BlackBerry Storm Makes Landfall

For months, rumors have swirled about BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's first-ever touch-screen smartphone and Apple iPhone rival. On Wednesday, rumor became reality when Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and RIM officially announced the BlackBerry Storm.

According to RIM, the BlackBerry Storm will be available later this fall exclusively to Verizon Wireless users in the U.S. and Vodafone users in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Pricing has not yet been announced.

Adding a touch-screen device to its BlackBerry arsenal is another sign that RIM is targeting both consumers and business-conscious users with its recent lineup of smartphones, which also include the oft-delayed BlackBerry Bold 9000 and the just-released BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220. BlackBerry's new cadre of devices deliver on the communications and global connectivity that is their cornerstone, but adds personal touches and multimedia capabilities.

RIM said the BlackBerry Storm, formerly known as the BlackBerry Thunder, features the world's first "clickable" touch-screen display, meaning it responds like a physical keyboard and supports single-touch, multitouch and gestures for efficient application navigation and easy and precise typing. The screen clocks in at 3.25 inches with 480 x 360 resolution at 184 ppi.

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The Storm, which measures 4.43 x 2.45 inx 0.55 inches and weighs 5.5 ounces, will operate on Verizon Wireless' high-speed 3G EV-DO Rev. A. network for Internet browsing and multimedia applications. In Vodafone territories, the Storm will also support 3G.

"The BlackBerry Storm is a revolutionary touch-screen smartphone that meets both the communications and multimedia needs of customers and solves the longstanding problem associated with typing on traditional touch screens," said RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis in a statement. "Consumers and business customers alike will appreciate this unique combination of a large and vibrant screen with a truly tactile touch interface."

What sets the BlackBerry Storm's touch screen apart is that it actually depresses slightly when the screen is pressed, allowing users to feel the motion, and is released with a click, similar to that of a physical keyboard or mouse button. The clickable screen gives users confirmation that they have made a selection.

While the device is mostly screen, the face features phone, menu and escape navigation keys. The BlackBerry Storm also adds support for multi-touches, taps, slides and other touch-screen gestures to enable highlighting, scrolling, panning and zooming. It also features a built-in accelerometer, which allows the touch screen to switch between landscape and portrait modes as the user rotates the handset. In portrait mode, users can type on a SureType keyboard, while in landscape mode the keyboard is a full QWERTY. The device also offers an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts backlighting for screen viewing.

While the device will operate on Verizon's 3G network in the U.S., it also offers global quad-band connectivity through EDGE/GPRS/GSM.

The BlackBerry Storm offers a full HTML browser that works in both portrait and landscape orientation. Icons along the bottom of the display enable accessing and switching between page view and column view; users can also toggle between pan and cursor modes. The browser supports file downloads, streaming audio and video, and built-in RSS support.

Like all BlackBerry devices, the Storm also delivers mobile e-mail and messaging, supporting both personal and corporate e-mail, SMS, MMS and instant messaging from most consumer and enterprise platforms. It also offers easy access to popular social networking sites like Facebook.

In addition, the BlackBerry Storm includes BlackBerry Internet Service, BlackBerry Unite, BlackBerry Professional Software and BlackBerry Enterprise Server support. It comes with preloaded DataViz Documents to Go, which lets users edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the handset.

The Storm ties in a 3.2-megapixel camera with variable zoom, auto focus and a flash that also provides continuous lighting while recording video.

Similar to other new BlackBerry models, the Storm offers built-in GPS for location-based services and geotagging of photos.

The device offers 1 GB of onboard memory storage and a microSD/SDHD memory card slot to support up to 16 GB of additional storage. The built-in media player can play movies in full-screen mode, display pictures and slideshows and manage music collections. The handheld also features a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and supports Bluetooth.

The removable and rechargeable 1400 mAhr batter offers six hours of talk time on 3G networks and 15 days of standby time.