Engadget reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Frustrating, inelegant, uncomfortable; a disappointment’

“The Storm is a striking device. From the second you lay eyes on it, it’s clear that a lot of time and care went into crafting this phone. The majority of the front panel is display… sitting just shy of flush with a silver bezel that runs around the sides, top, and bottom of the device. The bands seem to be plastic, not metal, and trace the outline of the moderately thick (0.55-inch) phone, looping around the back, while the rest of the surface is a high gloss, piano black plastic,” Joshua Topolsky reports for Engadget.

MacDailyNews Take: In other words, “It looks good because it’s mimicking Apple’s iPhone external looks.”

Topolsky continues, “It’s not completely rainbows and unicorns, however. We noticed backlight leaking in through the sides of the screen, which partially killed the continuity of the design (and had us raise eyebrows at build quality), and the screen sort of slides around when it’s pressed down and held. [The Storm] utilizes a completely unique ‘click’ technology called SurePress which actually allows you to click the screen down like a mouse button. The purpose of this technology, ostensibly, is to provide two aspects to touch screens which are currently lacking in most devices: the ability to ‘hover’ without selecting or moving an on-screen element, and the physical sensation of ‘clicking’ when you type or navigate. The Storm’s screen certainly provides those two things in spades, but our question is whether or not they actually improve the experience of using this sort of device — and in our opinion, they do not.”

“Unlike the iPhone, which is most certainly the closest competitor on the market to this phone, the Storm’s UI is not custom built for touch navigation — touch navigation is added after the fact. Things which flow naturally on an iPhone — flicking through lists, scrolling for a contact, moving around in a webpage or looking through photos — feel inelegant and uncomfortable on the Storm. There’s no inertia to movement, no assurance that your finger is the lynchpin to control of the device. The screen is sensitive enough, surely, but how its software reacts to those touches makes all the difference, and here the feeling is that you’re never completely in charge of the phone,” Topolsky reports.

“The slant from RIM’s PR on the Storm is that the new clickable touchscreen delivers another high caliber typist’s dream to their roster — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather than the click making things easier, it actually makes them more difficult. As you press down to engage a ‘key,’ you’re required to release before moving to another, which means that you can only type so quickly. In our tests, we were constantly frustrated by the staggering, laggy movement when trying to type with any speed. You have to let the click depress before you can strike another character, and that makes for a stuttery input process. Additionally, hovering over characters is represented by a blue glow, which looks nice when moving around, but in practice doesn’t do a very good job of letting you know what key you’re touching. We had spelling errors aplenty. All of this would be helped greatly by an intelligent software component that guessed what you meant to type — much like the iPhone’s predictive element. Unfortunately, what RIM provides is more of a glorified T9, which means if you type ‘fo,’ it doesn’t know you meant to type ‘do.’ Ultimately we found ourselves slowly and carefully pecking out messages that should have taken less time to put together, clicking screen or not,” Topolsky reports. “If speed isn’t a concern, you’ll probably find it manageable, but for BlackBerry addicts and those accustomed to typing on the iPhone, this will be a disappointment.”

“It’s clear from the device itself and the massive promotional push that both RIM and Verizon are giving the Storm that they view this as a proper threat to the iPhone’s dominance in the smartphone market. Over the last few weeks we’ve been bombarded with commercials, leaks, press releases, and special events all celebrating the arrival of the Storm,” Topolsky reports. “The only hitch in this plan is a major one: it’s not as easy, enjoyable, or consistent to use as the iPhone, and the one place where everyone is sure they have an upper hand — that wow-inducing clickable screen — just isn’t all that great… It feels undercooked — and that’s not enough for us.”

There’s much, much more in the full, very comprehensive review, including video – highly recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “scopie” for the heads up.]

Two for two, RIM. (See: PC World reviews RIM’s BlackBerry Storm: ‘Awkward, disappointing, a failed experiment’ – November 20, 2008)

At least it’s convenient that the company is based in Waterloo.


  1. Shame.

    You create the software first, then make the hardware do what the software demands. Simple concept.

    I have a friend who is actually going to trade in his iPhone. Dropped calls are starting to irritate him. I told him that I understand his situation but noticed that he email me from his phone using his MobileMe account. He’s a huge Baseball fan(Mets) and he really likes the MLB software from the App store and I pointed out that he can kiss functionality and productivity goodbye if he switches to another phone(regardless of what you CrackBerry users say). He’s yet to make the switch.

    Is the iPhone perfect?..Far from it. But it’s the closet one to perfection.

  2. @Conner

    My brother-in-law was one of those people until my father-in-law purchased and iPhone (and ditched his Blackberry). When he saw how easy it was to use, how joyful, how intuative — he couldn’t resist.

    He now has his iPhone and admits that I was right, all along, and that the iPhone is the best phone ever created.

    My point, you never know who will actually change their minds.

  3. I couldn’t care less what the Apple haters do or think. I’ve had an iPhone now for 16 months and couldn’t be any happier with it. After reading these reviews, I know it’s not worth even wasting any time looking at a Storm either.

  4. @Conner,

    Those types of people are the same ones that would rather drive a Ford Fairmont ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Fairmont ) because of some kind of sick grudge against Mercedes or BMW.

    It’s not that they are making a more informed choice about which product is better (provides more value to the customer), they have simply made a choice to not use anything Apple makes because they are idiots. Those types of people need to grab their safety-helmet, their Scooby-Doo lunchbox with the chocolate milk in the Thermos and get on the short bus because they clearly lack the intellectual capacity to be able to operate a vehicle, much-less select one with the best value. Or, they’re a paid shill for Microsoft in which case, they are whores.

    I say let them rot in their own ignorance / hatred.

  5. “Unlike the iPhone, which is most certainly the closest competitor on the market to this phone”

    Isn’t that statement backwards? iPhone is not competitor of anything else. There are iPhones, Imitators, and phones. The closest rivel of the iPhone 3g is the iPhone EDGE.

    Adding that SurePress or what ever, and those additional buttons on the lower front just to not look so much like the iPhone, Just make the device more vulnerable to weather. The iPhone is very resistant weather, I even drop it accidentaly in the water during the rain and the iPhone was still working fine. I bet the Crack Berry will not survive even the fog.

  6. Interesting, and I thought the Storm might be real competition. The most telling part of the review was that touch control was added after the fact. Whereas the iPhone is designed around the concept.

    So another also-ran bites the dust…

  7. I’ll say it again “9/10 times there is no competition”.
    People get hyped up whenever someone comes up with a low quality, half assed, derivative version of a great original product. What posesses these people to believe that this is ‘competition’? And they repeat it like monkeys “competition is good!” Well, if you can’t discern what actually makes someone a competitor, you shouldn’t use the phrase. If I decided to play basketball against Michael Jordan is someone going to say ” competition is good, this will only make Michael Jordan better”? These also-rans were only doing good in the face of no competition, and they weren’t innovating at all. This is painfully obvious when faced with the iphone, who is more than above average competition,
    it’s a steamroller.

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