The touch and tact of Blackberry Storm
By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET Canadaâs Research in Motion (RIM) has been trying to jump into the latest t rends in mobile phone designs. Not surprisingly, it was RIMâs flagship Blackber ry phones that revolutionized tactile QWERTY keyboards that have been followed by other mobile phone manufacturers. The trend has shifted towards multi-functi on phones that can connect to the Internet. RIM gladly jumped into it by introd ucing the Curve, later making improvements on the Bold. But the trend keeps cha nging and this time, thanks to the Apple iPhone, it is touch-screen technology thatâs making waves among phone users. So RIM introduced this year the Blackber ry Storm, the companyâs first touch-screen phone. Purists of the Blackberryâs keyboard might scoff at the idea of a touch-screen Blackberry, more so when they find out that the Blackberry Storm has totally re moved a physical QWERTY keyboard and instead replaced it with a touch-screen ve rsion (trademarked by RIM as SurePress). The fully QWERTY keyboard can be used in both landscape and portrait position, which is toggled by simply moving the phone on its side or upright. Users can also opt to use RIMâs SureType keyboard (reminiscent of the Blackberry Pearl and 7100 series) in its upright position. I myself have been using Blackberry phones for at least six years now and have come to love fiddling my thumbs on the tactile keyboard. A touch-screen phone m ight not provide the same perceptible click as a keyboard, which would allow a long-time Blackberry user to type away without having to look at the keyboard. Typical users of touch-screen phones â unless they have pinpoint pressing accur acy that takes a while to master â have to look at the screen to know what they âre pressing. But trust RIM to know how their millions of users would react. Instead of merel y following the touch-screen phone bandwagon, RIM added a little feature on the Blackberry Storm that would still give it a full QWERTY feel; the phone will o nly enter a specific button on the screen when pressed hard enough until there is a perceptible click. The entire screen is actually a huge button. The screen can determine what letter is being pressed based on the proximity of the finge r to the nearest button. The letters are widely spaced to give some users highe r percentage in pressing the right letter. The downside here is that users who have bigger thumbs could enter the wrong button, which can be quite often. In a way, the Blackberry Stormâs clickable screen compensates for the loss of a tactile feel of using a touch-screen phone. The feel takes some getting used t o and there will many mistakes before a user is comfortable enough to user the on-screen QWERTY with ease. The clickable touch-screen also uses hard glass cov er to lessen damage though it is not much of help against scratches. Of course, the Blackberry Storm shows most of the features from previous Blackb erry models, plus a few add-ons. Some of its standard features are a 3.2 megapi xel camera for stills and video recording, expandable microSD memory card slot. Being a multimedia device, the Blackberry Storm can play several media types i ncluding MP3, AAC, and WMA for audio, and MPEG4, H.264, and WMV for video. Unfo rtunately, high resolution videos tend to skip. The on-board speaker also suffe rs from high treble but is nonetheless useful as a speakerphone. Surprisingly, the Blackberry Storm does not have WiFi, a feature found in the B lackberry Curve and Bold. As such, the user can only connect to the Internet vi a 3G (in the case of the Storm, it can connect to HSPA networks). Having WiFi w ould have given users an alternative to connect to the Internet and avoid havin g to pay for each kilobyte of data. Battery is also a major concern with the Blackberry Storm as it only lasts appr oximately two days on a full charge when used for sending and receiving SMS and voice calls. Previous models would last at least three to four days (which is one of the reasons why the Blackberry is a phone of choice among on-the-go exec utives). I attribute this to the power consumption of the screen. Perhaps that is also a reason why RIM did not include WiFi as it would have consumed power m uch faster making the Blackberry Storm useless in just one day. Overall, the Blackberry Storm has a lot of potential with the addition of touch -screen QWERTY. The large screen also makes it appealing for Blackberry users w ho want a little more fun with their device. But there are still flaws on the S torm that have to be resolved before it becomes loved.
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