What's hot: Large display is easy on the eyes, SurePress much improved.
What's not: Still no reason for the moving display.
Reviewed October 27, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
When the original BlackBerry Storm came out a year ago, we had great hopes for RIM's first touch screen BlackBerry smartphone. But as with any radically new product, the Storm had its share of bugs (quite a few were fixed in ensuing software updates) and the novel SurePress touch screen that moves when you press it didn't move us. It was too springy, finicky and hard to use. The Storm2 remedies that, with a much improved capacitive touch screen that still moves, but in the right way. We're still not sure that a moving screen is the answer to tactile typing heaven but it works well enough that we won't gripe. While the heart of the BlackBerry's appeal has been super push email and an excellent QWERTY-bar design, there's still room for a big touch screen in our Berry-addicted hearts. We can safely say the Storm2 is what we'd hoped the Storm would have been and it's a phone we can recommend if you really want a touchscreen phone and can't break that BlackBerry addiction.
Features and Specs
It's hard to imagine that one might not be familiar with the Storm platform given all the hype around the first gen model, but we'll give you a rundown of the specs (just a few of which have changed from the original Storm).
* 360 x 480 capacitive SurePress 3.25" display (hardware re-engineered)
* 256 megs RAM and 2 gigs internal storage (the first gen had half the RAM and storage)
* an SDHC microSD card slot, 16 gig card included
* WiFi 802.11b/g (missing on the first Storm)
2.1 + EDR
* 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera
* 3.5mm stereo jack, RIM's media audio and video players included
* BlackBerry OS 5 (this is the first OS 5 'Berry as of this writing)
* EV-DO Rev. A, world phone with quad band GSM and Euro 3G on 2100MHz
Overall, the Storm2 looks much like the first gen model but the esthetics and build quality are improved. The design is more organic with gloss black flowing into gunmetal trim. The back plate is metal and build quality is solid. Definitely a more attractive phone than the first Storm.
The usual BlackBerry screen lock/power button and mute button live under the gloss top cap. The Nuance voice command button is centered on the left side with the USB port below and the rubberized volume up/down and camera buttons are on the right along with the 3.5mm stereo jack. Though by no means small and a bit on the wide side, the phone feels good in all but small hands.
The microSD card slot is located under the back door, but you need not remove the battery to access it and the cover is at least easy to remove.
Price (no rebate required)
Display and SurePress
The Storm2's display is bright and colorful, though not incredibly bright and the viewing angle is limited. The resolution fits well with the large screen, and that means text is rarely too tiny to read (assuming good eyes). The Storm2's resolution is the same as the BlackBerry Tour and Bold, but those smartphones' screens are much smaller so videos look like postage stamps compared to the Storm2 and text is quite small.
The SurePress display's shtick is the moving screen: touch it and it registers your finger in capacitive glory, but it won't actually do anything until you press down, moving the screen until you feel and hear a click. That's RIM's attempt to replicate the tactile goodness of their QWERTY bar phones and while I wouldn't say it accomplishes that task, it's at least no longer annoying and difficult to actuate accurately as it was on the first Storm. The capacitive display is responsive and it supports two fingers-- you can press two keyboard keys at once and the Storm2 registers it, but there's no pinch zoom in the browser. There's an accelerometer that handles automatic screen rotation (less twitchy than the first Storm) and the SurePress display locks (doesn't move) when the phone is turned off.
The on-screen keyboard is reasonably large, yet it somehow feels small when typing. I gave up with 2 thumbs and stuck to using just 1 index finger. Part of the problem is that the required press to click motion caused my thumbs to slide off target when pressing. The virtual keyboard's keys light up when you touch them, but even skinny fingers block most of that key's view. We prefer Samsung and HTC's jump-out style keys so you can see what you've pressed. Though RIM has optimized the non-touch screen BlackBerry line incredibly well for the trackball and keyboard, there are few touch screen optimizations on the Storm2. We'd like to see a keyboard like HTC's for example, where a press and hold enters a number key so you need not switch between virtual keyboard modes. If you compose lengthy emails, the Storm2 may have you pining for a physical keyboard. Word completion works well, and that helps.
Calling and Data
The BlackBerry Storm2 had good call quality and better than average reception in our Verizon-challenged reception area in the Dallas area. It held onto EV-DO when other Verizon phones lost that service and always managed a few bars of 1xRTT where many others got 1 bar. Call quality isn't as sharp and clear as the HTC Imagio and Touch Pro2 on Verizon, but we had no trouble hearing our caller and call recipients said we sounded good if a little nasal. The speaker is very loud and reasonably clear. VZ Navigator on the highest volume setting is loud enough for a top-down Ferrari.
The Storm2, like the first model, is a GSM quad band world phone in addition to being a CDMA phone (Verizon uses CDMA). It has 3G HSDPA only on the Euro 2100MHz band, so if you get the Storm2 unlocked with plans to use it on T-Mobile or AT&T in the US, you'll be stuck with EDGE. The SIM card slot is located under the back door and the phone is SIM locked to Vodafone.
Like most recent 'Berries, the Storm2 ships with Nuance's very good voice command software and the voice command button is located on the phone's left side. The phone supports Bluetooth headsets, handsfree car kits and A2DP Bluetooth stereo headphones and headsets. There are dedicated hardware call send and end buttons; a feature we always appreciate for calling on the go.
This is the first OS 5 BlackBerry and as per usual with RIM, there are plenty of small improvements rather than a major overhaul of the OS and features. It's a responsive OS and the Storm2 didn't lag or languish other than when rendering heavy desktop web pages. It handles video playback very well for video optimized for mobile platforms (VGA and lower resolution are best, keep the bitrate under 900kbps for ripped video).
RIM's multimedia player that handles photo viewing, music playback and video playback is plenty capable. It supports a variety of music formats including MP3 and non-DRM AAC iTunes music and sound quality is very good through both wireless and wired stereo headphones. The video player supports a reasonable range of formats and fills the screen in stretch mode, putting that large display to good use. Our phone shipped with V Cast Music with Rhapsody but not V Cast Video (Verizon's streaming video service).
BlackBerry App World wasn't pre-installed on our phone but we had no trouble downloading it and using it to get apps. Documents to Go Standard Edition comes with the phone, and it allows you to view and edit MS Office documents. You'll need to upgrade to Premium Edition if you want to create new documents and get PDF viewing too.
In addition to RIM's excellent push email and BlackBerry PIN messaging, the phone comes with IM aplenty: Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo IM, Google Talk and AOL IM. You can download a free FaceBook client that integrates with the BlackBerry address book and there's a MySpace client as well. There are a variety of free and paid Twitter apps on App World.
Camera and GPS
The 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera takes OK but not impressive photos. Max photo resolution is 2048 x 1536 and max video resolution is 480 x 352. The LED flash helps a bit with low light photos and autofocus is reasonably fast. The camera application uses the entire screen as the viewfinder and shows a rectangular box for the focus area.
The GPS worked well with both VZ Navigator and the included BlackBerry Maps (the GPS isn't locked down to Verizon's own navigation solution). We like the large cue card style on-screen directions that are clear and easy to see, and voice navigation is loud and clear thanks to the Storm2's loud speaker. VZ Navigator costs $10/month and there's no charge to use BlackBerry Maps.
Take two of the Storm is the real deal: the touch screen works well, the phone has more memory, a new OS and is altogether stable and less buggy than the original Storm. The large screen is a rare treat for the mainly QWERTY BlackBerry line and it makes web browsing, video playback and working with MS Office documents a pleasure. We're still not convinced there's a need for a moving SurePress style screen-- it just adds a second step to every touch screen input without improving accuracy for typing. But it does work well in the Storm2 with none of the frustrations of the first gen model. If you want a BlackBerry and a touch screen, we say go for the Storm2. RIM has some work to do in terms of optimizing the OS for the touch screen (adding shortcuts and keyboard functions) and we're still waiting for a seriously better web browser, but the Storm2 is never painful to use and the browser is certainly better than the Storm 1 and even the Tour's.
x 2.45 x 0.55 inches. Weight: 5.64 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz with 1x and EVDO Rev. A. GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz with EDGE and 3G on the Euro 2100MHz band only. SIM locked to Vodafone.
Camera:3.2 MP with autofocus lens and flash.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Music/ video player included. Can sync to iTunes for non-copy protected media.
Networking:WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. Profiles include headset, handsfree, PBAP, Serial Port, DUN and stereo A2DP with AVRC.
Software:BlackBerry OS 5. Web browser, VZ Navigator, V Cast Music with Rhapsody, V Cast Song ID, BlackBerry email and PIN messaging, AOL/Yahoo/Windows Live/Google Talk and AIM instant messaging, Media player, City ID, BlackBerry Maps, PIM applications, wireless manager for phone radio, WiFi and Bluetooth.