Thu, 20 Nov 2008 BlackBerry Storm 9500 review
Quad-band touchscreen smartphone aims to take on the iPhone, and - to a certain extent - suceeds. Discover what Macworld UK thinks of the BlackBerry Storm 9500
- Manufacturer: RIM (BlackBerry)
- Distributor: Vodafone
- Pros: Unique click-able touchscreen, high speed 3G support, good Web browser; superb email client and contact management
- Cons: Lacks wi-fi; cut-and-paste solution is inelegent, lacks multi-touch zoom,
- Min specs: Quad-band GSM, 3G, HSDPA smartphone; 480x360-pixel transmissive touchscreen (80mm diagonally or 75mm x 49 mm); 3.2Mp camera, flash, 2x incremental zoom; video recorder; voice recorder; Bluetooth v2; BlackBerry Enterprise for Microsoft Exchancge; Lotus Domino; Novell Groupwise and other email clients; email, MMS, SMS, calendar, clock, task list, voice dialling/voice recorder; BlackBerry media player/manager, Vodafone Music downloads; MP3 ringtones; password keeper; AES secure encryption; BlackBerry Maps; Vodafone Telmap Find&Go (six month subscription); 3.5mm headphone jack; mini USB port; 1GB onboard memory; 128MB flash memory; microSDHC slot; dimensions: 62x113x14mm; weight: 158g; 15 days standby; 5.5 hours standby
- Free handest; from £35 per month on 24-month contract
- £300 handset only
- Star rating:
It's been nearly two years since Steve Jobs first demonstrated the iPhone, a move that shocked the mobile phone industry. The iPhone wasn't just a "bit better" but a completely different approach. In the 18 months that the iPhone, and then the iPhone 3G have been on sale we honestly couldn't even consider another phone; now we have two to look at. The first is this one, RIM's BlackBerry Storm 9500 available from Vodafone (the second is the T-Mobile G1, or Google phone as it's better known).
Is it us or has the smartphone market just got a little bit crowded?
Of course, competition is a great thing because it means more choice for us all, and with more choice you're more likely to get the sort of features you want. It's also more likely to put the pressure on everybody to continuously improve, rather than stagnate… so we welcome the BlackBerry Storm 9500 with open arms. This is the first mobile phone we've seen that we would seriously consider buying instead of an iPhone 3G.
What's great about the BlackBerry Storm 9500 (and to an extent the T-Mobile G1) is that it's not an "iClone". Although it sports a large touchscreen display, and it's clearly RIM's answer to the iPhone (not to mention the phone that RIM hopes will claw back market share), it hasn't simply copied the iPhone blueprint. Instead, RIM has taken everything that's good about previous BlackBerry phones, and made a full-on touchscreen model.
The BlackBerry Storm is something of a departure for RIM, and not just because it’s the first touchscreen BlackBerry. It’s also a handset that has been jointly designed by its customers – the mobile phone operators Verizon and Vodafone. Unlike most other mobile phones, which launch initially on one mobile phone network but are later rolled out and offered by several, the BlackBerry Storm is completely tied in to these two carriers. In this sense it is more like Apple's iPhone model, which is only available from O2 in the UK and AT&T in the US. You can buy the Storm through Phones4U in the UK, but the only network you can buy it on will be Vodafone.
The 3G versus Wi-Fi issue
In some ways, this makes it easier for us to assess the Storm’s performance. Aside from the effectiveness of its touchscreen, it will live or die based on its 3G mobile connectivity. Vodafone’s is very good, as we found when testing its over the air music downloads and when accessing the web. Vodafone has potentially one of the best 3G networks in the UK, O2 on the other hand was threatened by Ofcom in February 2008 for not having a good enough 3G network; although it met the minimum standard in May 2008 and avoided a fine.
Of course, much depends upon the carrier's provision in your particular area. You can check Vodafone's UK coverage for the BlackBerry Storm by clicking here (warning: site doesn't work in Safari, you need to access it in Firefox). O2's provision of 3G in your area can be accessed by clicking here and selecting the HSDPA 02 coverage option.
Another consideration is Wi-Fi, or rather the lack of it on the BlackBerry Storm. This is a strange omission and one that we suspect comes from involving the carriers in the design stage. It turns out that having Wi-Fi on the iPhone is pretty handy, especially when you're at home – although the promise of citywide Wi-Fi from services such as The Cloud haven't lived up to our expectations.