ZDNet reviews BlackBerry Storm2: RIM needs to dump the SurePress screen and get a new OS

“On Monday, Research in Motion quietly announced the successor to the world’s first touchscreen BlackBerry handset: the BlackBerry Storm2. With consideration to the tall expectations that faced its innovative but maligned predecessor at launch, the bungled announcement was a strange move,” Andrew Nusca reports for ZDNet.

“The Storm met considerable criticism once it launched. The clicky SurePress screen was prohibitively useful in regular use, the device omitted Wi-Fi altogether and it simply didn’t compare to the king of smartphones: Apple’s iPhone 3G… That was exactly one year ago,” Nusca reports. “Since then, the smartphone landscape has changed considerably. The iPhone, now in its third incarnation, still reigns king.”

Nusca reports, “I’ve spent a lot of time recently with Apple, Palm and Android-based products, so I was able to use that experience to contrast with that of the Storm2.”

“The Storm2 is a hodgepodge of innovative technology and stale holdovers,” Nusca reports. “The build quality of the device is top-notch… [but] the SurePress interface, much improved, remains a toss-up… I’m not a fan of devices with physical QWERTY keyboards, and I believe preserving mechanical input is a habit that will be dropped over time. I also understand it’s a matter of preference for most folks… Resistive input, for all but niche uses, is dead (sorry, Windows Mobile), and physical keyboards are a mental safety net for those who fear true ‘touch.'”

MacDailyNews Take: Bingo.

Nusca reports continues, “When using the Storm2, I alternated the entire time between thinking ‘this is unique, cool and a differentiating feature’ to ‘I wish the input was transparent, simple touch so I could get on with what I want to do.’ The touch response on the Storm2 is better than any Android phone to date, but the requirement of a click to take action is an extra step that’s neither any more accurate than touch-only nor particularly comfortable. If you ignore the stopgap input method, the Storm2 is really a middling, albeit speedy, smartphone. It’s friendly to business users thanks to its excellent integration with the enterprise, but the operating system itself — even in its latest version, 5.0 — isn’t at all optimized for touch.”

MacDailyNews Take: Hence the need to have that ill-conceived clickable screen; the BlackBerry OS requires those constant clicks.

Nusca continues, “The Web browser remains a frustrating experience. The swipe-to-scroll was nice, but the click-to-zoom was endlessly frustrating, and the amount of steps it takes to perform simple tasks — such as type in a Web address — are reprehensible for such a high-profile device… Further, the small text fields and other clickable objects were a pain to use via the Storm2’s touch-click method of input. The keyboard remains a mixed bag, mostly for the worse. While the horizontal keyboard spaces letters, numbers and characters out individually, the vertical keyboard continues to combine pairs of characters — so a typical Q|W|E|R|T|Y|U|I|O|P set of keys looks like so: QW|ER|TY|UI|OP. No matter how I tried, be it consciously or habitually, I could not get the Storm2 to reliably type things without mistakes.”

Nusca reports, “I believe the company needs to drop its innovative SurePress mechanical-touch input for a strictly capacitive touch interface… I also believe RIM needs to redesign BlackBerry OS from the ground up for a touch-only interface.”

There’s much more in the full review – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: When a smartphone review ends suggesting that its input method be dropped and its OS redesigned from the ground up, it’s safe to say that the maker has major problems. If, prompted by iPhone’s 2007 debut, RIM has not been working on a real touch OS that’s close to being ready, then, mark our words, they are roadkill, regardless of their current market share position.

Oh, what’s this? Look what our jam-packed iCal just spat out:
Apple realizes that RIM is releasing a major offering that could shake Steve Jobs and Co. to its core… Say what you will, but Apple is scared. And it should be… Even though Apple created this category and revolutionized the market, RIM just one-upped the founders, and Apple knows that… The iPhone was cool, up until yesterday. But today, there’s a new phone in town, and if you ask me, it just took the title.CNET Hit-Whore Don Reisinger, on the occasion of RIM’s BlackBerry Storm’s debut, November 21, 2008


  1. I stopped by the Verizon store by chance and there it was…the Storm 2. I was surprised to see it because there was not much buzz about the actual release date. I picked it up and it felt just like the first mess. The text input was slightly better and was fast going app to app. I was there in the morning and Verizon had yet to activate the demo so I could not check out the browser. RIM has to go all in on touch or not at all. This half touch and half traditional BB OS is not cutting it and will ruin its reputation. If there is ever a Storm 3 or a completely new BB touch device they need to get it right.

  2. As a frame of reference on this topic, I recently upgraded to the Blackberry Tour, and the experience left me pondering why so many solution providers (RIM in this case) confuse delivering a bunch of ‘chicken parts’ with producing an actual, living, breathing chicken.

    I blogged on the experience, and would only caveat that I am a happy Verizon customer, a Mac user, an enthusiastic iPod Touch owner and was replacing a BB 7130e with the Tour:

    iPhone Killers, Blackberries and Chicken Parts

    Check out the post if interested.


  3. @iCal and jaundiced

    I wish it were that cool, but no. When some dumb pundit who has never produced anything useful in his/her life says something stupid, MDN records it in their iCal Calendar and sets the notification to remind them of the quote one year later. That way we can all laugh at how stupid they are.

    It’s quite fun, but not as fun as you thought it was.

  4. I know you want to hear my theory, so here it is. BBY wants its “touch” products to suck. Why? because there are probably thousands of current BBY users who will go in and try the Storm and realize “this thing sucks, I need a physical keyboard” and therefore never consider an iPhone. The crappy Storm clickscreen actually taints the touch experience. If their customers finally experienced anything as organic as an iPhone interface, they might actually start comparing the other features and realize how badly they are being ripped off by RIM and turn to a clearly superior device. There really is NO reason anyone should chose any Blackberry over an iPhone (other than carrier).

  5. @iCal, jaundiced, Dallas:

    – you can do a search within iCal as well, so I think MDN ad an event on the day they get they read a quote, label it something like ‘Blackberry Quote’ and put the whole quote in the comments / Notes field in iCal

    – then, when they have a Blackberry article to publish, they use iCal’s search function to find all events labelled something like ‘Blackberry Quote’, scroll through the list of found quotes and copy & paste the relevant quote, noting the day of the quote

    – of course, all of the above can be accomplished with any database system (I recommend Filemaker Pro), but for convenience, iCal is great if you put the quote in an event on the day the quote came out and do searches as above…

    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”cool smile” style=”border:0;” />

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