The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week made sure all we were able to think about was mobile phones. This big show seemed quieter than in years past but we still saw lots of news appear about the littlest handheld computer, the lowly cell phone. My grabbing of the BlackBerry Storm had the typical affect on my time as it seemed I spent an inordinate amount of this week playing working with the keyboard-less BlackBerry. Come on in and visit and I’ll share my week with you.
The BlackBerry Storm is one of those phones that generates waves of love or spasms of hate in those who talk about it. It’s something that has amused me since its release late last year because there is no middle ground with the Storm. You either really like the phone or you wish it could be wiped off the face of the earth.
I didn’t have any real problems with the Storm when I did my initial evaluation back at launch time. I found it innovative with the SurePress touch-screen technology and while it had its faults I found them no more annoying than those of any new phone. The time I spent doing that evaluation made it clear that I could be happy using the Storm full time.
Verizon let me pick one up for my own for a cheap price with all the various long-time customer discounts. That is the only reason I picked up one for my own. While I like the Storm the last thing I needed is another phone. :)
Since bringing the Storm into Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) I now have (and use) the flagship phone for three different phone carriers. There’s the Storm on Verizon, the G1 on T-Mobile and the iPhone on AT&T. I must be crazy you’re probably thinking. Heck, even I think I’m crazy. In spite of the madness I find it gives me a unique perspective on smartphone technology as all three phones are vastly different, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I can feel what each phone maker is trying to accomplish and also see where each falls short.
I have been using the BlackBerry Storm as my main phone every day this week to see how well it would serve that purpose. This turned out to be surprisingly easy to do as the Storm is a very capable smartphone. The only function I do on my phones that was a showstopper when I first got the Storm was reading ebooks.
It’s no surprise to anyone that I read ebooks almost exclusively on my phones. The phone (no matter which phone I use) is always with me and I can read during any unexpected free time which is important to me. The eReader application runs on many platforms so switching phones is normally not a big deal, I can just carry on with my reading. This was a problem with the Storm as there is no BlackBerry version of eReader and believe it or not this was enough to hamper my ability to use it as my main phone for any length of time.
I asked the Fictionwise folks (makers of eReader) when they would have a version of the program for the BlackBerry and was informed that the beta version of the new app would be out shortly. They let me grab the latest beta and my problem with the Storm was resolved. It’s definitely a first beta of the reader application but works well enough that I am happily reading on the Storm. This let me carry the Storm full-time as my main phone which I’ve done all week. I should point out that the T-Mobile G1 still has no version of eReader so I can’t read books on that phone. This will be rectified by the summer when an Android version of eReader is due to appear.
One of the first mods I made to the Storm was loading up the RIM OS version .103. This is not supplied by Verizon so in that regard it is unofficial but is widely available on the web. I normally wouldn’t hack the OS on a phone like this but this new version is produced by RIM so it’s a “real” update in that regard. I was pushed to upgrade by countless recommendations I got from folks who had applied this update and indicated it was worth it.
The upgrade went as expected and I must say the Storm is blazing fast since I did it. It wasn’t slow before but now there is no noticeable lag at any time no matter what I’m doing on the phone. Screen rotation is immediate and the phone is faster at all times, faster than any other phone I use. I strongly recommend that Storm owners who decide to follow suit with the upgrade that you check out the Crackberry forums for full details and instructions before you embark down that path.
I have been trying out a lot of different programs on the Storm this week, something I do with every new phone. It is a lot of fun which is why I do it plus it helps me tailor the working experience with the phone, something I firmly believe is a good thing. I shared my favorite programs already so you can check that out if you have a Storm.
The Storm has worked well as a full-time phone, even given my big web usage. The built-in browser works great on the big screen of the Storm and I find it fast on the Verizon EV-DO network. The only thing I wish I could change was using Google Reader to work with my RSS feeds. The mobile version of Reader works OK but I really miss the nice iPhone version. That version is more functional and lets me get through a massive quantity of feeds more quickly than the basic mobile version. I’ve tried to use the iPhone version on the Storm but it won’t work, it tries but won’t display the feeds and eventually hangs up.
The browser works as well as Safari on the iPhone for the most part and I don’t miss using the iPhone for that reason. Sure I miss the pinch and zoom functionality of the iPhone but the Storm’s browser can zoom with a simple double-tap on the screen so it’s no big deal. Hanging out in the Storm owner’s forums tells me that the browsing experience varies for some which I don’t fully understand. Some Storm owners find the browser to be so slow, maybe on particular web sites, that they use Opera Mini instead.
I installed Opera Mini to see how well it works on the Storm and as it is on other phones Opera is blazing fast on the Storm. It works very well but it’s not integrated with the Storm’s on-screen keyboard which drives me batty. I have to manually invoke and hide the on-screen keyboard in Opera Mini and eventually I just go back to the Storm’s own browser. It’s not quite as fast as Opera but fast enough for me.
I’ve been asked how I manage having three different phone carriers which is a fair question. Three carriers means three different phone numbers and that could quickly become a logistical nightmare. I handle it as simply as I can, I only give out and actively use one of those phone numbers. It’s the AT&T (iPhone) number if you must know. That makes it easy to simply forward the number to whatever phone I’m carrying on a given day. I’ve had no problems working this way for a couple of years. The iPhone settings make it easy to forward calls and it hasn’t failed yet. The hardest part of having three active phones is remembering to keep them all charged. :)
Last weekend I wrenched my back and dealing with that limited my mobility this week. I’ve had two surgeries on my back in the past and just have to live with this sort of thing. It kept me rooted in my home office in my chair with lumbar support so I didn’t get out running around very much. That gave me more time playing with the Storm, truth be told.
eBook of the week
This week I broke in eReader on the Storm by returning to the Sten series I started in weeks past. Book 3 is Court of a Thousand Suns and it finds our hero Sten back in empire shenanigans and is quite entertaining.
That’s all folks
That’s a recap of my week. Sorry it’s been all Storm but you know how it is when you get a cool new phone. I am very pleased with how well the Storm works in daily use and while YMMV on any given phone I’m happy with it. Until next week…