The Storm Arrives: Is It Just A Drizzle?

The Blackberry Storm will be available on 11/21 in the U.S. It’s getting some early reviews and they’re a mixed bag. Will this be an “iPhone killer”, will it have similar problems that the Bold encountered, or at the end of the day is it just another Blackberry (not that that’s a bad thing)? 

A couple of things I’ve gathered so far that are worth emphasizing: 

  • Everyone talks about it costing $200 in the U.S. with a two-year Verizon contract, but the real cost is $250. That’s what they’ll take from you, that’s what you’ll see coming out of your bank account, and that’s what’s gonna be on your receipt. Afterwards, if you tackle the paperwork and wait a month or two, they’ll send you a $50 debit card in the mail.
  • Data/Voice plans appear on a par with AT&T and others (around $70/month), but keep in mind the visual voice mail Verizon offers is an additional $3 a month. 
  • Turn by turn directions are available, but that’s another $10 a month. 
  • For Mac users, there’s no updated MacMediaCenter app available yet to move media to the device. 
  • No Wi-Fi. Verizon says it would just eat up battery life, but that’s wrong; Wi-Fi uses less juice than 3G. 

The first review I read (well, mostly watched, since it’s primarily two videos that run nearly 25 minutes) was from jkOnTheRun. The review is positive (actually, gushing would be a more apt word). Yet, at one point the author talks about how smoothly things scroll as he scrolls through the icons, but I can see very well they’re not scrolling very smoothly. The author stated a couple times that he hasn’t had a chance to use it much yet, so I’ll be interested in his opinion after his use of the device for a few days.

Another review is from Silicon Alley Insider. This review at least had the benefit of them actually trying to use the device, and some of their comments are enlightening: 

To type with its touchscreen, you have to press pretty hard, and “click” the keys. This offers a nice effect when you’re clicking the large buttons on RIM’s navigational menu. But for typing text, it’s a hassle that forces you to slow down your typing speed or risk missing keystrokes. We don’t like it yet, and we’re not sure if most people will.

The above is particularly important because the touch screen is part of the Storm’s claim to fame. If it’s not good for typing, this phone could be in trouble. Of course, different people react differently to various typing mechanisms, so I’m anxious to see if any kind of consnsus forms on this issue. 

We are gadget-savvy, yet we had a very hard time setting up our IMAP email on the Storm. In fact, we got so frustrated that we gave up, and just registered a new Verizon BlackBerry email address. (Seriously!)

Ouch! DId Blackberry forget usability on this thing? Setting up IMAP should not be tough. 

The UI graphics are lousy. Scrolling by flicking your finger is still much smoother and more natural feeling on an iPhone — the Storm’s response is slow and laggy. And some things are downright clunky on the Storm. For instance, you can’t even read the entire text of many of the buttons on the phone’s “home” screen, such as “SMS and M…” and “VZ Naviga…” and “Visual Voic…”

The above seems to confirm what I saw on the jkOnTheRun video. To be sure, some of this may not mean anything to some users, but for others it’s all a part of the experience of working on the device. Jerky scrolling and unfinished icon names can make for a weak user experience. 

Finally, here’s an article that summarizes various comments from Vodaphone users in Europe (who’ve already had the Storm available for a week): 

Blackberry is sold as a “business person’s phone”, but the new handset cannot handle the BES… This has resulted in businesses with an enterprise server not being able to use the e-mail feature. 

So this isn’t going to fly out the doors for business users who want an iPhone-like device. While it seemed to me the Storm was more consumer-oriented, I’m still quite surprised Blackberry doesn’t allow BES on the thing just yet.

Customers are reporting that fully charged batteries, having been charged more than once, running out after 20 minutes of calls and web browsing. 

Who knows how prevalent this is, but if it’s any indication of real battery life it’s a good thing you can swap the battery ’cause you’ll need to carry three of them with you. 

In short, what I’ve read so far leads me to believe that the Storm — after it gets a few bugs worked out — may be just what people need if they want to (or have to) stay with Verizon and also desire a “high-end” touchscreen smartphone. Perhaps a bigger question would be how long it will take to get any bugs worked out, but if you’re happy with your AT&T iPhone or Blackberry Bold I’m not sure there’s anything here to consider switching too. 

In any case, it’s much too early to tell how the Storm will actually perform, or even how Blackberry will react if there are any issues. I suspect in the next couple weeks there’ll be plenty more reviews rolling in, and we’ll see how close these first hit the mark.