Today’s smartphones can become complete messaging systems that keep the worker up to date and in touch with clients and coworkers. The Blackberry has long been considered one of the most complete messaging tools available and they have recently made great inroads into the marketplace as a result.
The newest Blackberry to come along is the Storm and a unique smartphone it is without even a keyboard to get in the way. Will the Blackberry Storm fill the needs of the average web worker or is it just fluff?
Let’s take a look at what it offers and kick the tires.
The Storm is a phone with a big screen that is all touchy-feely like the iPhone and foregoes a keyboard.
At the heart of the phone is the core Blackberry feature set which is probably the best messaging platform on the market. It’s important to not overlook that the Storm is a Blackberry at its core even though it is a nice bright shiny gadget like the iPhone. The messaging system works flawlessly as you would expect from a Blackberry and the web worker will soon fall in love with that system. The messaging encompasses email and there is a full IM offering on board that makes it a joy to keep in touch with team members.
It doesn’t matter if you use Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, AIM, Blackberry Messenger or Windows Live Messenger, the Storm has you covered. The notification system is ingrained into the Blackberry platform so if you get a message from a contact on any of these IM platforms the Storm will show an indication just like email. This makes sure you are never out of touch when you need to be there.
How does messaging work without a keyboard?
RIM has incorporated technology they call SurePress that provides an on-screen keyboard that provides tactile feedback. It’s not quite the same as typing on a phsyical phone keyboard but it’s pretty darn close and that’s where the magic comes into play. It feels so natural to type an email out on this tactile keyboard that you quickly forget you’re not pressing real keys because they feel real. In our evaluation we find that we create far more detailed email messages because the typing experience is so good.
When you use the Storm in horizontal orientation you get a full QWERTY keyboard with all the keys where you expect them. Type a message while holding the Storm vertically and you are presented with the Blackberry SureType keyboard which puts two letters on each key. This works surprisingly well as the Blackberry uses a predictive system that is uncanny in producing the correct word. We found we could quickly use this keyboard one-handed like any other phone.
The Blackberry Storm comes equipped with software from Dataviz which makes it possible to work with Office documents right on the phone. We all know how common an occurrence it is to get an email with a Word document attachment for example and with this software you can not only review Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents but you can edit them right on the phone. This makes the Storm a full work platform right out of the box.
Many web workers do a fair bit of traveling and the Blackberry Storm being released by Verizon is a full global communications device. Verizon includes a SIM in the box that provides voice and data capability while traveling abroad. You will never be out of touch with the Storm in your pocket.
The one area that Storm falls short for some is the lack of WiFi. RIM made a decision to not include the ability to work in WiFi hotspots and that may be a factor for some. The phone uses the excellent Verizon 3G network to forego the lack of WiFi but for those who work out of the coverage area it might not be enough. In our evaluation of the Storm in urban areas with 3G coverage the lack of WiFi has not been an issue but it’s something that each of us will have to consider.
We would have to say that the Blackberry Storm will certainly be a good communications solution for most web workers, based on our hands-on evaluation. It provides a full web browsing experience that almost rivals that of the iPhone and we find that pretty darn good. When you couple that with the Blackberry messaging capability we find the Storm to be a great solution for the professional.
The phone will run $199 with a two-year contract with Verizon when it’s released in the next day or so.
For a more thorough look at the Storm check out our review complete with video coverage of the phone over on jkOnTheRun.