Smartphones

Could BlackBerry Storm leapfrog iPhone in the enterprise?

The first touch screen BlackBerry has finally arrived and the iPhone is clearly in its crosshairs. Learn the pros and cons of the new BlackBerry Storm and see how well it stacks up against the iPhone as a business device.

 The first touch screen BlackBerry has finally arrived and the iPhone is clearly in its crosshairs. Learn the pros and cons of the new BlackBerry Storm and see how well it stacks up against the iPhone as a business device.

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Research in Motion's BlackBerry Storm has been one of the most widely anticipated IT products of 2008, and for RIM it is a critical product for the future of the BlackBerry brand. This is RIM's answer to Apple's iPhone, which is increasingly chipping away at BlackBerry's lead in the smartphone market.

Because there are so many executives, salespeople, road warriors, and information workers who love their smartphones, over the past month a lot of these folks have been asking me the same question, "What do you think about the BlackBerry Storm?"

Now that I've had the chance to kick the tires on a review unit of the Storm that I got from Verizon Wireless - the exclusive carrier of the device - I'm ready to say that there is a lot to like about the Storm.

Specs

  • Price: $199 with two-year agreement and mail-in rebate
  • U.S. Carrier: Verizon Wireless
  • Global connectivity via CDMA/EVDO, UMTS/HSPA, and EDGE
  • 3.25" glass display with 480x360 screen
  • SurePress touch screen
  • 1 GB on-board memory plus microSD slot
  • 3.2 megapixel camera
  • Integrated GPS
  • Integrated Bluetooth 2.0
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
  • Removable battery

See full photo gallery of the BlackBerry Storm.

Who's it for?

The Storm is aimed at corporate users who are tempted by the iPhone's flashy touch screen and multimedia features, but can still benefit from the BlackBerry platform for enterprise messaging, security, and manageability. This device is aimed at keeping them in the BlackBerry fold.

The other target audience is prosumers who are either focused on a rich multimedia experience in their smartphone or are buying their own smartphone to use for both work and personal use.

What problems does it solve?

The Storm marks RIM's first foray into touch screens. Its innovative screen-click approach is an attempt to bring tactile feedback to on-screen keyboards in order to make them more usable.

Also, for those who don't want to switch to AT&T to get the iPhone because they prefer the Verizon Wireless network, the Storm offers a multimedia touch screen device that's in the same class as the iPhone.

Standout features

Good battery life: For a 3G phone, the Storm has pretty good battery life. In my tests, it lasted two days without needing a recharge. That's about twice as long as the iPhone. Excellent display and speakers: The first thing you notice on the Storm is that it has a very high quality 480x360 screen. It's similar to the screen on the recently released BlackBerry Bold, which has a 480x320 LCD. The Bold and the Storm have the highest quality screens I've seen in a smartphone, with the iPhone just a half step behind them. The Storm also has the best speakers I've ever heard on a smartphone. It is a genuine multimedia device. Effective on-screen keyboard: The Storm's SurePress technology adds a new innovation to touch screens by making the screen clickable. Basically you hover over and highlight the thing you're going to press and then click the screen. It takes some getting used to, but I quickly found its on-screen keyboard to be much faster and more accurate for me than the iPhone's keyboard, although I still prefer a hardware keyboard like the one on the BlackBerry Bold. Can be tethered as a broadband modem: Using the Verizon Wireless VZAccess software, the Storm works as a 3G modem that you can tether to your laptop in order to get broadband on the go. In my tests using the Storm as a tethered modem, it averaged about 1.5 Mbps for downloads and about 500 Kbps for uploads. Business-ready: The biggest benefit of the Storm for IT leaders and their businesses is that if you already have a backend BlackBerry infrastructure in place, then the Storm will plug right in and immediately have the kind of security and manageability that enterprise IT departments demand.

What's wrong

Interface and navigation problems: The Storm interface is not nearly as intuitive as the iPhone's. The iPhone essentially needs no instructions. You can hand it to most people and tell them to start touching the screen and they'll figure it out. Not so with the Storm. It requires instructions and it takes some getting used to. Even after using it for awhile, I still found myself inadvertently clicking the wrong things and ending up in places I didn't mean to go. No Wi-Fi: Unlike the BlackBerry Bold and the iPhone, the Storm does not have Wi-Fi. This is unexplainable and a real disappointment because Wi-Fi can help reduce phone charges and provide a better Web experience when you're roaming around at home or at the office. Non-standard power and USB adapters: The Storm also comes with a new set of USB and power adapters that do not match up with the standard BlackBerry connectors on current phones. This is a major pain in the neck, because if you already own a BlackBerry you probably have all of the adapters you need for the car, your laptop bag, the office, and maybe even a cradle at home. None of them will work with Storm so you'll have to buy new accessories. Web browsing could be better: Although Web pages look great on the Storm's high quality display, the Web browsing experience on the Storm is much more clunky than the iPhone, which was the first device to make the Web usable on a smartphone. The iPhone still has the best Web viewing experience I've seen on a smartphone - by a long shot.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

With the BlackBerry Storm, RIM has succeeded in building a true next generation smartphone that takes its platform to another level. The advanced screen, usable on-screen keyboard, tethering capability, and enterprise readiness will make it attractive for a lot of businesses. The biggest caveats are that it's not as user-friendly as the iPhone, it lacks Wi-Fi, and doesn't offer the same powerful Web browsing experience that you get on the iPhone.

For those who want an iPhone-like touch screen experience in an enterprise-class smartphone - or those who like the iPhone but prefer Verizon over AT&T - the Storm will be a very attractive device. However, for hard core BlackBerry users who work well with the current trackball BlackBerries, as well as professionals who send a lot of e-mail messages from their phone and/or do a lot of data input, the Storm is probably not going to be a great choice.

Ultimately, I still think the hardware keyboard and mini trackball are much more efficient for getting work done than using a touch screen, so I consider the Bold to be the top-of-the-line smartphone for business users. However, a lot more users are gravitating toward touch screens and the Storm brings a powerful

RIM hasn't caught Apple yet. The Storm isn't as good of a consumer device as the iPhone, but it's in the same ballpark and RIM could certainly translate the advantages of its smartphone platform - better messaging, monitoring, and security - plus having Verizon Wireless as the Storm's network partner into wins in the enterprise market. In fact, a year from now I wouldn't be surprised to see more Storms than iPhones in the enterprise--at least in terms of the official smartphones deployed by IT.

Video: See why Verizon's new BlackBerry is stirring up a Storm

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

34 comments
dlosman
dlosman

Can you tell me why, when mentioning the Storm's good features that you don't mention that it can view and edit Word, Excel, and PDF files - which the iPhone can't do! You spend all your time talking about the feel of the keys, etc. By including that capability, the Storm can attack the Pocket PC market. The lack of WiFi, of course, is a stupid omission.

Zpunky
Zpunky

Without WiFi, not a chance.

signmeup777
signmeup777

I use the HTC Touch with Windos Mobile as does my wife. Composing e-mails using the "Touch Keyboard" seems just as fast if not faster to me than the standard qwerty keyboard on the I-Phone or the tactile keyboard of the treo & blackberry. The biggest advantage that I still use and prefer is the handwriting recognition. I still find this faster than pecking away on a keyboard. For the most part in my meetings I use my HTC touch instead of a paper pad to take notes on with a 3-in-1 pen/stylus/pencil. With the new Skyfire browser for windows mobile, web browsing is very competative with the I-Phone. Add Microsoft Voice Command and my 800+ contacts are as easy to call as tapping my blue tooth headset and saying their name or even the number I want the phone to call. The I-Phone does have some neat gimics, like the gyro-sensor and the multi-touch but as for a smartphone for taking notes, contacts, calendar, e-mail, texting, web-browsing, tethering and making phone calls I still think that my windows mobile phone is the way to go.

jeremyh
jeremyh

The Storm was built with no wifi per VZW's specifications. If you can't force your customers to buy a data plan like Apple does you just don't include the option (wifi) in the phone. This makes customers purchase the data option which builds more revenue for VZW. I think in the long run this will hurt the sales of the phone for non-business tech savvy consumers.

boonseng.chern
boonseng.chern

The better HTC model to compare with is not Touch Pro but Touch HD. With the TouchFLO UI, 5 meg camera and 480x800 screen res among other features, it is the closest thing to a iPhone killer to date.

kevmark58
kevmark58

I used it over the weekend and compared it to the iphone which I don't own. I hated the Storm. I hated the fact that I HAD to press the glass down to make a choice rather than just a light touch on the glass. The constant clicking and pressing of the glass to make contact made my typing go much slower than it should have and errors occurred because of this. Navigation was awkward and the software is extremely slow to respond to your inputs. If you want to go into your contacts list it takes a while for the software to take you there. It plods along and the experience becomes frustrating. It also doesn't move the screen image from vertical to horizontal quickly or accurately. I couldn't get the one I was using to go to horizontal no matter what I did for about five minutes. After going in and out of some menus it finally reoriented itself. I really wanted this phone because I didn't want to jump from Verizon to AT&T but this phone is not the slick, polished or even ready phone we've been led to believe. That coupled with the fact it doesn't have Wifi, for me pretty much sealed it's fate with me and a few friends that were going to buy it also. I'll wait a while longer for something more polished and improved before I part with my $200.

Jonathan.noam
Jonathan.noam

Is it only the 'iPod with Phone' vs. the company that is screwing us for ages with expensive service charges? there is a tested, well-crafted, open platform out there that can have a better screen (480x640! how's that for "the best screen on a smart phone"?) better form factor (tried to put an iPhone in your pocket?) full, out-of-the-box compatibility with Exchange push-email with no added hardware/software/service charge; multitude of business & leisure application software. The same user interface and OS appear in multiple phones - to fit all the corporate users (with\without keyboard, for example). Its called Windows Mobile; look at the HTC Diamond (and NOT the Pro when you want to compare keyboardless solutions!)

kurt.sampson
kurt.sampson

I was expecting to read about a really cool new phone, not another feeble attempt to copy the iPhone and hopefully retain a few customers who might settle for this sub-iPhone just because switching platforms is annoying.

H3144-IT
H3144-IT

Chicago Tribune reviews RIM???s BlackBerry Storm: ???Can???t compete with Apple???s iPhone??? http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/technology/chi-thu-buzz-blackberry-storm-nov20,0,3591085.column Gizmodo reviews RIM???s BlackBerry Storm: ???Heavy, laggy, sluggish, unstable, clunky, and tiring??? http://gizmodo.com/5093715/blackberry-storm-review-verdict-not-quite-a-perfect-storm Engadget reviews RIM???s BlackBerry Storm: ???Frustrating, inelegant, uncomfortable; a disappointment??? http://www.engadget.com/2008/11/19/blackberry-storm-review/ PC World reviews RIM???s BlackBerry Storm: ???Awkward, disappointing; a failed experiment??? http://www.pcworld.com/article/154212/blackberrys_storm_awkward_and_disappointing.html TIME Mag reviews RIM???s BlackBerry Storm: ???Novelty screen feels cheap; steer clear of this storm??? http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1860717,00.html

gghall
gghall

I think you pointed out all the pitfalls. Lack of being intuitive. No WiFi. If you have to change all the cables, what is there to gain? especially with push technology for calenders and email. give a new salesperson an iphone and a storm and ask them which one they became more productive with faster.

darrin
darrin

If your a true road-warrior, I can see it's attractions - but no corporate with Wifi access is going to want a building full of power-workers synching their email over Verizon's (or Vodafone's in Europe) network. With voice tariffs no longer generating serious revenue, I'm suspicious of any single-provider phone that forces me to exchange data using only the phone network.

admin
admin

Well I like the looks of it so far. I do data tech support for the industry and I see the first thing that will frustrate users will be the lack of keyboard and the ability to adapt to the new user interface and be able to communicate the issues to a technical support person. The clickable screen will be the first thing to fail and cause the users not to be able to use the phone at all to even make a call. On the wifi issue... somebody needs to quickly develop a bluetooth to wifi device and the application to interface with it that can be downloaded. Blackberry should also get better streaming flash video integration with out the need to transcode it.

emilio.castellanos
emilio.castellanos

Does the Storm have 3G web browsing? I heard RIM's backend was not compatible. What about typing on the Storm?

ron.rheude
ron.rheude

For some users, an additional consideration is the ability to host specific applications. If you need the ability to input and use Microsoft Office functionality, neither phones hit the mark. (Even with the "almost capable" Documents to Go application.) Some advanced functions are only available on MS Mobile Office. So, to stay on Verizon and use MS Mobile Office advanced functionality, many will continue to use the Palm Treo smart phones. I think these users are still waiting.

StevieW1964
StevieW1964

Anyone heard of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1? I've got one and it does everything but make the coffee. It's got the Wi-Fi, it's got the sliding keyboard it's got more bells and whistles than I can name and it looks cool when you're in the pub! I've never had a Sony Ericsson before but I'm a convert. This is the iPhone killer.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I love it for my organization. It's just not as cute and cuddly as the competitors. Everything works seamlessly as far as syncing email, calendars and contacts. HTC does have some awesome solutions. I have people in my organization using a tilt with some custom gis software. Insert a military spec gps sensor and we have a solution that other GIS companies were charging several thousand dollars for a device that does wifi and broadband along with gps. Our solution is less than $400 and does the same thing. Add to that and the security features I ca push out to my mobile users and I have a soluution that works great. I was sold on windows mobile ever since I evaluted the tilt. I used vpn and remote desktop to disable a server gone haywire and wreaking havoc by constantly broadcasting one weekend...from my boat. No laptop for miles and I wasn't looking foward to telling my son we had to pack up and go home. Allthough the screen was tiny, I was able to correct the issue. I went out the following Monday and bought a tilt for myself. Unfortunately many people detest windows mobile and we'll both be stoned publicly for even suggesting it as an alternative. :)

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

If xyz corp. already has Blackberry Enterprise Server deployed and security locked down to their standards, what incentive do they have for going to the iPhone? Lose all the money invested in BES? Lose the ability to push out security settings from a central location? Actually with the iPhone form an IT perspective, you lose all ability to manage the mobile device. The iPhone is great, but it isn't the be- all-end-all product of the mobile market when it comes to enterprise. Our shop currently uses windows mobile based devices as they are cheap and easy to manage if you already have a windows based network...which most businesses do. If I HAD to switch I would go the Blackberry route as they actually consider enterprise security as a priority. Give me an iPhone enterprise management solution and I'll consider them.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I'm not recommending it. I'm just saying that it's good enough that a lot of businesses and IT departments will likely opt for it over the iPhone - especially the ones that already have a BlackBerry infrastructure or use Verizon as their mobile partner. As for the software slowness, I think RIM will likely fix that in an upcoming software update. The first version iPhone 3G had a bunch of software glitches and problems until Apple released the first update, and I think this is a similar situation. Even with its worts, the Storm interface is as good or better than Windows Mobile. If I were buying a business smartphone right now I would go with the BlackBerry Bold, but I do a lot of messaging and I prefer a hardware keyboard to a touch screen.

mail
mail

From the write-up, I'm not certain I'd swap my iPhone for the Storm, but I can't say I couldn't be tempted away (and I'm an avid Apple evangelist). It feels too much like a great mobile computing device with a less than average phone tacked on as an afterthought. If Apple can sort out the lack of copy and paste, the SMS client (even my ancient Motorola could forward text messages and send contact details), Flash player, file manager and data over bluetooth, then I'd be happy. I'd be even happier if you could swap the touch screen qwerty keyboard for a virtual telephone keypad with predictive text as I've got so used to that over the years. Equally, if the Storm adds WiFi (although I'd then expect the battery life to be closer to the iPhone's), sorts out the cables and the web browsing (why not just licence something from Opera?), then I might just be tempted away from the fold.

sancretor
sancretor

The lack of WiFi is a real letdown.Inexcusable on the part of RIM. No chance that I'll even consider a future phone without wifi. My Nokia E71 has spoilt me with it's awesome connectivity options. Infact, WiFi + Fring/Gizmo is my most used app on the E71 :P

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

Verizon will never allow Wi-Fi in their devices. Doing so will mean they may not be able to see their EDVO . . . .

Pruduch
Pruduch

Wi-Fi is a must-have feature. I'd never recommend a smart phone without Wi-Fi nor would I buy such phone.

mark.mccormick
mark.mccormick

Ya think?!! It seems you're the only one in the world who thinks this Blackberry phone is any good. Read these articles to get a more realistic view of this product. "Storm of protest at latest BlackBerry" (http://www.smh.com.au/news/digital-life/smart-phone/storm-of-protest-at-latest-blackberry/2008/12/05/1228257302330.html) "Novelty wears off fast; screen feels cheap; Steer clear of this storm" - Time Magazine (http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1860717,00.html "Awkward, disappointing; a failed experiment" - PC World (http://www.pcworld.com/article/154212/blackberrys_storm_awkward_and_disappointing.html) "Heavy, laggy, sluggish, unstable, clunky, and tiring" - Gizmodo (http://gizmodo.com/5093715/blackberry-storm-review-verdict-not-quite-a-perfect-storm) "Frustrating, inelegant, uncomfortable; a disappointment" - Engadget (http://www.engadget.com/2008/11/19/blackberry-storm-review/) "Can?t compete with Apple?s iPhone" - Chicago Tribune (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/technology/chi-thu-buzz-blackberry-storm-nov20,0,3591085.column)

IT_Commando
IT_Commando

Despite the ease of activation and administration and license management of activesynch on Exchange our corporate demigods have made a commitment to the altar of the Goddess of BES... In a world of cost cutting and license management it makes no sense...

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

although a lot of IT pros tend to like Windows Mobile because it's usually a little easier and cheaper to deploy to end users and it has some good tools that admins can use for managing Windows servers and networks. I'm testing a Tilt right now and it has lots of good functionality and usefulness, but unfortunately it is exceedingly clunky, slow, and annoying.

Pringles86
Pringles86

I would have really liked to see turning the phone side ways and have a slide out keyboard similar to... I think the Glyde... You have the slickness of the touch screen but if you are typing a long email or something you have the full screen real estate plus a nice hardware keyboard. This would have added weight and cost, but I think it would be worth it. Add in wifi and I think you have a near perfect phone. Hopefully a hardware make will make that and put Android on it, then you have all the free apps. I would pay $500+ for that phone. What else would you add for your "Perfect Phone"?

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Hundreds of thousand will be sold on the mere fact that it is a blackberry and corporations already have blackberry servers integrated into their security, backup and business plans.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

Unless your company is like mine where mobile activesync does not meet our security needs as far as enforcing full device encryption, therefore making BES make complete sense.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

There are a number of large companies that deploy techs in the field and use RIM devices as an integral part of their work order delivery system. My hardware warranty people that drop in to replace deffective hardware (Cisco, IBM, Nortel, Dell, HP, NCR or whoever it may be) all come carrying a RIM with some sort of work order text based system for keeping track of employee time and materials in the field. I think RIM will always keep a keyboard based device available for those customers.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

But it is a good "across the board" solution. My very small team manages a very large WAN spread out over a city. It greatly benefits me to keep things standard until it is otherwise deemed. I will listen to requests (for Blackberries and iPhones) but they better come with support because management is on my side on this one. I have to comply with many security standards including HIPAA. If I bring in Blackberries and iPhones I need to prepare security accordingly. Keep it simple and save money. Are they really going to be that much more productive with an iPhone and its intuitive os? Coincidentally, after carrying around a smart phone for over a year I now yearn for the days of my slimmer "dumb" phone. I could break my addiction to windows mobile if someone would give me a basic phone that offers outlook sync ability so that I can get my server room environment and Cisco emergency notifications along with my outlook contacts and calendars. Give me something like the Blackberry Pearl, but with a more masculine name and a little more "dumb". Strip it down, and give me nothing but outlook sync and MAYBE a stripped down web browser, all in a tidy package that won't make one side of my jacket sag lower when wearing a suit. :)

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Keyboard devices are still their bread and butter and will be for years to come. The Storm is just a way to provide a direct counter-point to the iPhone. Personally, I prefer the Bold to the Storm and those are RIM's two next-gen devices. The Bold will likely be available on all of the carriers (similar to the Curve). I'm not sure how long the Storm will be an exclusive on Verizon - probably as long as iPhone is an exclusive on AT&T.

ben
ben

It's pretty, but Ifind touch screens hard to use. "takes a little getting used to" says it all. Style over function. We've forgotten the point. And, for RIM, apparently style over sales numbrs. The swtich to non standard connectors is as annoying as when Apple did it. Hope (for shareholders sake) they don't abandon keyboards just yet.