Research In Motion (RIM) just unveiled a new BlackBerry Storm smart phone without the physical keyboard. The Storm is a touch-interface 3G handset with Click-Through technology. It will be available from Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and from Vodafone in Europe and parts of Asia in time for the holidays later this fall.
The Blackberry Storm price in the U.S. hasn’t been disclosed yet. In the UK, you could get a brand new Blackberry Storm for free if you subscribe to a 18 month contract with Vodafone, and that will cost you $70 a month.
As with the Apple's iPhone, the Storm uses a touchscreen where you move your finger lightly on the surface to navigate around the screen. But to initiate action, instead of double-tapping, you confirm a selection by physically depressing or clicking the screen. You will feel the difference when typing on the on-screen keyboard. To confirm a selection or menu choice, you press harder the screen that immediately generates distinct physical feedback. This physical feedback is to distinguish between just moving around the display and initiating an action. A firm press creates a sensation uncannily like pressing physical buttons making typing becomes easier and more accurate than on the iPhone or any other touchscreen keyboard.
The keys show up in two configurations. When you hold the Storm horizontally, you get a full keyboard that fills the width of the screen. When you turn it vertically, you get a SureType keyboard, like the one on the BlackBerry Pearl, with two letters sharing most keys, or you can opt for a standard phone keypad.
The Storm's screen, like the iPhone's, treats touch as more than just another way to move a cursor. Unfortunately, it can't do the iPhone trick of enlarging or shrinking screen contents in response to a finger pinch or stretch. But unlike the iPhone, it does let you edit by cutting and pasting and you can use a two-finger stretch to select text. You can also use a flick of a finger to scroll pages up or down, which is particularly handy for browsing quickly through a list of e-mails.
High-speed, 3G data services
The Storm will be able to roam both in the United States on Verizon's EvDO Rev network and internationally on high-speed GSM networks.
The Storm's browser is an improvement on previous RIM efforts, largely because Web pages are easier to view in the horizontal format and because you can pull hidden portions of the page into view with a finger.
The Storm lacks Wi-Fi, which iPhone users may miss, though access to worldwide 3G data speeds partly makes up for that.
Hardware and Goodies
Four hardware buttons at the bottom offer traditional BlackBerry and phone navigation aids: Red and green phone buttons for accessing phone features and ending calls, a button with the BlackBerry icon for accessing menus, and a return button.
The Storm has all the goodies you expect from a contemporary smartphone, including GPS, decent video and music players, stereo Bluetooth, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. RIM is making it easier to get third-party programs for the Storm and other handsets by setting up BlackBerry Application Centers with carriers.
The Storm has 1GB of internal storage, but it also has a MicroSD slot and will ship with an 8GB MicroSD card. Also present: a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and a second external mic. The Storm, like the iPhone, has an accelerometer that adjusts the display's orientation as you rotate the device.
The Storm will support at least limited functionality for most older BlackBerry applications. But at launch, RIM says it will offer a developer's kit that will make it easier to adapt existing BlackBerry apps for the Storm
Comparing to iPhone, RIM's emphasis is on e-mail and business applications, and its products are designed to be managed by corporate technology departments. Like its predecessors, the new BlackBerry is aimed squarely at mobile executives. But the Storm incorporates much of the fresh thinking that characterizes the consumer-oriented iPhone.