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  Tech Tools Review

iPhone vs. Blackberry Storm: Blackberry Storm

January 2009

New technologies are great if they provide the services you need and want. Our author reviews two of the hippest new mobile devices and finds them wanting in different ways.

I bought an iPhone and wanted to love it. I define myself by my gadgets (I know it’s pathetic) and the iPhone is so cool that I knew it would make me cool too. I spent 14 great days feeling very hip and trendy while being totally frustrated by the failings of the iPhone as a “…..phone.

I returned my iPhone to AT&T, got a refund, and bought a Blackberry Storm from Verizon. Ten more days of looking cool and then I returned to the Verizon store and returned my Storm. Today, I am using my old Blackberry 8830 and struggling with my self-image.

Why didn’t I like the iPhone? I did like it in many respects; in fact I loved it as a web browser, music player and game machine. It was wonderful at running applications like OmniFocus (my task manager) and others. It failed me, however, as a telephone. I found it difficult to use in the car (while driving) due to the touch screen and ineffective voice dialing. I found out how much I rely on the buttons on the Blackberry to do things without looking. I was also frustrated by call quality on AT&T.

Why didn’t I keep the Storm? It’s not nearly as cool as the iPhone. It doesn’t support many applications and it has a much clunkier web browser. It also suffers from the touch screen and issues with dialing, although it has great voice dialing capability.

Bottom line, I need a phone. The applications, the touch screen, the cool factor are all terrific but if the device doesn’t make it really easy to make a call then it has to go back to the store. One day I hope to have something that fills my need for cool and makes it easy to place a call with a decent connection. Until that day comes, I will be keeping my traditional Blackberry with a keyboard.

Design

The Storm is a sweet machine and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. It feels good. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel quite as good as the iPhone. It one respect, however, it beats the iPhone. It feels solid. The Storm doesn’t feel like a fragile device.

The Storm touch screen uses a technology called SurePress. When you touch the screen you are actually able to depress the screen so that it feels like you are pushing a button. This technology gives you a sense of having actually made contact with the appropriate key. Pressing all the way down is not required. The screen also allows for swiping and tapping to use certain features.

The Storm also has some buttons that will be familiar to Blackberry users. It has a buttons for Talk, End, Menu and Clear. There are also two programmable shortcut buttons that can be used for voice dialing, camera or anything else. These programmable buttons make the phone much more usable, by feel, than the iPhone for making calls.

Display

The display on the Storm is first rate. I preferred the Storm display to the iPhone. It’s big, bright and clear. The Storm has an accelerometer which informs the device when it’s turned from vertical to horizontal. The display is then reoriented for use to optimize the display space. For instance, it’s much easier to type in the horizontal mode with a wider keyboard.

Unfortunately, the screen does not yet work nearly as well as the iPhone screen. Research in Motion (RIM), the manufacturer, has already released a major firmware upgrade to improve early issues but there are more issues yet to be resolved. In many respects, the Storm feels a bit like it was released a bit before it was truly ready (maybe to beat the holiday rush). I’m confident that RIM will, eventually, fix the flaws.

Email

Blackberry is the king of mobile email. The Storm syncs with BlackBerry Enterprise server. It supports Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino. It has built-in support for nearly every email provider. As an email reader the Storm is fantastic.

Unfortunately, it’s not so hot as email sender. The touch screen keyboard is challenging. After a few days it becomes easier but never easy. The iPhone keyboard is far superior for typing email. RIM will, ultimately, improve the keyboard with software updates but until that happens the keyboard inferior to the keyboard on the iPhone and far inferior to the keyboard on any other Blackberry.

Features

There is no question that the iPhone beats the Storm on features because of the amazing applications available for download from the iPhone App Store. Blackberry offers some applications (Facebook, instant messaging clients, etc.) with a promise of many more to come in 2009.

There are, however, a few things the Storm can do that the iPhone can’t (at least so far). The Storm comes with “copy and paste” which the iPhone lacks. It also has a GPS with turn-by-turn directions, which is lacking in the iPhone (however, Verizon charges $10 per month for this feature). The battery lasts on the Storm (all day), which is something most iPhone users can’t say. Plus you can pop in a spare batter if you run out of power. The iPhone battery is not accessible.

The Storm does a great job reading and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It has a calendar, task manager, memo pad, voice recorder, calculator plus a 3.2 megapixel camera with video recording. The camera has flash, autofocus and a zoom feature.

Wireless

The 3G wireless data connection is quick and widely available. I’ve used it effectively from the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. But the Storm does not have WiFi capabilities. For most folks that won’t be a deal breaker but it’s frustrating given that Blackberry has WiFi on other devices sold by carriers other than Verizon.

Users can tether PCs to the Storm for Internet access at a cost of $15 per month. Unfortunately, tethering will not work with the Mac and is available only under Windows.

The Storm supports Bluetooth including stereo Bluetooth headsets.

Phone

The Storm provides excellent call quality. The Verizon network is far superior to the competition (as documented repeatedly by Consumer Reports user surveys). The phone connects via CDMA in the U.S. and GSM in most of the rest of the world so you are ready to travel. Access to the Verizon network is a key distinction between the Storm and the iPhone.

The Storm has a superior speaker phone as well as great voice dialing. It’s easy to push a button, say “Call John Doe mobile” and a few second later John is on the line.

Conclusion

So what’s the bottom line? Do some hands-on research. Go buy one of these phones. Try it. Then try the other one. But don’t sell you old phone on eBay just yet. You have 30 days to return the phones if you aren’t happy. That’s what I did. AT&T charged me a 10% restocking fee. Verizon gave me a full refund.

You can easily and instantly port your phone number over from one phone to the next so you won’t have any disruption.

Then decide if the touch screen works for your needs or if you need something with physical buttons. You will have a great time trying out the latest toys. Then maybe you will do what I’m doing. I’ve settled back in to using my old Blackberry for calls and email and I’m adding the iPod Touch to my collection so I can enjoy all the coolness of the iPhone without a monthly phone bill.

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About the Author

Lee Rosen practices family law in North Carolina with offices in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte. Rosen publishes on law practice management at Divorce Discourse.

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