The Last Word on the BlackBerry Storm: It’s Not So Hot

By  |  Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 10:47 am

stormreviewsI haven’t laid eyes on a BlackBerry Storm in person yet. More to the point, I haven’t laid fingers on one–so I have no first-hand impressions of how the first touch-screen BlackBerry compares to traditional BlackBerries, the iPhone, and other alternatives. But a gazillion reviews hit the Web today–so many, in fact, that I can’t read every word of every one.

So I’m doing what I often do: skipping to the last paragraph in hopes that it’s a useful, pithy summary of the review’s buying advice. And I’m finding that almost all of them are at best pretty diffident about this phone. Especially given the fact that BlackBerries tend to get good reviews.

After the jump, a bunch of last paragraphs for your perusal…
Boy Genius Report (The Boy Genius):

At the end of the day, if you’ve been eyeing the Storm, we suggest you either go play with a demo unit at a store, or go ahead and buy one. That way you’ll be able to decide for yourself if you really love the thing, or maybe just don’t care for it. This isn’t a cookie-cutter device, and it’s not for everyone. That said, we’re sure these things are going to fly off the shelves at Verizon stores on Friday, we just have a feeling there will also be a lot of returns.

CNET (Bonnie Cha–her last graph didn’t summarize, so I’m cheerfully violating my own policy and running her first one):

The anticipation has been brewing for months, and the time has finally come for Verizon Wireless to open the floodgates on the RIM BlackBerry Storm (aka BlackBerry Storm 9350). The Storm is not only the first touch-screen BlackBerry, but it’s also unlike any other touch-screen smartphone out on the market now. Research In Motion developed its own technology, called SurePress, which uses a suspension system that lies beneath the display, so that when you go to select an application or enter text, you physically push the screen down, mimicking the feel of pressing a tactile button. In theory, it’s a great concept, but in reality, it’s a bit awkward and takes some acclimation. It’s just not a natural feeling to push down on the screen, and composing e-mails and text messages is difficult on the cramped onscreen keyboard, so if you need a messaging-centric device, we recommend going with the BlackBerry Bold or another QWERTY smartphone.

DVICE (S.E. Kramer):

Instead of comparing the Storm to the iPhone and whining grumpilly about the Storm’s lack of multi-touch, consumers will compare it to other BlackBerries. And when they do, they may find that they like what they see: A big, fun to use touchscreen, a 3.2MP camera that takes video and has a bright flash, a respectable Web browser and a typing system that really works.

Engadget (Joshua Topolsky):

Going into this review, we really wanted to love this phone. On paper it sounds like the perfect antidote to our gripes about the iPhone, and in some ways it lives up to those promises — but more often than not while using the Storm, we felt let down or frustrated. Ultimately, this could be a great platform with a little more time in the oven, but right now, it feels undercooked — and that’s not enough for us.

Gizmodo (Matt Buchanan):

The Storm is a strong effort from RIM, but it’s not quite the killer phone that they or Verizon need it to be. It’s good—RIM clearly put a lot of thought into the design. But I think it fall short of what they were aiming for, and ultimately what all the hype is driving people to expect. Some of this is fixable: The damn thing needs to crash less often. But SurePress is not the end-all, be-all of touchscreen technologies—it’s not really an evolutionary step forward, even. The experience may be fairly refined, but more polish is still needed. Had this Storm been left to brew a bit longer, it would’ve been much more powerful.

PC Magazine (Sascha Segan)

I’m excited by the RIM BlackBerry Storm 9530, but I can’t recommend it strongly yet. Like the BlackBerry 8220 Flip, it’s just too buggy right now. If the phone worked as advertised, it would be one of the two best smartphones you can get in the U.S. (along with the Apple iPhone)—a true breakthrough and a potential 4.5-star product. But until RIM fixes the many scattered bugs, you should wait out the Storm.

PC World (Denny Arar):

But people who were hoping for a credible iPhone alternative fortified with BlackBerry’s strengths as a mobile tool for corporate travelers will likely find the Storm a disappointment. When it comes to touch interfaces, Apple still has no peer.

Silicon Alley Insider (Dan Frommer):

Bottom line: If we could buy any one phone in the world, we’d still buy an iPhone. If we were serious BlackBerry email users, or signed onto a long-term Verizon contract — the carrier has 70-plus million subscribers — we’d buy a Storm. (If we were BlackBerry email users and not under Verizon contract, and preferred a real keyboard, we’d opt for the Bold at AT&T.)

TIME (Anita Hamilton):

If, like many Americans, you’re planning to scrimp your way through the holidays, the Storm isn’t worth busting your budget for. Even die-hard BlackBerry fans would be better off with RIM’s new Bold, Pearl or Flip. All three have many of the same pluses as the Storm, minus the drawbacks of the unusual display. This is one storm you’ll want to steer clear of this winter.

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg):

Overall, the Storm is a very capable handheld computer that will appeal to BlackBerry users who have been pining for a touch-controlled device with a larger screen. And it offers yet another good option for anyone who is looking to buy one of the new, more powerful, pocket computers.

Of these reviewers, only Walt (and maybe DVICE’s Kramer) give this phone a hearty thumbs-up. In some cases, the nits reviewers are picking relate to issues RIM might fix in software, or to out-and-out bugs. It’ll be interesting to see if it makes the Storm more appealing. And whether real people will agree with the blah critical reception from the pros. And whether the Storm is the first of many touch-screen BlackBerries to come, or an odd wrong turn…


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16 Comments For This Post

  1. marty_k Says:

    Storm is, in my opinion, the best BlackBerry ever made, and for someone who texts/emails a lot it’s a great choice. I wouldn’t care that much about lack of Wi-Fi, as with Storm’s wap-alike browser you will be fine at 3G’s speed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful phone and I wouldn’t mind using it. However, iPhone seems to be a better fit in my case. That said, I highly recommend evaluating your needs and choosing the device that suits you in the first place. The good thing is that you simply can’t go wrong with any of them.

    iPhone vs Storm

    Go! 😉

  2. mathiastck Says:

    How backwards compatible is it? My 8830 and Curve both enjoy running free black and white games made for Blackberries that had wheels instead of a tracball.

  3. Dale L. Larson Says:

    It looks like the real choice is between Bold and iPhone, each of which offers a good overall experience optimized around the input device of choice for RIM and Apple respectively. Will you move to the Bold when that becomes available on AT&T?

    Adding touch to Blackberry doesn’t make for an iPhone competitor.

    The resources required to really step back and re-think the device completely to offer a compelling experience for a new market is not something that RIM seems to have decided to invest in the Storm, but are you going to get one for a hands on review?

  4. Harry McCracken Says:

    @mathlastck Good questions on compatibility

    @Dale L. Larson (hi, Dale!): I’ve played with a Bold but haven’t had a chance to write it up here–overall, I like it. I’ll try to get and review a Storm too…


  5. Marcin Kawa Says:

    People expected it to be an iPhone killer, which it clearly isn’t. You don ‘t need to test the device to tell it — it’s quite clear after playing for 20 minutes with JDE 4.7 and Storm’s emulator.

    However, as an internet-enabled phone with big screen Storm is a great device, I just like iPhone a little bit more ;]

  6. addicted Says:

    It seems to me that minus the carrier argument:

    If you need a Blackberry (company, or prefer keyboard) then get a Bold.
    If you dont need a Blackberry necessarily, but want the best phone, get an iPhone
    If you are one of those who wants a big screen to watch Youtube videos of cats stuck in fans, but are oh so individual that you wont get an iphone, get a Storm.

  7. Chewbacca Says:

    I love the Storm – and the Andorid G1, and even the possible MS Zune Phone disaster-in-waiting. I’ve never seen or touched any of them, but the competition is great! Pushes the iPhone to be even better!

  8. Mark G Says:

    Was at the Verizon store checking out the two Storms they had on display. Embarrassingly slow UI. I for the life of me could not figure out how to get the phone to write and send a test message. Navigating and moving around the phones different applications seemed railroaded. I kinda liked the clicking screen, but it seemed more of a novelty. I had a better time typing things out on a LG Dare. And I wished the display phones had some media and documents to test to really see how this phone worked. If I was to get a Storm, I would wait until they work out the slow UI issues. It was disappointing as an initial encounter with the phone.

  9. Lun Esex Says:

    Too bad David Pogue’s review of the Storm didn’t come out until six days later:

    He utterly trashed it.

    Selected quotes:

    “I’ve got a better name for it: the BlackBerry Dud.”

    “R.I.M.’s execution is inconsistent and confusing.”

    “trying to enter Web addresses or unusual last names [on the portrait mode SureType keyboard] is utterly hopeless.”

    “Incredibly, the Storm even muffs simple navigation tasks.”

    “trying to navigate this thing isn’t just an exercise in frustration — it’s a marathon of frustration.

    I haven’t found a soul who tried this machine who wasn’t appalled, baffled or both.

    And that’s before they discovered that the Storm doesn’t have Wi-Fi.”

    “But wait, there’s less. Both of my review Storms had more bugs than a summer picnic. Freezes, abrupt reboots, nonresponsive controls, cosmetic glitches.”

    “When you look at your typing, slow and typo-ridden, and you repair the dents you’ve made banging your head against the wall, you’ll be grateful that Verizon offers a 30-day return period.

    How did this thing ever reach the market? Was everyone involved just too terrified to pull the emergency brake on this train?”

    Final paragraph:

    “Web rumor has it that a bug-fix software update is in the works. Until then, maybe Storm isn’t such a bad name for this phone. After all — it’s dark, sodden and unpredictable.”

    He must have given RIM an advance copy of the review and then they convinced him to embargo it for an extra six days.

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  11. Tom D Says:

    Free wallpapers for the BlackBerry Storm

  12. sanat Says:

    Over the past few months, I have taught myself how to use WordPress and to install plugins, but I never understood how the plugins worked. Don’t know if I’ll ever write one, but now I can read the php script with some level of understanding. Thank you Mark

  13. HSN Says:

    I had a chance to play around with the Storm when my brother in law came into town for a visit. In my opinion, there is no comparison between the Storm and the iPhone — with the iPhone being the winner. The deal breaker for me was how I had to touch the Storm’s screen, and pushing down actually made the whole phone feel like a clicking button. The iPhone is finger pressure operated, and is much sexier. I have a Bold at the present time, and my wife has an iPhone 3G. The Bold sounds better in terms of playing .mp3 music, and when a 16GB microSDHC card is added becomes an excellent .mp4 player.

    Blackberry Bold: “Must-have” Applications

  14. Rob Says:

    Any one try a more recent version on the Storm? Any better than the original?


    ExecTones | Professional BB Ringtones

  15. Caitlin Baker Says:

    some of the mp4 players i own are made in China, they are good too.~-`

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