For the past 18 months, we've seen a multitude of manufacturers trying to create a touchscreen handset that can compete with the iPhone, most of which don't come close to the design or usability of Apple's device. But what I never imagined was that the best alternative to an iPhone would be a BlackBerry.
The Storm is probably the most anticipated BlackBerry ever, not just because of the obvious comparisons with the iPhone, but also because it's the first touchscreen BlackBerry, which in itself is quite a milestone for RIM. The question is whether RIM can create a touchscreen device that's as attractive to the general consumer as it is to the corporate, mobile email junkie.
The answer to that question is quite complicated though. I do like the BlackBerry Storm, I like it a lot. But I also need to point out that it's not perfect, not that I've ever found a handset that is. But in this context, there are some issues with the Storm that simply shouldn't be there, and end up taking some of the shine off an otherwise excellent device, much as with the original iPhone in fact. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Let's cover the basics first.
The Storm looks great, finished in a mix of brushed metal combined with silver and black plastic. The edges have a rubberised coating that makes it really easy to get a good grip on the device, unlike the iPhone - especially the first generation model. The Storm is ever so slightly shorter than the iPhone, although it looks significantly shorted due to its tapered edges. It is, however, noticeably thicker, although this doesn't make it uncomfortable to hold, quite the contrary in fact.
The Storm is heavier than the iPhone at 157g compared to 143g for the original iPhone and 137g for the iPhone 3G. You can feel the extra weight in your hand, but again it's not something that bothered me. With dimensions of 113 x 62 x 14mm (LxWxD) it's clear that this isn't a small phone, but it's no bigger than any other decent touchscreen device.
Obviously the front of the Storm is dominated by the touchscreen, but I'll cover that later on. Below the touchscreen are four buttons - Call, End, Back and Menu. The Menu button is key here, since it is the traditional BlackBerry Menu button, which will bring up a list of options that are applicable to the current screen or application. There are two more buttons on the top edge - Mute and Lock. The latter will lock the handset and disable all inputs until the Lock button is pressed again.