When Apple released the iPhone to the market, it redefined the cell phone.  Since then, other manufacturers have been scrambling to make a competing device that will operate on networks other than AT&T and not only do what the iPhone does well, but also address its shortcomings.  In short, they have been trying to come up with an “iPhone Killer.”  This is no easy task, to be sure.  One just has to note that this is not the first time that Apple has set a high standard for an electronic device.  Even now there is some debate over whether any company has come out with the definitive “iPod killer.”

Over the past months there has been a lot of anticipation aimed at Research in Motion (RIM) and their new BlackBerry model, the Storm, which many a BlackBerry user has been hoping will be their answer to the iPhone.  Well, it finally hit the market today and on November 19, the site engadget published a very detailed review that should prove very helpful to anyone considering buying one of these devices.  Unfortunately, it was not an unqualified endorsement.  In summing up his review, Joshua Topolsky states,

“[the Storm is] 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. For casual users, the learning curve and complexity of this phone will feel like an instant turn off, and for power users, the lack of a decent typing option and considerable lagginess in software will give them pause. RIM tried to strike some middle ground between form and function, and unfortunately came up short on both.”

Another good and thorough review can be found at The Boy Genius Report.  Unfortunately, the bottom line of that review is also not very complimentary:

“It’s not that the Storm is a piece of junk for the most part, it’s that it goes against everything a BlackBerry stands for… Quick. Easy. Effortless. The touch screen on the Storm complicates the simplest of tasks sometimes, you lose that lightning fast BlackBerry crack-addict mentality, at least to us.

The whole point of a BlackBerry and what BlackBerry users bragged about to their co-workers, friends and family to was that a BlackBerry was straight-forward and completely uncomplicated. The Storm complicates things. There’s not one thing you can do faster on a Storm than you can on a Bold. Typing is mediocre at best, and to tell you the truth, it really does get tiring at times. It’s not something we can bang out 250-word emails on like we can on every other QWERTY BlackBerry in the past. It hinders your mobile device experience, in our opinion, if you are a raging lunatic on your BlackBerry. It just doesn’t compare to the BlackBerry Bold. At least not in the current incarnation.”

Both reviews laud the solid construction of the device, and there are some positive notes about the browser upgrade, the faster 3G network and some other features, but the negatives noted were many, including:

  • No WiFi (apparently at the specific request of Verizon)
  • Difficulty with the touch screen for typing, as opposed to the hardware-based QWERTY keyboard.
  • No inertia on the scrolling (the scroll stops dead with your finger).
  • The UI is not custom built for touch navigation;
  • Although the “clickable” SurePress screen is touted by RIM, it actually slows down typing.
  • Transitions between apps is sluggish
  • The library of available third party apps is weak, although RIM promises this to change, as they ramp up their own app store.
  • Camera frustrating because it takes too long for it to focus and snap a picture.
  • No solid GMail integration.

I am sure there will be a lot of disappointed people (especially BlackBerry fans) that have been waiting expectantly for this phone.  Many of these issues may be resolved as RIM tweaks the OS and some of the physical characteristics of the phone, but it looks like the wait isn’t over for the iPhone killer.

UPDATE (11-29-08): The news continues to be bad for the BlackBerry Storm as reviewers continue to pan the new phone.  Both main stream media like the New York Times and tech bloggers out there are turning their thumbs down.  Check out these other reviews.

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