StormWatch: New BlackBerry launches to mild thunderous applause

Due to hit the stores on the 14th, the BlackBerry Storm comes to us as their first full touch screen phone as if you were weren’t already aware.

What you might not be aware of is that instead of the phone being a RIM handset exclusive to Vodafone in Blightly and Verizon in the US of A, it was purposely built for them both.

Jointly, both carriers approached what appears to be a number of handset manufactures with a set of ideas for a phone exclusively for them.

When the norm, from our understanding is the reverse in nearly all the cases that we are aware of. With the possible exceptions being phones designed as an OEM venture, we’re thinking here of the SPV range on Orange from HTC. Still, in that case the phones manufacture loses its naming rights on the product but here you can clearly see it’s BlackBerry.

The remit we were told at the Storms event by Vodafone was that it needed to be a killer multimedia device, with an intuitive interface and that it ‘just works’.

Oddly enough the press launch was at the rear of the largest Apple store in Europe. Do we read something into that ? Yes, why not.

RIM wanted to move away from the old style resistant touch screens seen on the average touch screen phone seen around today, to a much more newer approach with this handset.

They also wanted, to quote RIM here ‘the navigation and confirmation associated with a mouse on a PC, where you move the mouse for navigation and click on a button for the confirmation’. This they began to introduce with the tracker ball found in the Pearl series and have now appeared to incorporate this philosophy in the Storm.

On board there is what’s known as a capacitive touch screen. This in its basic terms it means that no pressure is needed on the screen for an action to register – but this will only highlight the icon, for an example. This is coupled with a mechanically suspended screen, in which you do actually need to press down upon to action said icon. So there is resistance felt in each and every case, from typing to running an application to really anything really that needs to be done. Collectively these two are known as SurePress, RIM’s trademarked technology name for the both together.

Honestly, to see this in action and to use is a breath of fresh air for touch screen phones. It’s a shame that this deal is a life time exclusive to Vodafone and Verizon. All we can hope for is that this will transpire into another BlackBerry series at a later date.

On board they’ve bundled in 6 of the most popular instant message clients, with access to 10 of the most commonly used email services. Their Facebook client is a nice concept, which works along the lines of a push email based service. Here the user is notified on various activities and updates when they happen, a good feature for those of us who live life via FB status updates.

They’ve opened up the OS to have applications developed for them, which was first aired at the recent RIM developer’s conference. Here they are expecting many applications to be worked upon for the phone and others too. Think of Apple app store and you’ll have some idea of where they’re going with this.

There has been some criticism of late over the Storms battery life in the press, with its 6 hours talktime and 15 days in standby. We can see how many can be bothered by this by saying it won’t last a single day in use. Although we’re sure they’ll be benchmarks soon on how long it lasts in a real life situation, so stay tuned folks.

It’s missing WIFI, as we’re sure you’re all aware by now. As Vodafone are proud boys over their HSDPA network and wanted that to be the focus instead. A killer function we’ve always considered for good high speed networks is video calling and something we’re getting more and more into. So when we noticed there wasn’t a camera on its front we were puzzled. Vodafone’s response was “the iPhone doesn’t have one either”, which came out quite churlish.

Of course it’s going to be compared to the iPhone and who are we to disappoint by not bringing you some comparisons. In dimensions it’s 112.5 x 62.2 x 13.95 mm and 155g, with the Apple offering being 115.5 x 62.1 x12.3 mm and 133 grams. All of which means there isn’t too much of a muchness in physical difference.

The screen however is a different matter. We’ve already mentioned one part, and now how it looks. RIM’s offering is 480 x 360 and the iPhone, 480 x 320 with much lesser pixels per inch. Overall making the Apple handset appear to be less distinct in how you see a lot of the content. This is especially when viewing video as compared to the Storm, which does really shine here.

On the subject of content, there’s of course the Vodafone online music store which is adequate. Where they’re sadly lacking, and almost admitted by their silence on the matter is video. For us, the screen that size excels in displaying video and it’s just a shame Vodafone doesn’t have much of a content portal for that offering.

However, the desktop manager for the BlackBerry does have a form of Roxio built in. Meaning that you’ll be able to convert content for the Storm, which will just show up Vodafone’s lack of style in this matter.

Also, if you weren’t aware there is such a beast as a BlackBerry Media Sync for getting your iTunes on to the device. It first came to light we believe with the Bold and will be available for the Storm too.

It also appears there’s only going to be a 1GB microSD card accompanying the device, where we’ve been told that Verizon will be shipping 4GB. This is despite Vodafone highlighting that video content can be put on to the device as their own portal is inadequate. OK, then where Vodafone? With only 1GB to play with.

There will be a plethora of tariffs to suit all pockets, range from £25 with the phone costing £99 and starting from £35 with the phone being free.

Watch out for more of our thoughts on the handset as we get our grubby little hands on it soon, but for the time being we’re fairly happy with the consumer device.

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