While today’s slew of touch phones are all striving to emulate the iPhone’s fluid multi-touch magic – the Android-powered T-Mobile G1 is the closet yet – BlackBerry creator RIM has approached the touchscreen concept from a completely different angle. The manufacturer’s debut smartphone, the Storm, is the first handset to feature fully clickable touchscreen technology.
Surely, a clickable touchscreen is a paradox of sorts, but it works exactly how you’d imagine it. Your finger can happily graze the display and the new BlackBerry Bold-styled menu system without inadvertently setting it off. Once you’ve highlighted a selection, you press down on the screen and wait for the mechanised click.
Oddly, it works brilliantly, its success down to the reassurance that brushing the display won’t result in volley of expletives while those of us weaned on a mechanised world can still find the comfort in a resounding click from a touch phone.
The phone itself is populates the heavyweight end of the touch-phone family, roughly a little shorter than the pocket-denting HTC Touch HD. It’s a price to pay for an expansive 3.25in but while not as stunning as the Touch HD’s gigantic WVGA eye-popper, it’s still perfectly geared for a seamless internet surfing experience.
The web browser lets you toggle between page fit and full-fat web view, using your fingers to deftly scroll through and around pages. A quick double-click will zoom in while pressing the escape key pans outs again.
What, no Wi-Fi?
With HSPDA download speeds on tap, web pages load pretty quickly, although the absence of Wi-Fi is frankly bewildering. The more cynical will see this as a ploy by the networks to rack in the data charges but whatever the reason a phone of this stature should have the latest wireless technology onboard.
The Storm also features some of the best virtual keyboards we’ve thumbed. Of course, the clickable screen helps but its responsive accelerometers let you easily switch between SureType and standard phone layouts in portrait view or full spacious QWERTY in landscape mode. The keypads are so slick, typos were almost non-existent.
Reveiw continues after the break...
App store open for business
Elsewhere, RIM has opened its doors to its Application Center, so Storm owners can download apps and software. Right now, it’s light on content, with usual suspects like Facebook, Google Maps, leading IM clients, YouTube and Flickr apps filling up the shelves. But with its SDK kit available to third-party developers, expect some weird and wonderful apps to appear soon.
With the exception of its efficient built-in GPS receiver and support for A-GPS, the rest of the Storm’s feature list is a little underwhelming. The autofocus-led 3.2MP snapper is decent enough but we expect a 5MP at the very least.
Similarly, the integrated 3.5mm headphone jack is nice touch but the music player, although festooned with bass audio boosters, still sounds a little muddy, even with your quality earphones plugged in. And we’ve gone the whole review without mentioning its peerless push email set-up. But then you already know the score there.
The Storm’s canny clickable touchscreen makes it one of the less irksome touch phones to paw and it no doubt represents the BlackBerry Holy Grail for hardcore fans. But for the rest of us, had RIM fitted Wi-Fi and spent closer attention to its other features we would have fallen for the BlackBerry Storm, rather than just admiring it.