RIM has finally released a touchscreen phone, the BlackBerry Storm. We got visited by RIM and the phone's UK carrier Vodafone today, all very keen to show off the latest device to temporarily bear the "iPhone-killer" tag.
And it's... interesting. The device itself is a little on the heavy side, even if it doesn't look overly bulky. The menus and scrolling work alright (if a fraction more sluggishly than those on the iPhone), the media playback is pretty good. Well, take a look at the half-VGA screen - looks like a full PC screen from this shot, doesn't it?
The problem lies in the mechanics of the thing. Uniquely, RIM has decided to make the Storm's touchscreen clickable, in order to give real tactile feedback to the user. This means it actually goes down, then up again, when you push it. It feels good to use, until you try typing on it (kinda a big thing with the BlackBerry crowd).
Using the BlackBerry predictive texty thingy in portrait mode is ok, because that's one-handed operation. However, I personally loathe any kind of predictive text, preferring QWERTY goodness. So, I flip the phone onto its side, into landscape mode, and get a lovely, big-buttoned full keyboard, ideally sized for two-thumbed typing.
Only it doesn't work properly. The screen can only register one keystroke at a time, and - because it has to physically pop back up after each stroke - typing at any kind of reasonable speed just ends up in a mess. It looks so good and it feels so good, but it just doesn't bloody work the way a BlackBerry should.
What's worse, the up-down mechanics of the screen seem to have led RIM to not seal the screen's borders properly. You can see a very thin gap around the whole thing, offering a slight view right down to the circuitry. Dust? Water? Whoops. Maybe we didn't get shown the final product, but it just looked like an accident waiting to happen.
So, while the handset is clearly a big step forward for RIM, it might need some real hands-on activity before any buying decisions are made. I'm anticipating a proper loaner handset from RIM/Voda, so perhaps I'll change my mind - get used to it, as the RIM/Voda execs assured me I would. But I'm not so sure.