It's Official: BlackBerry Storm In Stores Next Week

Andrew R. Hickey

On its Web site Thursday morning, Verizon not only announced the release date of the coveted device, but added that the handheld will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Verizon added that there will be a $35 activation fee,and a $25 fee for each secondary Family SharePlan line with a two-year agreement. Verizon has also detailed several international service plans and rates for the Storm, which is designed to operate on networks in a host of other countries outside the U.S.

The price puts the 3G BlackBerry Storm, which is exclusive to Verizon Wireless in the U.S., in the same price range as other 3G touch-screen titans. The Storm will cost the same as the 8-GB model of the Apple iPhone 3G and $20 more than the T-Mobile G1, the first device built on the open-source Google Android operating system.

Since it was announced last month, the BlackBerry Storm has sparked speculation and rumors about exactly when it would hit stores and how much it would cost. The device follows a recent string of hot devices from BlackBerry, which includes the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 and the soon-to-be-released BlackBerry Curve 8900, also known as the BlackBerry Javelin, which could be in stores by Thanksgiving.

Many see the Bold and the Storm as the most advanced devices in BlackBerry's 10-year history, but the short time between their releases has prompted some to wait to buy a BlackBerry Bold to see what the Storm has to offer.

Earlier this week, BlackBerry launched an online user guide for the Storm, to give potential buyers a sneak peek at the device before they buy it. Best Buy also stirred excitement by launching an in-store pre-order for the smartphone for a $50 refundable deposit.

The Storm ties in all of BlackBerry's e-mail, calendaring, messaging and mobile Web capabilities, along with a host of multimedia capabilities like GPS, video, music and more. It also features a 3.2-megapixel camera with zoom, flash and video-recording capabilities. But the main draw of the Storm is its "clickable" touch-screen that makes an audible clicking sound and depresses slightly as users type on the touch-sensitive display.

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