BlackBerry Faithful Gather For The Storm

BlackBerry Storm smart phone hit stores today

The line started forming around 5:30 a.m., a full 2 ½ hours before the store opened its doors. By the time the store opened, a queue of nearly 70 people had formed, drawn in by the hype surrounding the BlackBerry Storm. While the Storm launch paled in comparison to the throngs of Apple-heads that camped out and lined the streets when the Apple iPhone 3G went live in July, the turnout easily trumped last month's launch of the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1, proving once and for all that BlackBerry users are loyal to their beloved devices.

As buyers walked into the store, they were handed flyers with numbers written on them. The numbers indicated in which order they would be able to purchase the device. When their number was called, they met one on one with a Verizon rep who got them set up with the long awaited smart phone.

According to a Verizon employee, that specific store had 100 Storms in stock for the day, but would get more in on Saturday and each day after as needed, quelling fears that there would be a BlackBerry Storm shortage due to a the device having to be re-flashed to fix a last minute security flaw found in the operating system.

The Storm is BlackBerry's official shot across the bow of the Apple iPhone 3G, and the folks waiting to be one of the first to get one knew it.

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Along with going head-to-head against the iPhone, the Storm also pits BlackBerry in direct competition with other touch screen titans like the T-Mobile G1, the HTC Fuze from AT&T and the LG Incite.

"It's something new, it's the latest and greatest," said Mitch, who was the second in line and the first to actually leave the store with the hot handheld; already tapping away at the "clickable" touch screen, which depresses slightly and makes an audible click as the user makes selections. Mitch said he lined up around 5:45 a.m. He walked out almost 3 hours later. For Mitch, the Storm is his third BlackBerry and an upgrade from the Curve he used until today.

For Vaso, who is known in BlackBerry circles as "Big V Dawgy," the Storm is his second BlackBerry, also replacing his Curve. He said his 2 ½ hour wait was well worth it to finally own one of the most coveted devices in BlackBerry's 10-year history.

"They simplify your life, if you don't get too addicted," he said, leaving the Verizon store with Mitch.

As the Storm-hungry masses awaited their turn, Verizon employees strolled the sales floor showing off the device, demonstrating everything from the keyboard, email integration and multimedia functions; all the while flipping the device from vertical to horizontal to change the view from portrait to landscape mode. Every inch of counter space and every cash register was in use as dozens of Verizon employees attended to the BlackBerry buyers.

The Storm, which operates exclusively on Verizon's 3G network in the U.S., ties in all of BlackBerry's email, 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.

Bob Gold, who showed up around 7:15 a.m., and was given the honor of being the 21st person to buy the Storm, arrived early anticipating a mob scene.

"I expected this was going to be crazy, like a new Xbox or Nintendo," Gold said, adding he was pleasantly surprised by how organized the BlackBerry Storm launch was.

For Gold, the Storm will replace his now archaic BlackBerry 7130 and from now one, he'll no longer have to carry two devices -- his cell phone and his 7130 -- to stay connected.

"I'm still three stages behind on my device, so this is a step up," he said, adding that the multimedia functions were a big draw for him to pick the Storm as his device upgrade. The lack of Wi-Fi connectivity, Gold said, shouldn't be a problem.

While Gold is excited about the Storm's multiband capabilities, he said he's a bit apprehensive about the touch-screen capabilities, noting that the learning curve is probably going to be a week or so.

Around 8:45 a.m., a Verizon rep called No. 20.

"I'm next," Gold said.