RIM's BlackBerry Storm: awkward and disappointing

Research in Motion's BlackBerry Storm looks handsome enough, but it will disappoint prospective buyers hoping for a credible touch-based iPhone alternative.

The BlackBerry Storm.

The BlackBerry Storm.

A disappointing touch

The touch-screen interface differentiates the Storm from its RIM brethren--and there I was disappointed.

Though RIM generally produces first-rate hardware (especially the QWERTY keyboards that it pioneered on handhelds), I found the Storm awkward to use for everyday data entry tasks. RIM's stated intention in developing its Click-Through technology was to enable users to navigate with the touch screen and to make menu selections (most of which appear in blue when highlighted) with a fingertip; depressing the screen would confirm a selection and initiate the selected action.

But in my tests, things sometimes didn't work out that way. I'd tap a menu item, for example, but then when I depressed the screen, the selection would somehow shift and a different item would execute. At times it was difficult to figure out what action was required: In setting up the free, downloadable AOL Instant Messaging application, I had difficulty selecting radio buttons to show that I had read and agreed to the user agreement, resulting in my having to scroll through the agreement several times to try again.

Scrolling was generally slow, too. When looking through contacts, I had no way to get quickly to the general area of the alphabet I wanted to check (a nice iPhone feature)--and then scroll quickly to the appropriate entry with a fingertip swipe. Swiping moves you just a few entries in either direction, making it too time consuming to be practical with an address book the size of mine (1500-plus entries). Consequently I had to resort to typed searches to speed things up.

Click to type

Typing on the Storm isn't much fun, either. You have to click the screen keyboard for each keystroke (the keys flash blue under your fingertips as you click), which ends up feeling like a lot of work in a way that typing on a hardware keyboard (or on the iPhone's software keyboard, for that matter) never did. I worry, too, about how well the mechanics of the click screen will hold up under the pressure of continual use by heavy typers.

There's no obvious way to make the keyboard go away quickly, either, if you want to see part of the screen that it's concealing.

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Yardena Arar

PC World (US online)
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