Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs RIM BlackBerry Storm

Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs RIM BlackBerry Storm

Summary: I have now written up my thoughts on the iPhone 3G vs. Palm Pre and iPhone 3G vs. HTC Magic so now it is time to move on to the RIM BlackBerry flagship product, the Storm. The BlackBerry Storm is currently the only RIM device with a touchscreen and thus fits in perfectly with our look at touchscreen focused devices. It also runs the latest version of the BlackBerry OS, version 4.7. I laid out what we know of the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS operating system in my first article so I won't repost all of that content here. I will run through each section for the BlackBerry Storm and then offer my personal thoughts on how it compares to the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS update on the last page of this feature.


I have now written up my thoughts on the iPhone 3G vs. Palm Pre and iPhone 3G vs. HTC Magic so now it is time to move on to the RIM BlackBerry flagship product, the Storm. The BlackBerry Storm is currently the only RIM device with a touchscreen and thus fits in perfectly with our look at touchscreen focused devices. It also runs the latest version of the BlackBerry OS, version 4.7. I laid out what we know of the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS operating system in my first article so I won't repost all of that content here. I will run through each section for the BlackBerry Storm and then offer my personal thoughts on how it compares to the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS update on the last page of this feature.

I had a chance to spend a couple weeks with the RIM BlackBerry Storm when it was first released so I do have hands-on experiences to include in this article. There have been updates issued for the device since then that I understand have fixed several issues so I will try to make sure to account for that in my thoughts here. The BlackBerry Storm is a device that is sold here in the US through Verizon, but is also available as a GSM device in other parts of the world. I will focus on the US perspective and Verizon Wireless in this article since I am using these to personally evaluate and decide if any touch screen device is a fit for me.

Let me start off this article by also clearly stating I am not an expert in the BlackBerry world and use RIM devices from time to time as they are released. I switch my SIM into way too many devices to be locked into a BB provisioned SIM so I can never keep one around for too long.

Operating System - BlackBerry OS 4.7.x.x: The Storm was the first device to be released with this version of the OS because support was needed for the touch screen technology. Unlike the iPhone or Google Android devices where the OS was created and optimized for the touch interface, RIM took the existing BlackBerry operating system and added a few touch elements to it so it really is not a clean and slick solution that is optimized for touch. When I checked out the device there were several times when I could tell the OS was optimized for a hardware keyboard and touching to activate something often led to the wrong selection. I don't think RIM should start over from scratch with an OS optimized for touch because I am not completely sold that touch is the only way to go in the future. RIM is very good at QWERTY devices and for the most part their OS takes advantage of the tight hardware integration.

I do like that RIM provides you with a full QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode. A full QWERTY should also be coming to portrait mode in an upcoming software update. I think this is important because at this time you are restricted to a virtual SureType keyboard or multi-press phone keypad layout in portrait mode. This requires users to have two different keyboard layouts on the device and may lead to less efficient text entry. You still have the option of using SureType in portrait mode and offering the user more choices is usually better in most cases since everyone has different preferences.

One of the limitations in the BlackBerry OS is that all applications must be installed and run from the device memory and cannot be placed onto an external memory card. I understand there may be hacks to enable this, but we are not covering hacks here in these articles. The BlackBerry OS is designed to only allow storage of music, videos, ringtones, and photos on the microSD cards. This really only gets to be much of an issue for serious power users who may try to load up a ton of applications and I personally have never run into a low memory issue even with over 25 applications on BlackBerry devices. I have seen this error on my T-Mobile G1 running Google Android that also requires apps to be loaded into the device memory.

For the most part I find the BlackBerry OS to be very stable and robust. However, depending on what 3rd party application I may be trying out the device has been known to just freeze (similar to what the iPhone does) and you can't tell if something is running in the background or what is going on so you just need to reset it and move on.

The OS does support multitasking which I will mention more in my 3rd party application section and depending on your use of the device this could be a major factor in your decision process.

Cut, copy, and paste are supported on the Storm, but this will also be supported (and in an elegant manner) on the iPhone with the 3.0 update.

The BlackBerry OS is highly focused on messaging and one aspect that you either love or hate (I hate it myself) is the integrated inbox that puts messages from all of your accounts into a single inbox. On the iPhone it is a bit of a pain to back all the way out of an email account and then dive back in to check email, but I personally do like having my email appear in separate inboxes since I don't like to mix my work and home email accounts. You can also toggle this capability on a BlackBerry to have separate inboxes appear in the email client. There are some other settings for BES vs BIS, but I have never seen or used a BES supported device so I have no experience to comment on this aspect.

I cannot stand the way settings and options are managed on the BlackBerry OS and going into the settings takes you back to the 80s with a text formatted list that has several different settings and configuration options hidden deep down in cryptic topics and menus. They need to devote some developers to really cleaning up this area, but I suppose it discourages new users from changing many options and settings that may result in fewer tech service calls. As a power user though, I hate the whole settings layout and odd system with standard and advanced menus.

Let's check out the Hardware »

Hardware - RIM BlackBerry Storm: The main distinguishing feature of the Storm versus all other BlackBerry devices is the large 3.25 inch 380x360 touch screen display labeled SurePress. The entire display physically moves when you press it in and I have to admit that it is very cool to mess around with and is quite innovative in today's world of smartphones. You tap the display, without pressing it in, to select items and then press in to perform actions that you would normally perform by pressing in on the trackball or center of a navigation pad. I do wonder how it will hold up over a long period of time because it is quite a large panel that physically moves. In addition to the touch aspects of the display, it looks great when viewing videos or photos.

When I used the Storm it felt like I was working hard to enter text on the keyboard and I was unable to enter data as fast as I could on a hardware QWERTY keyboard or the iPhone software-based keyboard. From what I read online from people who have been using the Storm for quite a while now, you need to really spend some time with the device to get proficient at it. Thay may work for many folks, but devices like the iPhone are dead simple to use out of the box and that is what consumers seem to really be looking for.

The Storm feels great in your hand and is a solidly constructed product. There is a 3.5mm headset jack, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support, good quality 3.2 megapixel camera (should be the standard on all smartphones), GPS receiver, removable 1400 mAh battery, 1GB of onboard memory with microSD card support, and EV-DO Rev A high speed wireless data support. The device also supports the use of a SIM card so you can use the Storm when you travel to other countries. The major wireless technology that is missing is WiFi. Even though Verizon Wireless has an extensive 3.5G data network, there are still times when WiFi is the better choice and current Storm owners do not get that without a WiFi radio. There is a rumored BlackBerry Storm 2 with WiFi that may be coming this Fall.

The Storm is thicker than the iPhone and not as slick, but the form factor still is quite attractive and simple. The camera can capture video content too.

How about Verizon Wireless? »

Carrier - Verizon Wireless: In talking with folks who have Verizon Wireless they have nothing but good things to say about the coverage they experience. My brother and friends use Verizon here in Washington State because they get much better coverage outside of large population centers (such as when hunting or fishing). I was able to get strong signals on the Storm at both my home and office and during my commute so Verizon is definitely a good carrier choice for most users.

Most BlackBerry devices eventually end up on all the carriers so that you usually are not even limited to a single carrier when you choose a BlackBerry device. With versions of the Storm supporting GSM networks, we may see the Storm eventually come to AT&T and/or T-Mobile here in the US.

3rd Party Applications appear in BlackBerry App World »

3rd Party Applications: In the post I found and downloaded almost all my apps to BlackBerry devices through the BlackBerry mobile site, which you still can do today. However, there is now the BlackBerry App World on-device store that makes finding and downloading applications much simpler and more centralized.

BlackBerry devices run apps that use standard MIDP APIs, with BlackBerry-specific APS available for developers to tap into and help integrate the application into the device. You can see this with some applications appearing in menus throughout the device instead of being completely by themselves. I find that there are a wide variety of applications for BlackBerry devices and I have yet to find anything missing that I don't have on other devices.

Some of my favorite applications for the BlackBerry are Facebook, TwitterBerry, Slacker Mobile, Shazam, Gmail, Opera Mini, Wall Street Journal, Documents To Go, and the Instant Messaging client.

As I mentioned in the operating system section, you can multitask on the BlackBerry Storm so you can have Pandora or Slacker streaming your music in the background while you work on a Word document or check email where you cannot do this with the iPhone and its lack of multitasking.

Which device appeals most to me? »

My Personal Choice and Final Thoughts

As I always state, purchasing a mobile device is a highly personal choice and IMHO there is not any single BEST device or operating system for everyone because we all have such varied needs. The Storm seems to be a device that you either love or hate as we have seen from online reviews. My fellow podcast cohost James Kendrick really likes his BlackBerry Storm as you can read in his initial review and follow-up thoughts (hyperlinks removed due to security issues) after a couple of months of usage. I only spent a couple weeks with the Storm and am thinking I may need to check it out again with the latest firmware.

I think the Storm trumps the iPhone when it comes to multitasking, but I would personally go for the iPhone over the Storm because of the much more touch optimized OS and extensive 3rd party application support. I am also an Exchange user and while the Storm works pretty well with my Exchange email via OWA, it is unable to sync my calendar and contacts directly. There are workarounds (such as Google Sync) to get around this, but I prefer a direct syncing solution.

I do think the Storm touch screen technology is very slick, but it really doesn't give you an efficient user experience and to me it seemed like a lot of work to enter text when compared to the iPhone software-based keyboard. Touch is not integrated into the OS and the experience on the Storm is similar to the Nokia 5800 where the OS added a touch layer on top of an existing layer and the experience is a bit kludgy.

RIM is the leader in great hardware QWERTY keyboard devices and I am not sure they should really be dabbling in the touchscreen area. I would rather see them continue to improve on their QWERTY keyboard devices and churn out excellent products like the BlackBerry Bold. I also want to see a major overhaul to the system settings menus that makes using and changing settings a better experience for the end user.

My next article will focus on the Samsung OMNIA HD that I had a chance to play with for a bit at CTIA last week.

Go back to the beginning »

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems, BlackBerry

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  • Clash of the Titans?

    How could anyone consider the Storm to be a titan? A titan is a a person of exceptional importance and reputation the storm has neither.
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs RIM BlackBerry Storm

    I think this is as objective a post as I've seen on the iPhone v. Storm. I played with the iPhone, G1, Omnia and Storm before selecting my device/phone.

    There is no doubt that the iPhone is - as are many Apple products - a very elegant intuitive device. The app store there has RIM and Android beat. The G1 is a great little phone with a QWERTY board and the Google apps leader. The Omnia is a very nice Windows Mobile device and the Storm is a nicely engineered touch screen device with fewer apps than it should have.

    The other day on an airport car rental bus I was sitting next to a guy who said he 'hated' his iPhone QWERTY interface because it wasn't available in landscape mode; on the flip side, he'd never had a problem with dropped calls which is often the #1 complaint of iPhone owners.

    I have been with Verizon Wireless for several years and it is no joke that they've got the best network - even if it's CDMA v. GSM. So, I ultimately settled on the Storm during their BOGO sale.

    It has its quirks, like the others, but it's an easy enough product to use. If you are typing, just be sure you use your two hands for the respective keys you would at a full keyboard, otherwise you're likely to makey many more mistakes; the word suggestion function is great!

    I enjoy the functionality of the Storm, the styling and the touch/press interface and the reliability of Verizon's network; those things make me more forgiving about some of its limitations - mostly in the area of lacking the number of apps that are available via the iPhone or even th G1. If RIM continues to develop their store, I will enjoy my Storm for the next couple of years. . .
  • You hit it dead on with...

    "purchasing a mobile device is a highly personal choice and IMHO there is not any single BEST device or operating system for everyone because we all have such varied needs."

    In a simular vein, my wife wanted/needed a new digital camera. I gathered a ton of information, compared the features, price, etc. and gave her a lot of information. What did she do? See went to the local store, tried a bunch of differnt cameras and then picked the one she liked best.

    Did it have the top number of pixels? Nope. Did it have the highest optical zoom? Again no. Was it the "best" camera when comparing feature for feature? Not really, but it DID fit her idea of what is "best" for her needs and wants.

    Had I went out and bought a camera for her based on the feature set, I would have bought another paper weight for her desk. The one she selected she is in love with.
    • This in many ways is a common argument Apple

      users have made for years now. Going first to the Mac and then later to
      the iPod and now iPhone. We don't use "features" and the end all be all
      of our calculations. Don't get me wrong is has its place but its only part
      of a far larger puzzle. I would not own a single Apple product if they did
      not do for me what I wanted/needed. For that matter I would not own
      my XBox and later my XBox 360 if they had not met my needs.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • Correction

        [i]For that matter I would not own
        my XBox and later my XBox 360 if they had not
        met my needs.[/i]

        You would have bought neither, had Apple be in
        the game console business offering a product
        with their logo. You surely would have bought
        that and then justified your decision based on
        your zealotry for Apple
        • And who is showing his Zealotry?

          You know nothing of me or my history. You don't even know the
          products I have owned over the years from the Commodor Vic-20,
          Apple II and Apple IIE, a NEC dual 3.5" floppy laptop with no hard
          drive. A host of generic built my own PC's. Several older Mac models
          and currently a 24" iMac and an iPod Touch.

          Now "IF" Apple made a gaming system that did not have the games I
          wanted to play then no I would not purchase it. For that is dumb. I
          bought the XBox and later XBox 360 cause a certain game I wanted to
          play was available for it. It was not per se the system itself but rather
          that Sony dropped the ball and the game I wanted to play was ready
          to play on the XBox. Of course my XBox 360 had the red ring of death
          but hey MS replaced or repaired it so I'm good.

          My history with computers and gadgets goes back to the day of CP/M
          or pre DOS. I've worked with every name brand system you've likely
          every heard of and some you may never have known depending on
          your age and history in the field. I like Apple products because as a
          rule they have an excellent history with me. The do just work and
          work well.

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
          • You are

            [i]You know nothing of me or my history. [/i]

            Just look at every blog post in ZDNet
            regarding Apple. If somebody says anything at
            least slightly negative about Apple, you come
            to the rescue. And aren't you the guy who
            prefers to use a Mac, and an iPod touch IIRC?
            One thing is that you have to work with
            specific computers as part of your activities,
            and another are the computers/products you use
            for personal purposes
          • True I have had to work on and repair a wide range

            of PC's but if you read and understood what I said just about you would
            have noticed that I actually have personally 'OWNED" a commodore Vic-
            20, an NEC laptop, Several PC clones made by my own hands or should I
            say assembled?. Pay attention!!!! Not only have I worked on but worked
            with an number of computer systems including working on PC's just no
            repairing them. I've also had the experience of using many different
            OS's. Now after all those many years I have settled on Apple and the Mac
            OS but its not because I haven't tried and used a whole host of

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
      • Jim buys what he wants - ignoring morality and paying attention to wants.

        I don't. I would never buy any XBox because it's a Microsoft product. I love my Apple products but would have NEVER gone that route if Microsoft had not devolved into an immoral, unethical, lying, thieving company. Hey, I started with Commodore Pet, GEOS, DOS, Unix, then Win 2 - 95/NT (and OS/2, my personal favorite!). That's when I found MS to be a company I couldn't support with my own dollars.

        Call me a zealot for my principles, not for a company OR it's products. I mean, there's always Linux too(a bit too much 'work' for me though. Apple's products are glorious and let me be relaxed in my IT needs).
        No More Microsoft Software Ever!
        • More complicated than that my friend.....

          There are likely plenty of good Joe and Janes who work for MS. They like
          all of us need to make money and pay the bills. Should I hold them
          responsible for their leaderships less than stellar actions? Where does
          one draw the line. How many people to you get to harm to get to a
          villain? Is is morally correct to shot threw the hostage to reach the
          terrorist? Not a big fan of MS products in general nor their tactics. That
          said Apple itself is not pure as a new fallen snow either and I have had
          trouble with some of their actions in the past.

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
          • I wasn't REALLY attacking you. Just a little.

            Seriously, those folks that work at Microsoft should have done their research. I got an offer in the 6 figure range from MS and turned it down. Remained unemployed for 6 months. Stupid? Some would think so. I think I was waiting for something I could live with. Holier than thou? I am not. I just want to live with my own convictions. Microsoft is not one of them. I have friends that work at MS and to remain friends not one of us ever mentions the company. Regardless of tech, etc.
            No More Microsoft Software Ever!
          • Battle of the ABM zealots

            how funny!
          • What battle?

            Just a polite chat about various positives and negatives about corporate
            America. You know the concept that you have yet to grasp a polite
            disagreement. Oh and in case you hadn't noticed sine I use to own an
            XBox and currently own an XBox 360 I can not be definition be an

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
        • You're a nut

          I use MS products, but also Apple products (as
          part of my work, I haven't bought any myself)
          and Linux too (mainly on the server side.
          client side only for development). Whatever
          fit my needs. You, on the other hand, are a
          nut and zealot, and that's not because of
          principles (how hilarious)
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs RIM BlackBerry Storm

    I phone is much ahead of RIM BlackBerry Storm :)
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs RIM BlackBerry Storm

    Well I used to love my BB but my new Storm leaves much to be desired. Typing and navigation is painful with the touchscreen. And I thought the little buttons were bad. The unit on a whole is sluggish. Very frequently I click on an OK or some other button and it just sits there. So I think it didn't take so I do it again, and again. Finally it takes all of those clicks and brings up god knows what. The camera takes a whole 5 seconds to take a picture, so if you're not holding it very still for a long period of time, you're going to get a fuzzy picture. Oh and let's not forget the proprietary USB cable which forces me to carry yet another USB or charger around with me. They really had to switch from USB-Mini? It's only redeeming quality over older BB's is the landscape webpage and ability to pan and zoom, plus the 8Gb of memory. But when it comes right down to it, I miss my roller.
    P. Dickason, CNE, MCSE, CCA
    • I wish Verizon would release a new OS

      The leaked betas out there fix every issue you just mentioned. Unfortunately, most people aren't willing load a leaked OS, so Storm users are suffering with a severely outdated software and hating their phone. Verizon needs to get on the ball!
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs RIM BlackBerry Storm

    O'Doyle, i mean, iPhone...Rules!
  • Titans! LOL!

    Actually, I wouldn't take either as a swap for my Xperia on Windows Mobile 6.5

    I am no fan of MS but I cannot believe how little the iPhone does that I take for granted on a WM phone. A little more complex to learn but then I maybe have the advantage of having an attention span slightly longer than a nano-second...

    Anyone who implements Blackberry infrastructure, when they have MS Exchange (for push email) deserves to be sacked. Any government agency that writes Blackberry into their 'security' standards deserves to be investigated by the SFO...
    David Gale
    • WOW.... so you claim not to be a MS shill and then

      go onto to rant against not only the iPhone but the blackberry as well?
      I can recall on iPhone and other posts related to mobile phones that
      many a person has complained about WM and only a few have said
      anything positive. Yet you are all over the benefits of WM... giving it
      high praise indeed and ignoring the popularity of the iPhone and the
      Blackberry? You even give a slight back handed slap to the
      intelligence of users of other devices.

      All I can say is based on the sales of the iPhone and Blackberries, The
      customer satisfaction reports of all three OS's WM, Blackberry and
      iPhone and their related devices. Based on the many comments I've
      seen about these devices on sights like these. I have to say I think you
      are in the minority:)

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn