BlackBerry Storm 2: The big questions

18th Oct 2009 | 14:00

BlackBerry Storm 2: The big questions

The low-down on RIM's new touchscreen challenger

BlackBerry Storm 2 - the big questions

RIM has unveiled the new Storm 2 to the world, and at first look it's a very similar beast to the first Storm.

But there have been changes made, and RIM is pretty confident it has got it right this time – so we take a look and see whether this is the phone to keep RIM at the sharp end of the mobile pack.

It looks very similar to the first device – what's new?

We spoke to RIM to get its take on the new phone, and to tell TechRadar first hand what's new:

"There have been design changes; while at first glance it might not look too different, but there have been significant changes made on the Storm 2. It has a sleeker look, the headset jack is recessed, it has soft touch paint on the side and the keys are integrated on the front," said Nawdesh Uppal - Senior Product Manager for RIM.

BalackBerry storm 2

"It's got a much cleaner look, one of the things we heard stories of was the front keys falling off so we've made a pretty significant chance in integrating them onto the LCD, which both looks nice and improves durability."

But what about the clickable screen? Some people really didn't like it – has that been changed?

While both the original Storm and the Storm 2 use the clickable screen – dubbed SurePress technology by RIM – under the hood it's a completely different set of hardware.

"For the original Storm we had a mechanical button under the screen, which was a real innovation in terms of the touchscreen. That said we did get some complaints and both positive and negative feedback, a real polarising sort of technology," continued Uppal .

"We've taken this to heart so the biggest change [on the Storm 2] is under the hood.

"The original system had one mechanical button, which meant the tactile feel wasn't as consistent as it could have been across the surface of the display. It also meant when a user was typing they would have to wait for the button to pop back up, and that was unfortunately a natural inhibitor to typing.

The new system [for the Storm 2] is based on four actuators, which gives some significant benefits to the typing experience. It feels better and enables rollover, meaning you can press two spots on the display at the same time and feel a click on both, for instance when pressing shift and a letter to make a capital."

How about typing? It might feel better, but will we need to keep deleting all the time to spell things correctly?

likes of the iPhone and the HTC range both have eerily accurate spelling correction for when typing the odd wrong letter, but the original Storm wasn't anywhere near that level.

The new system is far more intuitive with a witchcraft-like level of correction – you almost feel like you can crush your ear into the screen, think a word and it will appear.

BlackBerry storm 2

"The nice thing about touch screens, while they inherently have limitations, is the virtual keyboard. This means software can work out where you're trying to type and then uses probability based algorithms to work out after a couple of characters what you're trying to input," commented Uppal .

"Once you started getting comfortable with typing on the old Storm, you would start hitting the limit of how fast you can type because of the mechanical button - that limitation is gone now. So from a typing perspective, we've brought wholesale changes to the Storm 2."

BlackBerry on losing Wi-Fi from the first Storm

Why does the Storm 2 have Wi-Fi connectivity when the original did not?

There's been a lot of speculation (and irritation) about why the first Storm did not have Wi-Fi capabilities.

Conspiracy theorists believed that because the design process was 'aided' by Vodafone and Verizon, the decision to lose Wi-Fi would mean more data pushed through the 3G networks.

But Uppal does not believe that is the case, rather it was a design limitation:

"There was obvious feedback from users that they wanted Wi-Fi in the device, so we put it in. As you know BlackBerry is a Wi-Fi innovator, but with the original Storm there was just no place to put it in We showed people a circuit board as said: 'where are we supposed to put Wi-Fi in this?'

"There was no plan for Wi-Fi in the first Storm, but the market sent us clear message that, especially for a multimedia device, you need it.

If you look at some of the implementations, for instance the 7digital app, in order for it to work properly you need Wi-Fi and we recognised that was going to be important.

So is the new Storm 2 a different beast to the first device?

In a word: no. It's very much evolution over revolution with the Storm 2, which is actually a shame. We've yet to have a good play with the phone yet to see if all the problems are fixed, but from early tests things look good.

We like elements like speed searching by sender in your emails – simply hold down the person's name and the search is quickly activated.

Little tweaks like moving the 'Send' button to the top of the screen make all the difference, and there's a tangible feel to the doubling of the RAM to 2565MB, with the Storm 2 running quickly smoothly.

BlackBerry storm 2

The touchscreen will feel very similar to some people; with those not aware of the new device being easily forgiven for thinking it's the same one. But the improvements to the SurePress technology were necessary, and it's commendable RIM has done so.

But there's the rub: if the original Storm hadn't been released, this phone would be judged on its merits, rather than just how much better it is than the old one (and despite the sales figures RIM spit out, the first Storm could have been a lot better).

Will this be the mobile to slay the iPhone?

It's not positioned as an iPhone killer, but it's inevitable the comparisons will be there.

It's hard to see where this phone is being positioned – die hard BlackBerry fans might be enticed naturally, but then again they're usually fans of both the emailing system and the QWERTY keyboard, so it will interesting to see if they think the touch option is as good.

You wouldn't buy it as a multimedia device, as many other phones do as good or better a job at playing back video or music.

But the biggest win could be in the corporate market, especially for those that have buying power within their company. Many people have a BlackBerry for work simply because they have to – they then carry another 'pleasure' phone with them.

This could be the device that converges the two – it just needs to stand up to some proper scrutiny and perform well in all categories.

It's a little expensive at £35 a month on a two year deal, so it will be interesting to see whether this fixes RIM's outreach into other areas of mobile design, or forces it to stick with physical keyboards.

BlackBerry Storm 2 Storm RIM
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