Why I Returned the Blackberry Storm

rejected

In a previous post, I talked about Why I got the Balckberry Storm. A couple days ago, I returned it and went back to a non-smart phone. Let me tell you why.

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have gotten quite used to (and fallen a little in love with) my iPod Touch.

When my Motorola Razr finally died about a month and a half ago, I toyed with the idea of switching to AT&T just so I could get the iPhone. In my research, it seemed that AT&T cell & 3G coverage just does not compare with that of Verizon (whom I have been with for nearly 8 years now).

I decided to try out the Blackberry Storm (see the post to know more about why).

  • From the very first day I had it, the Storm gave me trouble. I was not used to the ‘click’ touch screen. it required that I touch-select, then click the screen to activate. This is supposed to help avoid unwanted activations, but I just found it created a more frustrating and time consuming interface.
  • Dialing phone numbers required additional layers of menus, click the phone icon, then click the contacts, or click the recent calls, then searching, which was not as simple as the ‘swish’ glide you get with the iPhone, but instead, required multiple strokes across the screen to move to each new name.
  • Downloading music and other applications was a time consuming, and ultimately pointless endeavor as there wasn’t really a good media browser on the Storm anyways.
  • The Storm would not sync with my Mac laptops without downloading and installing additional applications (either free or paid) and having to get multiple applications to all work together and I do most of my computing on the Macs these days so this was a major frustration.
  • At this time there are no (supported) third party applications for the Storm. Supposedly there will be a RIM Application store available by Spring 2009, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • The fact that Blackberry is just trying their hand at touchscreen interfaces, the Storm was still extremely buggy. I am a bit of a power user and pushed the device (obviously) to its current limits with downloads, applications, internet browsing and streaming of music. It was crashing and freezing up multiple times each week I had it.

Are these reasons for other people not to get it? Absolutely not. Overall, I think that as an alternative to the iPhone on the Verizon network, the Storm is a good phone. For those that are used to the RIM style of organization (I actually really like the smart menu button) the Storm will satisfy.

For those that are looking for something similar to the coolness and usability of the iPhone, the Storm still has not got what it takes. Maybe give it another year to work out the bugs, clean up the interface and make some usability changes.

Why I Got a Blackberry Storm

storm vs iphone

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.

Blackberry Storm Review and Firmware Update

blackberry storm problems

For those that already got the Blackberry Storm, there were apparently two firmware updates released (not to the general public) over the Thanksgiving weekend.

These are the reasons why sometimes it is good to wait on getting new technology (iPhone 3G anyone?)

Lets get it together and allow EVERYONE to get these updates, hmmm, RIM?

There have been several issues related by users of the Storm, including:

  • Lagging performance, especially when switching the Storm from landscape to portrait views by using its internal accelerometer
  • The OS isn’t quite as smooth as the iPhone
  • When on the phone, your face pushes against the screen and mutes the call. a problem that could be fixed with a lock button.
  • Verizon App store needs more applications and “hasn’t changed much since the release
  • the Storm has a Micro USB port instead of a Mini USB port. requiring additional accessories purchases, even for previous Blackberry users
  • Not all the keys will “click” when touched

Additionally, there are to be 2 more firmware updates in the near future. Will these fix the problems? Not sure, but I’m leaning towards the iPhone more and more each day as my Rzr stumbles on its last legs. Especially since my wife (bless her budding tech-soul) has recently been talking about wanting an iPhone. If I can get our failing Verizon phones to last until after Macworld Expo (where Jobs apparently won’t be), then maybe I can get a Nano iPhone!!

Some additional Storm problems information from PC World

Information Week had an article published right after Thanksgiving and the first Storm firmware update:

If you’ve read any reviews of the BlackBerry Storm, you no doubt have heard that the poor thing is a bit buggy. Heck, even The New York Times’ David Pogue harshed on it. The initial batch of Storm’s are running firmware version 4.7.0.65. Over the weekend, firmware version 4.7.0.75 became available, and with it a bunch of fixes.

In InformationWeek’s review of the BlackBerry Storm, I detailed the issues the device has. Software lag, accelerometer lag, app crashes, and other bugs really drag the device’s usability down. Both of the review units I examined were running firmware 4.7.0.65. Many hoped that the bugs could (and would) be fixed by a firmware update. RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) has heard the cries for help.

Users first began spotting the firmware update over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. At first it appeared that 4.7.0.75 was only going to be offered to the few, but it has since become available to anyone who can find it on the web.

The biggest improvement seen with the new firmware is reduced lag and response time of the Storm. That’s a very good thing. What’s better, is that one user was able to find yet another firmware update, 4.7.0.76. This latest update brings with it even more fixes.

According to The Boy Genius, the latest firmware build is leaps and bounds better than either of the preceding two. It offers faster landscape-to-portrait switching, better battery life, better touch screen response, more natural browser orientation in landscape mode, faster response in the music player application, and faster navigation through the photo gallery.

The bad news is, there are still many bugs present. Some of them include failure of the back button to work, slower data connectivity, and increased bugs in the camera application. Both of my review units had a lot of bugs in the camera app.

Firmware version 4.7.0.75 is out there, but 4.7.0.76 is not. There has been no official word fromVerizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless nor RIM as to when the latter will be made available to the masses. In the mean time, update to 4.7.0.75 if you can, and enjoy the slightly improved Storm.

Blackberry Storm is Here!

waiting in line

I am headed to the Verizon store right now to get my hands on the Storm.

Five reasons this device could really be an iPhone killer:

  1. It has a better camera –
    The iPhone 3G comes to the table with a puny 2 megapixel camera and, at the moment, doesn’t offer video capture. The BlackBerry Storm, however, features a 3.2 megapixel camera with video capabilities, variable zoom, auto focus and a flash that has the ability to provide continuous lighting while recording video. For many smartphone buyers, a decent camera is becoming a more important component. And the BlackBerry Storm does it right. In the day and age of content sharing, the Storm makes it easy to snap and upload high-quality photos while also sharing video — a win-win.
  2. It has better ‘push’ email for corporate email accounts -While the iPhone is capable of making e-mail look and work pretty much exactly as it does on a home computer and supports e-mail from Yahoo, Gmail and AOL, along with most IMAP and POP mail systems, it’s BlackBerry that takes the biggest piece of the e-mail pie.The Storm continues BlackBerry’s 10-year legacy of mobile e-mail, working with BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise. It also ties in e-mail access for consumers with most popular personal e-mail services. While the iPhone does now integrate with Microsoft Exchange, it doesn’t have the proven track record of corporate e-mail greatness that BlackBerry brings to the table.
  3. You can edit documents, spreadsheets, etc -The BlackBerry Storm comes preloaded with the DataViz Documents to Go suite for editing Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files from the handset. For mobile workers, this capability has become a must. The iPhone, however, offers document viewing, but not editing for Microsoft Office applications, though there are downloads available that will enable editing.Still, having that capability out of the box puts the BlackBerry Storm one more notch above the Apple iPhone 3G.
  4. The Storm’s touch screen is “clickable’ -Maybe a minor feature, but the BlackBerry Storm’s “clickable” touch screen could be a deal breaker when considering what smartphone to buy. Sounds a bit petty, but you know you want to check it out — it’s the world’s first. I am truly excited about this considering the haptic research I have been involved in relates directly to this technology.The clickable display responds like a physical keyboard and supports single-touch, multitouch and gestures. The BlackBerry Storm’s clickable touch screen depresses slightly when the screen is pressed, allowing users to feel the motion, and is released with a click, similar to that of a physical keyboard or mouse button. The clickable screen gives users confirmation that they have made a selection. Certainly, someone at Apple central will devise an application that makes the screen clickable, but having the first device with that feature will make it a draw.
  5. Blackberry will launch its own app store -Last month, RIM unveiled plans to launch its own application store, similar to the AppStore for the iPhone and the Android market for the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1.BlackBerry’s Application Store Front will enable users to find and download applications to their smartphones. It’s set to launch in March 2009. The storefront will let developers set their own prices for applications, similar to Apple’s AppStore, and developers will retain 80 percent of the revenue their applications bring in. BlackBerry users will be able to buy directions directly from their smartphones and pay for them through eBay-owned online payment service PayPal. Apple’s AppStore caught flack for offering dozens of applications deemed as useless and unproductive. While there’s no proof yet that BlackBerry’s application store won’t fall into the same hole, BlackBerry has said it plans to allow companies with BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BlackBerry Professional Software have control over which applications users can download and use.

For those who just want to know the final details, there is a great specification sheet

Specifications

* 360º
* Photos
* Videos

* BlackBerry 101
* Specifications
* Where to Buy

Features Available

BlackBerry Storm

* Wireless email
* Organizer
* Browser
* Phone
* Camera (3.2 MP)
* Video Recording
* BlackBerry® Maps
* Media Player
* Built-in GPS
* Corporate data access
* SMS
* MMS

Size and Weight

* 4.43″/112.5mm (Length)
* 2.45″/62.2mm (Width)
* 0.55″/13.95mm (Depth)
* 5.5 oz/155g (Weight)

Data Input/Navigation

* SurePress™ touch screen
* On screen keyboard: portrait SureType® and Multi-tap, QWERTY landscape

Voice Input/Output

* 3.5mm stereo headset capable
* Integrated earpiece/ microphone
* Built-in speakerphone
* Bluetooth® v2.0; mono/stereo headset, handsfree, phone book access profile, and serial port profile supported
* M3 (Rating for hearing aids (PDF))

Media Player

* Video format support: MPEG4 H.263, MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile, H.264, WMV
* Audio format support: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WMA ProPlus

Display

* High resolution 480 x 360 pixel color display
* Transmissive TFT LCD
* Font size (user selectable)
* Light sensing screen

Notification

* Polyphonic/MIDI ringtones
* MP3 ringtones
* Vibrate mode
* LED indicator

Approximate Battery Life

* Up to 15 days (Standby time)
* Up to 5.5 hours (Talk time)

Memory

* Expandable memory – support for microSD™ card
* 1GB onboard memory
* 128 MB Flash (flash memory)

Modem

* RIM® wireless modem
* Tethered modem capability

Email Integrations

* Works with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for Microsoft® Exchange
* Works with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for IBM® Lotus® Domino®
* Works with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for Novell® GroupWise®
* Integrates with an existing enterprise email account
* Integrates with existing personal email account
* Integrates with optional new device account

Device Security

* Password protection and screen lock
* Sleep mode
* Support for AES or Triple DES encryption when integrated with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server
* FIPS 140-2 Compliant (FIPS Validation in Progress)
* Optional support for S/MIME

Wireless Network

* UMTS/HSPA: 2100 MHz
* North America: 850 MHz GSM®/GPRS networks
* North America: 1900MHz GSM/GPRS networks
* Europe/Asia Pacific: 1800MHz GSM/GPRS networks
* Europe/Asia Pacific: 900MHz GSM/GPRS networks
* Dual-Band: 800/1900 MHz CDMA/Ev-DO networks

Additional articles and videos are available here:
Blackberry Storm Articles

Blackberry Storm Release Date

storm

Verizon has finally given a release date and a price for the Blackberry Storm.

They will be available November 21. The price will be $249.99 with a $50 mail in rebate with a 2 year agreement. Total price $199.99

compare the Storm and the iPhone here.

additional stories and videos about the Storm:

Blackberry Storm Articles