above image at: www.iphonehacks.com/2008/10/blackberrystorm.html
Over the course of the last 7 months or so, I have followed the development, testing and release of the Blackberry Storm. I blogged about it, went to the Verizon stores and played with them, used my friends’ devices, watched videos, as well as reading blogs and comments by people that have used them. From all that I had seen and heard, it seemed that RIM and Verizon were plagued by the same type of issues that most retailers and technological service providers run into when trying to release large numbers of new, innovative hardware, firmware and software that incorporate pre-established networks, enterprise hardware and software as well as operating platforms that allow for 3rd party software, downloads and interactivity.
Namely: It just ain’t gonna fly the first time out the door.
The initial release of the iPhone, especially the 3G, was marred by quite a few snafus. The Blackberry Storm has had its share of problems and their delay in updating the firmware did not help their cause.
I have had Verizon as my mobile provider for over 5 years and have had far fewer problems than most of my friends with AT&T and I have never been particularly attracted to the idea of going over to Sprint, T-Mobile or Metro PCS (do they even still exist?)
So even though I have been loving my iPod Touch (which was a prize I received a year ago for a survey) I was reticent to change over to AT&T in order to have the iPhone. This conundrum plagued me for the last year as my contract was coming to an end at Verizon. I knew I loved the usability and ease as well as just plain coolness that the iPhone was delivering, but was I willing to give up the convenience, and the network as well as good customer service of Verizon to get better hardware? It didn’t seem like it. I told myself that what I really needed was a phone that I could MAKE CALLS ON, not necessarily all the toys, bells and whistles.
When I saw the advertisements and the hype of the Storm, I became pretty excited. I thought it was going to be some combination of a Blackberry, iPhone and Android. Plus I was really excited to hear about the haptic feedback as the lack of tactile feeling in the iPod touch made it feel less emotionally connecting.
When it finally came out in November 2008, I went to the store and played with it, but was immediately struck by the lack of responsiveness of the screen and applications as well as being put off by its weight and thickness. Additionally, after having used the iPod and getting used to the smoothness of the touch interface, I kept forgetting to press all the way. there is a bit of a learning curve to the new interface.
Over the course of the next two months, I checked blogs and talked with people who had the device and heard all about the problems it was having. This kept me from taking the step of renewing my contract and getting the phone, especially since it involved a cash layout for the phone ($150 even with my New-Every-Two deal) as well as the increase in the service plan to include all the data transfer.
Then my old phone started acting up even more than it already was. I was losing calls, as well as not even getting them at all. The phone’s screens were getting artifacts all over them, the battery wasn’t even lasting through a phone call and it was just crashing all the time.
I had to get a new phone and I went to the Verizon store this last weekend to look at some of the cheaper options.
Once I arrived, I was looking at the LGs, a couple of the Blackberrys (Blackberries?) as well as other (not so interesting) phones. Our sales girl was very helpful in asking what we needed the phones for. My wife is on my plan as well, so she was there since I was thinking I might be signing a new 2 year contract. Our sales girl then told us something that really made it esy for me to decide what to do: Verizon was having a special on the Storm, Buy 1, Get 1 Free!!!!! When I heard that, along with the Verizon policy of a 30 day guarantee if we don’t like the phones, I was sold. I mean, what would you do?
For both phones, I paid only $100 (plus taxes), and we both get to use them for a month.
I may end up taking them back (more on that later, as there ARE usability issues with the device that I am not sure can be fixed with simple firmware updates) but at this time (after using it for 3 days) I am pretty happy with its abilities and overall usability. The firware updates that came out over the last 2 months have taken care of a large portion of the crashing issues and incompatibility that many other (earlier) adopting people ran into and there are a few more 3rd party applications available (and working) applications for us.
The full Blackberry Store (like the app store on iTunes or the Android Store) is not projected to be open until March of ’09, so I will need to make my decision based solely on the device itself as well as non-Verizon/Blackberry applications that have been developed (namely Crackberry Apps)
I am about to leave on another business trip, which will be the real test of how well the phone works. I will be in a new city, with the need to stay in touch and be productive without being in my office. Upon my return I should have a good idea about whether RIM has truly created an iPhone killer, or if I will need to take it back and accept that Ma Bell has the only phone that matters.