Research In Motion's new BlackBerry Storm2 9550 smartphone is born of lessons learned, both good and bad.
Gone are the balky, unresponsive touch screen and laggy performance that were the hallmarks of the device's predecessor. Instead, the Storm2 9550 provides reliable performance, touch-screen technology that delivers new on-screen capabilities, and more connectivity options both domestically and abroad.
The Storm2 9550 is also the first device RIM has shipped with the BlackBerry OS 5, which adds a number of enhancements for users, particularly those working for companies already using the latest version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
The BlackBerry Storm2 9550 (I'll just call it the Storm2 from here on out) is available now on the Verizon network. With month-to-month pricing, the Storm2 costs $540; with a two-year contract and online discounts, the smartphone can be had for as little as $180.
The Storm2 measures in at 4.43 by 2.45 by 0.55 inches, and weighs 5.64 ounces--a slight, 0.14-ounce increase over the first iteration of the Storm (the Blackberry Storm 9530).
Like its predecessor, the Storm2 comes with a 3.25-inch touch screen with 480-by-360-pixel resolution. Unlike its predecessor, however, the Storm2 ditches the mechanical subsystem used to provide a clickable touch screen, using instead an all-electrical iteration of the SurePress screen. According to BlackBerry representatives, the Storm2 display "is mounted on four actuators that generate an impulse when the screen is pressed."
Using the new SurePress screen is a little weird but oddly effective, as it seems to combine the attributes of both a resistive and a capacitive touch screen in the same device.
The pressure-based touch differences have allowed RIM to introduce its own gesture language to Storm2 users. A single light tap highlights a link or dialog box; a light double tap triggers a zoom action; and users can flick the screen in any direction--left and right to move around-as in a photo gallery or the pages of a presentation.
But most welcome is the up and down flick, along with a new feature in BlackBerry OS 5.0 that allows for inertial scrolling. This action lets users more easily scroll along in very long Websites or documents, thereby alleviating one of the biggest annoyances I've had with BlackBerry devices since they standardized on the trackball in the majority of the device fleet.
This new screen technology promises multitouch capabilities, as well as faster and more accurate typing than was possible with the Storm 9530. In my tests, I found the multitouch capabilities a little underwhelming, due to some limitations with the sensor approach RIM has taken.
For example, say I wanted to capitalize two letters in a row. This would require me to hold down the Shift key for a few beats as I typed the letters. If one of the letters was too close to the Shift key (X seemed to be a particular problem for me), I found the Storm2 would only occasionally recognize that I was trying to hit that key. In the end, triggering the Shift Lock instead was a less frustrating means to the same end.
As with every other on-screen keyboard implementation, users' mileage will likely vary when it comes to typing speed and accuracy. In my short time with the device, I did not find my typing particularly fast or accurate, although I've been improving gradually.
However, I was grateful to see that various keyboard options are now available to the user. For example, when in landscape viewing mode (the accelerometer recognizes the shift in orientation to switch the screen, as the iPhone does), the on-screen keyboard is QWERTY. In portrait mode, the device defaults to a SureType keypad (organized like the keyboard on a BlackBerry Pearl), but the user can easily change it to QWERTY here, as well.