Thursday, October 15, 2009

BlackBerry's new Storm2: first review


BlackBerry's first foray into touch-screen smartphones, last year's Storm, received a mixed reception.
Loyal BlackBerry users felt alienated by the loss of a physical QWERTY keyboard, while a perceived rush to market to compete with Apple's headline-grabbing iPhone led to complaints of variable build quality and sluggish operating speeds.
At first sight, BlackBerry seems to have addressed many of these problems with the Storm 2, which goes on sale in the UK on October 26.
The new machine is slimmer and trimmer than the old design, and though the familiar BlackBerry interface remains, the internal workings of the device have received a thorough going-over, with more memory allocated to make applications run smoother.
The touch-screen QWERTY keyboard is much improved, too, allowing for simultaneous double-touching for speed typing, a feature that was unavailable on the previous Storm. Unlike the touchscreen on the iPhone, the BlackBerry keyboard mimics the feel of a real keyboard by clicking both audibly and physically under the fingertips. There's wi-fi too, now an essential for this class of device.
Add to this the push e-mail and unrivalled security features that makes BlackBerry the default choice for industry worldwide, and the result is a very fine phone indeed.
But it is a fine phone in a changing market. Just how fast that market is changing can be gauged by the applications that BlackBerry now includes as standard, such as Twitter, Facebook and apps to play video and music content.
Instant access to content on the move is no longer the exclusive privilege of the businessman on the go. It's something we all now expect, as previously separate devices -- the camera, the phone, the portable music player, the video player -- now converge into one device.
Where once BlackBerry led the way in e-mail on the go, there is now a host of other touch-screen products that offer much the same services in a more user-friendly package.
The iPhone apart, this week alone, Sony-Ericsson has unveiled the Satio, its all-touch multimedia mobile smartphone, which features a 12.1 megapixel camera and a high-resolution screen, while HTC gave us the super-cute Tattoo, the latest smartphone to use the freely available Android touch-screen interface developed by Google.
Both of these phones work well, and present a more relaxed interface to the consumer than any BlackBerry device. Both are the products of companies that made their money from individual users. BlackBerry is heading in the opposite direction, and for all its attempts to court a new customer base, the core market for the Storm 2 remains the business user, backed by an IT department running Microsoft Exchange.
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