RIM rarely veers away from its classic screen and Qwerty keypad combo which has done so well over many years. Making sure that it doesn't fall behind though, RIM has produced the BlackBerry Storm that features a touchscreen. But, unlike any other touchscreen, this one clicks.
Read our review to see if a clickable touchscreen is the best thing to ever be invented or if you're better off with the BlackBerry Bold. If by the end of the review you think you want a Storm, then you can pick one up from Vodafone for free on a monthly contract.
Whether or not you're a veteran BlackBerry user, the first time you see the Storm you'll want to try it out. Its large touchscreen invites you to touch it and a sleek, curvy design slips easily into a pocket.
Similar to the BlackBerry Bold the BlackBerry Storm feels like a quality product made up of a combination of metal and high-quality plastic. It's solid enough to take a few tumbles and isn't too heavy or too light.
While many touchscreen phone manufacturers seem to borrow heavily from the iPhone's design the Storm manages to retain a strong BlackBerry identity and fits in well with the rest of RIM's portfolio.
The Storm's large touchscreen is one of the brightest and sharpest we've seen so far, providing a great video viewing experience. As touchscreens go, the Storm's is responsive to even gentle taps but you need to click it fully in order to select an option.
At first we found the clickable screen difficult to get to grips with, particularly when texting because you need to click each key and that can slow things down -- eventually we got used to it. Compared to the iPhone the Storm's clickable screen is definitely slower to use.
If you desperately want to make the transition to a standard touchscreen but like using mechanical keys then this could be the halfway house you've been looking for. We're not convinced that it's the best touchscreen system out there and feel it can be clunky at times.
Another concern we have regarding the Storm's screen is that there's a gap around the edge so that it has enough space to pivot, which we think will get filled with dust and dirt after a while and may cause aesthetic damage.
We're very glad to see that there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side of the Storm making it simple to plug headphones straight in and start listening to music -- a feature we would like to see on many more phones.
One area of the Storm's design that we weren't overly keen on are the mute and lock keys at the top that curve in and aren't always easy to find in your pocket, which is annoying if you're trying to silence a call in the middle of a meeting.
The BlackBerry Storm runs a touchscreen version of the BlackBerry OS with necessary touchscreen additions, such as an-on-screen touchscreen keypad that can be set to be a standard 'Multitap' keypad, put into predictive 'SureType' mode or a full Qwerty keyboard.
When you hold the phone upright during texting you automatically get a standard or SureType or Multitap keypad and when you hold it sideways you get a full Qwerty one. We actually found the SureType (predictive) mode the easiest of the bunch and the full Qwerty took us a while to master.
RIM's attempt at porting the BlackBerry OS is far more finger-friendly than Windows Mobile on a touchscreen, featuring large icons so that you can tap them with ease. The interface is a little cluttered though and an overal simplification of the menu structure wouldn't go amiss.
Another change we would like to see made is that the accelerometer that changes the screen from landscape to potrait mode seems to be overly sensitive. On several occasions the screen put itself into landscape mode when we didn't want it to and occasionally froze.
An interesting addition to the menu is the Application Centre that allows you to access apps for the Storm, such as Flickr and Facebook, in a similar way to the iPhone's app store. It's straightforward to use and a sensible move by RIM.
In order to download apps you need to connect to the Internet which you can only do via HSDPA as disappointingly there's no Wi-Fi, which may annoy some users. If for example you want to stream video content 3G isn't always the best option.
The Storm's browser displays full pages which you can scroll through using your finger. Zooming in and out of pages has to be done using specific keys, which isn't as intuitive as the iPhone's pinch system and disappointingly there's no option to open a new tab or a new window.
In terms of the Storm's email capabilities it's fairly easy to set up but you may need to ask your IT administrator for help. The Storm supports BlackBerry Servers and Microsoft Exchange, in addition to Web-based email clients such as Yahoo Mail and Gmail.
The Storm's media player supports all the major formats and offers an interface that echoes the iPhone's, such as a scrolling list of songs, artists, etc. It's easy to play music or video and video footage looks fantastic on the Storm's large crisp screen.
Audio quality from the music player is loud an clear, made even better by the fact that you can plug your headphones straight in and don't need to use an adaptor. That said, it is a shame that the jack isn't at the top of the Storm instead of the side, which means the headphone pin sticks out.
If you get lost you can use the Storm's GPS with Google Maps or BlackBerry Maps to find your way. We found it fairly easy to pick up satellites, but it won't pick them up indoors of course.
Finally, at first we thought Storm's 3.2-megapixel camera performed
well and then we slowly started to realise that it wasn't the case all
of the time. In daylight it takes clear shots if you hold it very
still, but in lowlight conditions shots mostly came out looking blurry.
Battery life is quoted at 15 days standby and six hours using 3G. We found that with moderate use it lasted for around two days before needing to be recharged, which is impressive compared to certain other smart phones.
As we mentioned earlier, audio quality during music playback was great as is audio quality during calls. The loudspeaker is loud enough to use as a handsfree solution but you're better off using a Bluetooth headset.
The BlackBerry Storm is one of those phones that you'll love or hate. If you're someone who appreciates a mechanical keypad but yearns for a touchscreen then the Storm offers a middle of the road solution. However, in doing so it doesn't really manage to provide the best of either format.
We credit RIM for entering the touchscreen market and for adding something extra in the form of a clickable screen, but we're not convinced that this is RIM's best phone yet. While it's better than a lot of toushcreen phones out there, it's definitely not perfect.Edited by Cristina Psomadakis