Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to get my hands on Research In Motion's much-anticipated touch-screen device, the BlackBerry Storm.
The new device, which had been known in rumor mill circles as the Thunder, offers up an ingenious solution to the thumb keyboard versus virtual keyboard dilemma: The Storm's touch-screen is built atop a mechanical apparatus that turns the whole thing into one big button.
I spent a bit of time tapping away on the Storm's new 480-by-360-pixel display, and I found that the screen-button mechanism was balanced well enough so that no matter what part of the display I pressed, it felt as though I was hitting a real button, centered wherever I was pressing.
The Storm sports an accelerometer, just like the iPhone, and when held in portrait mode the Storm's virtual keyboard appears in RIM's two-letters-per-key SureType mode. In landscape mode, the Storm's keyboard switches to QWERTY mode.
As impressed as I was with the traveling touch-screen (RIM is calling it ClickThrough), I was disappointed that the Storm ships without a Wi-Fi radio. The RIM folks who briefed me offered two reasons for the missing Wi-Fi:
1. Because of the Storm's cavalcade of different radios (Bluetooth, GPS, quad-band EDGE, single-band UMTS/HSPA, dual-band CDMA/EVDO Rev A) there's just no room for Wi-Fi.
2. Who needs Wi-Fi, when Verizon Wireless' network is so fantastic? (I should mention that two people from Verizon Wireless were in attendance at the briefing as well.)
As great as Verizon Wireless may be, and as effective as that guy with glasses and his army of pole workers who act out family connectivity scenarios and follow subscribers around may be, I want Wi-Fi in my smart phone.
Still, even with the missing Wi-Fi, I think that RIM has an impressive device on its hands, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the hordes of BlackBerry thumb-keyboard enthusiasts take to the new display.