12.26.2008

My real-use review of the BlackBerry Storm

Ok, for all the people who have asked about it and read all the reviews, here's my take on the BlackBerry Storm. I'm not going into the techy stuff because that's all out there for tech geeks. I'm just gonna talk about my experiences in actually using the phone for three weeks.

I received it the day before Thanksgiving. I had to return it on Monday or keep it. This phone sells for $199. I'm getting $100 off via the New Every Two from Verizon and I get a $50 Visa card after purchasing the phone so I'll end up paying $50 for it. I usually don't pay squat for my phones, so while it's a bargain compared to the retail price, it is expensive compared to my past purchases.

I'm going to use the NYT review of the phone as a frame for my review because it's apparently widely read---people ask me about it when they hear I have a Storm. All quotes in this entry are from this NYT article.

You can put MP3s on it (and the speaker isn't half bad if low on the bass), you can run your IM clients (google, msn, yahoo, and aim), surf the internet (great---but I long for the ability to tab browse), and get email straight to your phone (I have three accounts on there right now). It has a camera which can take video and obviously you can text or make calls---it is a phone.

First off, my biggest problem with this phone is the flash. I've shown it to many people. It is *literally* blinding. It comes on while focusing if it's dark and there is a delay when taking pictures. If you dumb down the settings on the phone, speed improves. When you have it high resolution, anti-blur, flash, auto-focus, etc., there is a little delay while it chews away on all the settings. I have changed one of my side buttons to go directly to the camera to help cut into this delay so I can still snap a quick pic. And I'm trying a work-around by putting transparent tape over the flash. Janky, yes, but if it fixes my biggest problem with the phone, I can live with it.

Secondly, I had an issue with the touch screen during phone calls. I would accidentally mute myself a lot. Some friends with iPhones say they have the same issue. After looking through some third-party BlackBerry applications, I found one that fixes this problem---TalkLock from CellAvant. I downloaded it and now I now longer have this problem.

Finally, the phone occasionally gets lost. I've had to pull the battery a couple of times to get it to come back to life. I also don't tend to turn off my phone. I had my last phone for almost three years and I don't think I turned it off for more than a few minutes that entire time. Allegedly, you have to restart smartphones to "reboot" them. Since I have been doing that when it seems to get laggy, I've had no real problems other than when the networks seems sluggish. I also wasn't re-starting when I added new programs. Now that I'm restarting after downloading and installing new programs, my lags are rarer.

Ok, on to the NYT review.
Hello? Isn’t the thumb keyboard the defining feature of a BlackBerry? A BlackBerry without a keyboard is like an iPod without a scroll wheel. A Prius with terrible mileage. Cracker Jack without a prize inside.
It doesn't have a button keyboard, but it does have a touchscreen keyboard. And I use my thumbs to type on it. Unlike the iPhones I've tried, I don't get as many accidental clicks since you can touch the screen without selecting and be more accurate. And the screen is pretty big---not as big as the iPhone (I checked the other day against one), but close.
It’s not a bad idea. In fact, it ought to make the on-screen keyboard feel more like actual keys. In principle, you could design a brilliant operating system where the two kinds of taps do two different things. Tap lightly to type a letter — click fully to get a pop-up menu of accented characters (é, è, ë and so on). Tap lightly to open something, click fully to open a shortcut menu of options. And so on.
Yah, the Storm does that, too. When your finger is on the "a" key, you get 7 other options for a (accents, umlauts, etc). Lightly tapping the screen twice zooms. Lightly tapping once brings up a menu at the bottom.
When you hold it horizontally, you get the full, familiar Qwerty keyboard layout. But when you turn it upright, you get the less accurate SureType keyboard, where two letters appear on each “key,” and the software tries to figure out which word you’re typing.
I don't hold my Storm that way. I prefer the whole keyboard. But, yah, trying to type "Boltini" into it upright gets me "Bolting" every time.
Incredibly, the Storm even muffs simple navigation tasks. When you open a menu, the commands are too close together; even if your finger seems to be squarely on the proper item, your click often winds up activating something else in the list.
This would be where the clicking part comes in handy. I don't actually press down until I'm sure I have the link I want---even on forums where the new post button can be *tiny* if you don't zoom in a bit. Also, if I push the wrong link, I can usually get the right one before the wrong link actually loads.
Nor is that the Storm’s only delayed reaction. It can take two full seconds for the screen image to change when you turn it 90 degrees, three seconds for a program to appear, five seconds for a button-tap to register. (Remember: To convert seconds into BlackBerry time, multiply by seven.)
It definitely doesn't change orientation as quickly as an iPhone. And some programs only work in the upright position---mostly games. Usually, however, if I restart the phone, these issues disappear.
And that’s before they discovered that the Storm doesn’t have Wi-Fi. It can’t get onto the Internet using wireless hot spots, like the iPhone or other BlackBerrys. Verizon’s high-speed (3G) cellular Internet network is now in 258 American cities, but that’s still a far cry from everywhere.
I don't think *any* of the Verizon phones have wi-fi capabilities. If there is one, let me know. They keep you locked into the Verizon data plans. The data plan is $30 unless you want unlimited and then it's $45. I'm going with the unlimited and am reducing some of the other things I pay for like unlimited pix messages, etc.

It's not perfect and it probably won't kill the iPhone, but I'm keeping this phone. Really, now that I've downloaded a bunch of third-party apps (weatherbug, youtube, google maps, and I've got a few more on my list), other than the flash on the camera, I think this is the phone for me.

2 comments:

Leeanthro said...

Thanks for the details!

I think I am going to wait until May when the 3rd of the phones on my Verizon plan go off of their contract and then switch to AT&T and an iPhone.

Unless I change my mind, stick with V and get a Blackberry Curve.

Husband wonders if he will get AT&T service in the basement where he works. He said there is a Verizon tower close by his building.

What would solve all my problems? If Verizon offered the iPhone. Stupid that they don't!

Gamera said...

No problem. I've been pondering my decision to keep or return and didn't really decide until last week.

Which is why I waited on the review.

I like the Blackberry. I think as time goes on, there will be a lot more third-party apps for the Blackberry Storm---just like for the iPhone. They've sold a lot of them so there will be a market for that stuff.

I know a few people that have the Curve and they like it a lot.

And...AT&T phone service is spotty. A friend can't really take calls inside his house.

Eh.