First Look: BlackBerry Storm

the just released BlackBerry Storm (9530)

As is well known by now, the uniqueness of the Storm lies in how it utilizes touch. Besides the expected response as your finger slides across the screen, selections are made by pressing the actual screen down. RIM's theory is that this gives the user a feeling of pressing real keys on a keyboard and the safety net of not pressing keys accidently. While the second part of that statement is true, we'd have to debate the first.

This isn't to say that SurePress (which is RIM's trademarked name for the feature) is bad, just different. Gently gliding a finger over the bright and vivid screen highlights the icons below. When the chosen selection glows blue, a quick press on the screen launches the chosen application. It doesn't necessarily have the same feel as a real keyboard, but it is useful just the same.

For the most part, using SurePress is intuitive. One aspect we weren't pleased with is that you must first move your finger over the selection so it is highlighted, and then lift it off the screen before pressing down again. This is an extra step that we feel should not be necessary. Hopefully RIM will rectify that in a future firmware upgrade. Once aware of how it functions though, it becomes almost second nature.

There is a little bit of a learning curve in using SurePress, but after using it for a little while, it did become easier. Basically, some people are going to love it and others will hate it. It's all a matter of tastes. For the record, overall, we liked it.

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Although its lack of Wi-Fi is a problem for many, as Verizon Wireless' first Smartphone to support EVDO Rev. A, the Storm's Internet connection is fast. One thing that took some getting used to is the touch functionality of the browser.

Scrolling is accomplished, predictably, by sliding a finger in the direction you want the screen to go. What goes against expectations is that when the screen is pressed down, the display zooms to the selected area of the webpage. In order to click on a link, you must first bring up the cursor, and then press the link. On the other hand, using the browser's cursor is fairly satisfying. Instead of moving directly below your fingertip, the arrow hovers above it. This makes it very easy to see exactly where it is pointing.

Although the Storm has various multimedia applications, it is first and foremost a BlackBerry. And with that distinction comes the enterprise functionality the brand is known for. Our initial impression of the device is positive. There are some quirks that will most likely be ironed out, but none that we feel is a deal breaker. Only time will tell how successful the model will be with users.