users might find some shelter in this Storm
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
March 3-9, 2009; issue 1010
High Tech Office column
Last week, this column
looked at two touch screen smartphone models offered by Bell and Telus
as competition to the Rogers/Fido-only Apple iPhone. But the HTC Touch
Diamond and Pro aren’t the only iPhone wannabes.
Bell and Fido are also offering the touch screen BlackBerry Storm 9530
from Kitchener, Ontario’s RIM – the
company that addicted a generation of business users to typing with its
RIM’s models being the most popular smartphones prior to the iPhone
launch, the Storm’s release last autumn was widely anticipated – and
almost universally panned by the early reviewers. The New York Times’
David Pogue said it should have been named “the Blackberry Dud.”
spent a couple of weeks with a Storm ($249 with plan) courtesy of Bell
Mobility. Like the iPhone, its big screen can be viewed vertically and
horizontally, with a virtual keyboard that pops up when needed for text
entry. Like the iPhone, it can access a high-speed 3G network for
e-mail and for web browsing and has a built-in camera and music player.
some ways it outdoes the iPhone. The Storm has a removable
user-replaceable battery. When your iPhone’s battery dies (and it
will), you’re expected to send the phone back to Apple. The Storm
supports expandable memory cards and comes with an eight-gigabyte card;
the iPhone comes in non-expandable eight-gigabyte or 16-gigabyte sizes.
Storm has a 3.2-megapixel camera; the iPhone’s is 2.0 megapixels. And
the Storm’s camera doubles as a video camera. You have to “jailbreak”
your iPhone to shoot video. And you can tether your Storm to a computer
to use it as a modem.
When typing on the Storm’s virtual
keyboard, you get more feedback – keys briefly light up and the touch
screen depresses. This could result in more accurate typing than with
the iPhone’s keyboard.
But there are also many ways in which the
iPhone bests the Storm. When you hold a Storm vertically, you get a
virtual “SureType” keyboard with two letters on most keys and software
that tries to guess what you mean to type. Also used on RIM’s popular
Blackberry Pearl models, it can be surprisingly accurate, but it falls
down on my name, for instance, making logging in to get my e-mail
between difficult and impossible. Typing website addresses can be
equally frustrating. I had to turn the Storm 90 degrees to horizontal
to get a virtual QWERTY keyboard whenever I needed to type anything.
The iPhone’s virtual keyboard appears only when it’s held vertically –
but that’s when you’re most likely to want to use it.
the Storm lacks the WiFi support built into the iPhone (and the various
HTC Touch models). While Bell’s high-speed data network is available in
places where there’s no WiFi, WiFi connections allow for free data
connections, and, through downloaded software like TruPhone and Jajah,
can be used to make low-cost voice calls. On an iPhone, not on a Storm.
I like the Safari web browser and the music, video and photo media
features on the iPhone better than the Storm’s equivalents.
well the iPhone can connect to Apple’s iTunes Music Store to buy music,
TV and video directly. And just for iPhone users – the iTunes App
Store, where a growing number of applications (yes, mostly games) are
available for free or low-cost purchase. RIM is promising a BlackBerry
Application Storefront, but we’ll have to wait for that.
The Storm isn’t the iPhone-killer some had hoped for, but it also isn’t
the ‘Blackberry Dud’ Pogue complained about.
you’re a loyal Bell or Telus customer and want a touch screen
smartphone, you could be happy with a Storm – as long as you don’t
expect WiFi. But if you type a lot of e-mail on the go, avoid all the
touch screens – even the iPhone. You’ll be far happier with the
physical QWERTY keyboard on a Blackberry Curve or Bold. •