BlackBerry Storm 2 review: first look

15 Oct 2009
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So RIM has dumped the mechanical click screen of the original Storm completely and has replaced it with a brand new system. And having spent nearly an hour in the company of its successor – the BlackBerry Storm 2 – I can confirm that it’s a huge improvement.

The Storm 2 uses a system of four software-controlled electro-mechanical actuators (which sit behind the screen), to give a sort of localised haptic feedback. Press the screen anywhere on its surface and it gives feedback in response – but this is like no other feedback vibration I’ve experienced before. Incredibly, pressing the screen feels just like clicking a button, and it’s very responsive too.

Coupled with the BlackBerry OS’s effective auto correction, I managed to get up to a rapid typing speed instantly, and because it's multitouch, you don’t have to wait to finish one key press before beginning another.

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It really is a revelation to type on, whether it’s being used in portrait or full Qwerty landscape mode. I've always preferred hardware keyboards, but this could finally sway me. I’ll reserve final judgement for when I’ve had a longer play with the phone (expect a review very soon).

I do have reservations, however, and the first is that, at times, it felt as if it might be too sensitive – more than once I found myself holding the phone and clicking by accident. Also, RIM has yet to implement a rival to the iPhone’s pinch-to-zoom gesture in its web browser, preferring the simpler, yet less-effective, double tap to zoom approach.

How about the rest of the phone, though? Well, The first thing you’ll notice is that it's sleeker, with formerly sharp edges softened and corners rounded a little. The new screen system also means there’s no unsightly gap around the edges of the display for dust and crumbs to collect in.

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The speaker has moved from the rear of the phone to the bottom edge and the phyiscal buttons below the screen have been replaced . Otherwise it’s a very similar size and weight to the original.

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The screen is the same size as before – measuring 3.25in and boasting a 360 x 480 resolution that offers dark blacks and good contrast. The battery is identical – a 1,400mAh lithium polymer unit. The camera is still 3.2-megapixels with an LED flash and there's assisted GPS, and all the usual smartphone toys: Bluetooth, ambient light , proximity and accelerometer sensors.

However, version 5 of the BlackBerry OS makes its debut. One new feature demonstrated to us this morning was the “flying cursor” and multitouch text-select facility (pictured below). Again it looks like someone at RIM has been putting serious thought into this: it’s straightforward to fire up and the large, finger-friendly handles used to adjust the selection make it easy to get precisely the selection you need.

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Other additions include direct access to the connections menu and clock screen from the home screen, plus an all new version of BlackBerry Messenger.

The touchscreen and OS aren’t the only additions, either. With the Storm 2, RIM has filled the gaping hole in the first Storm’s specification and added Wi-Fi. Storage has been boosted too, from just 128MB of flash memory to 256MB plus a further 2GB for data storage.

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Suffice to say, I walked away from my brief demo this morning very impressed indeed. In completely revamping the touchscreen, RIM has made an extremely brave move and one that looks like it could pay off.

We’re expecting a review sample to arrive very soon, so watch this space for our final verdict.

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