BlackBerry Storm, Day 5

I’m sure by now you have read reviews of the Storm. Most of them bad. Do you know why?

These reviews, like David Pogue’s and Stephen Fry’s (and most of the others) were written by people that have been using the Apple Telephone Product for _more than a year_. That would be like you driving a MINI for 200K miles and then reviewing Nissan Versa (the $9,950 model) after driving it for 10 minutes on the dealers test-drive loop. Apples to Oranges? Oh, you bet.

So how about some words from me? I have not used either an iPhone or a BlackBerry before. Just a normal guy that wanted a cool phone. And, I am pretty sure that this is the first review of this device by a person (me) that doesn’t own an iPhone or a BlackBerry already.

And I think it’s pretty cool. But it’s not without it’s faults.

First off, as expected, call quality is outstanding. Possibly the best phone, call-quality-wise, that I have ever used. It also helps that I am on Verizon in Southern California, which has better quality that any of the other providers, at least in the areas I travel most.

Next, again as expected, email and messaging is a pretty good experience. Easy to set up, easy to figure out and simple to use. But, it is a BlackBerry, and that is what they are known for.

Now, lets get to the other stuff. The things that, up until about 2 years ago, would have never been found on a phone. Like the 3.2MP camera that takes pretty kick-ass photos. There is the video too, which is remarkably good for a telephone.

It also has a built in media player. For audio it is truly amazing. Playing 256KB MP3s from Amazon sound fantastic either through headphones or in my car. Even the built in speaker isn’t horrible. It’s not good by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s passable to be sure. It also has full video playback cabability that I think is also pretty good. I say pretty good because playback quality and sound are great. Navigation and overall operability, however, leave quite a bit to be desired.

When playing video, you are stuck with landscape mode, and only if the screen is tilted in the right direction. Unlike every other part of the phone, the accelerometer appears to not work when playing video. And forget about the controls like fast forward or fast reverse. If you can get them to come up at all, the lag is so severe that you will actually think the phone has crashed. Once it actually did on me and I had to pull the battery.

As a media player, I would give it a B-. The quality is there, but the overall experience is definitely sub-par.

I mentioned it takes fantastic photos. I did not mention that the camera controls are clunky and slow. The entire process of taking a photo from aim to save takes well over 1 minute. Orientation issues here as well. While the accelerometer works, it doesn’t show how the picture will actually appear once it is viewed. Twice I have had to rotate photos on Flickr because of this.

They call the touch SurePress and it works pretty good. The press part does anyway. Usually. It’s laggy, doesn’t keep up with your finger and sometimes the accuracy isn’t that great. I still think it’s a matter of me not being used to the phone and part crappy firmware (more on this later).

Then there is the browser. I can tell you without hesitation that it is poor. While it renders pages ok usually, the text is so small that you can’t read it without zooming in. Zooming isn’t a problem, but getting back to a non-zoomed state sometimes can be. And don’t even think about filling in forms like username/password. The most frustrating experience I have ever had. It would be greatly improved by the addition of a Tab key (or next key like on the ATP).

Even if the text size was larger and entering form data was easier/worked, this would still be poor. Navigation is awful. Zooming, like I mentioned above, is counter-intuitive and getting menus to show up is a chore.

Finally there is the accelerometer, that, from what I can tell, is very easily confused. It goes from landscape to portrait (usually) without issue until you lay it flat. Once that happens, screen orientation is totally at random. It’s as if this device doesn’t know where it’s bottom is.

But I didn’t get this phone to do any of that stuff. For me, being able to have usable email, calendering and messaging is what I really need in a phone. All things that this phone does and does very well. All of the other stuff is just that. Stuff. Stuff that is cool to have, but it wasn’t the main reason why I got this. And, like I mentioned above, I think it’s pretty cool.

I do expect to have an update to this review. I keep reading that the software update that is available **now** cures many of the problems I listed above. I said now, yet I’m not speaking of those changes. That’s because while they are available now, they are only available now if you have Windows.

Yes, one of the very very bad things about BlackBerry phones as it turns out is the complete and total lack of decent support for the Mac. Sure there is software, but it doesn’t work with the Storm. I bought something that did, but I shouldn’t have had too.

Would I recommend this phone to others? I would, but I really like Verizon Wireless service, coverage and call quality. There would also be some exceptions. Like, if you need WiFi on your phone, or need to have perfect Media operation or games. If you need that stuff, keep the ATP. If, however, you are a email warrior and feel like me, then yes, get this phone.

Reports are that the .75 update will be pushed out OTA on or about December 8th. I going to try to get it earlier, of course. And, when I do, I will post the update.

By Don

Lead bottle washer at donburnside.com, host at whiteroofradio.com and tech guru for the MotoringFile family of sites.

4 comments

  1. I think part of the apples to oranges problem, is that the iPhone truly raises the mobile UX bar. I just got a Nokia N95. it’s whack. the ui is absolutely whacky compared to the iPhone. I’m sure had I not had an iphone for 6 months, I’d be more tolerant, but really the iPhone makes it clear that powerful phones, don’t need to be hard to figure out. I won’t lie the N95 is awesome, has more features, but feels like crap compared.

  2. That makes total sense to me John, good observation.

    I’m digging this phone, but I know it could be better that’s for sure.

    I’d rock an iPhone like I have mentioned before, but there is no way I’ll be an AT&T customer again. No. Way.

  3. If it helps – the Win Mobile HTC devices used to be terrible at the start – but as they evolve and new software/firmware comes out the annoying features get less and less.

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