due for the holidays
The Storm should be available from Verizon Wireless in time for the holidays, RIM and Verizon officials said during a press tour earlier this week. But they did not specify an exact shipping date or price.
The device will support Verizon's EvDO Rev. A network (where available) in the United States, but it will also be able to roam internationally on high-speed GSM networks (in Europe, on Verizon stakeholder Vodafone's network). The Storm also supports both assisted and standard GPS (assisted GPS works with the cellular network to speed up location fixes) and Bluetooth. However, unlike the iPhone, it does not support Wi-Fi.
While the Storm dispenses with RIM's signature QWERTY hardware keyboard in favor of a capacitive touch-screen interface, it's clearly no iPhone clone. RIM's device is both shorter (4.4 inches versus the iPhone's 4.5 inches) and thicker (0.55 inch versus the iPhone's 0.48 inch) than Apple's; the touch-screen is also somewhat smaller (the iPhone's is 3.5 inches, while the Storm's is 3.25 inches). Nevertheless, the display's 360-by-480 resolution looks pretty sharp at that size.
Also making a good first impression is the 3.2-megapixel camera with autoflash, autofocus, 2X digital zoom, and video-capture support.
The Storm weighs nearly 5.5 ounces versus the iPhone's 4.7 ounces, perhaps because it carries radios for both major cellular networks (Verizon's CDMA/EvDO and the GSM/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA technology for Vodafone in Europe and elsewhere). Verizon officials say it supports even more countries than the carrier's last world BlackBerry, the BlackBerry 8830, because this model has quad-band EDGE versus the 8830's two-band. Note, however, that the Storm supports only the fastest GSM networks (UMTS/HSDPA) on the 2,100MHz band.