BlackBerry Strom 9520 Smartphone Manual Guide

The iPhone has soared to become the ultimate smartphone, the must-have accessory that everyone from celebrities to your mom wants nay, needs to have in their pocket. It's changed the landscape of modern cellphones, put a serious dent in the sales of competing devices (just recently overtaking the venerable RAZR as the best-selling domestic handset), and unquestionably raised the bar when it comes to expectations for features in new handsets.

RIM's latest BlackBerry -- the Storm -- with a history lesson on the iPhone, but if you understand the market which Verizon and RIM hope to capture, then you understand the Storm, and it helps put this critique in perspective. The Storm, a widescreen, touchscreen device boasts many of the same features as the iPhone, but adds innovations like a clickable display, and comes packed with RIM's legendary email and messaging services. Mainlined into the biggest (and some say best) network in the States, the Storm is an almost deafening blast to the competition at first glance, but does it hold up on closer inspection? Read on to find out.

The bands seem to be plastic, not metal, and trace the outline of the moderately thick (0.55-inch) phone, looping around the back, while the rest of the surface is a high gloss, piano black plastic. Below the screen are four familiar BlackBerry keys (phone, menu, back, and end / power), along the left is a convenience key and a micro USB port (RIM has eschewed the more common mini USB slot for the lower profile of the newer variation, though that seems to be the way the industry is headed), and on the right side is another convenience key, volume rocker, and (yay!) 3.5mm headphone jack. Around back, the battery cover is made from solid piece of brushed aluminum, and the camera and flash sit atop the plate, covered by a glossy plastic strip. Along the top of the phone there's a single LED to the right, and lock and mute keys incorporated into either side of the casing like soft rockers -- a nice touch. Generally, the construction of the hardware and components used seem higher in quality than previous devices from the company, with buttons that click tightly and a heft that tries (and succeeds) to communicate an understated class.

The touchscreen is where most of the attention on this phone will be focused, and rightfully so. Unlike similarly stacked competitors (the iPhone and Instinct come to mind) the Storm doesn't just boast a capacitive touch display, it also utilizes a completely unique "click" technology called SurePress which actually allows you to click the screen down like a mouse button. The purpose of this technology, ostensibly, is to provide two aspects to touch screens which are currently lacking in most devices: the ability to "hover" without selecting or moving an on-screen element, and the physical sensation of "clicking" when you type or navigate. The Storm's screen certainly provides those two things in spades, but our question is whether or not they actually improve the experience of using this sort of device -- and in our opinion, they do not.

Most components of the UI which require scrolling don't seem drastically changed, but you can now jump through lists by up-down gestures. Again, we found that the lack of inertia made this seem stiffer than expected, though it worked well enough when moving around the phone. RIM has added a few visual tweaks to the OS on the Storm, like crossfades and sideways swipes of pages which admittedly give it a bit more polish, although they seem largely superfluous (don't worry, we feel the same way about the iPhone's zooms and scrolls). Overall, transitions between screens and inside of apps do seem a bit more sluggish than the performance on the Bold, but whether this is due to those new effects or a higher CPU load given the touch recognition and screen size, we can't say. We did find ourselves missing the speedy response of a traditional BlackBerry, and also felt like responses lagged behind our movements enough to be annoying. There seemed to be a few noticeable bugs floating around, and at least one that ground the phone to almost a halt -- when quitting the browser on a page that was still loading, it turned the navigation on the home screen to molasses. Another flaw we had crop up was accelerometer related, an irksome bug that rendered the portrait-to-landscape switching (and vice versa) non-existent. We can't say if that was hardware or software related, but the details count, and those little snags take points away.

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