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The Multimedia BlackBerry Storm

The new BlackBerry Storm from Verizon Wireless is a heretical abomination, abandoning the dedicated "crackberry" keyboard that stressed the thumbs of communications-obsessed executives in favor of focusing on multimedia features.

Instead of a physical keyboard, the Storm has a large 3 1/4 inch screen that covers the front surface of the device, with a new "clickable" touch-screen design -- You actually feel the screen depressing and releasing like a keyboard, with a subtle "click" sound.

So does how well does it work? Well, it's clear that David Pogue was not thrilled with the Storm, calling it "... by far the worst product Research in Motion has ever produced. I had problems with its concept, problems with its clicky touch screen, problems with its speed, and above all, problems with bugs." Ouch!

Yes, the software is sluggish, so you wait for seconds for it to switch from portrait to landscape orientation. And the clickable touch-screen can be aggravating, as you can touch gently to scroll and pan and zoom, but then need to remember to press extra hard to click icons and keys. Typing on a virtual keyboard with tiny keys is still troublesome: the screen highlights each key as you touch it, but you then still need to press firmly to actually enter it, and it's so easy to make mistakes as your larger fingertip to roll off to an adjacent key.

It's also interesting to see how the BlackBerry interface is mapped on a touch screen. For example, to save screen real estate it omits window titles to identify what you are doing, and removes OK and Cancel buttons in dialogs -- so you need to move down to the keyboard to use the Enter key to confirm, or move further to use the physical Escape (Back) key to cancel.

The bottom line is that the BlackBerry Storm is an interesting effort to create a multimedia smartphone by moving the BlackBerry interface to a touch-screen device. While it's not the answer for rabid "crackberry" communicators, it does allow other functions like Web browsing and certainly media playback to run better on the larger screen. As on the iPhone, touch-typing on the small virtual keyboard can be difficult, and it's not clear that the new "clickable" display is the answer.

So you should regard the Storm as a version 1 product with improvements to come, suitable for early adopters and technology enthusiasts, and not really for the broader mass market.

(To check for software upgrades on the Storm, use Options > Adv Options > Wireless Upgrade. On my unit, the 14 MB download for version completed in around 7 minutes, and the upgrade process then took about half an hour.)

See full article: Much Ado: The BlackBerry Storm from Verizon Wireless

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    Find the Verizon BlackBerry Storm on Amazon.com

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