There are a lot of companies out there trying to come out with a smartphone that is better than the iPhone, and it would seem that if anyone can do it, it is R.I.M. with its impressive Blackberry. E-mail on a Blackberry with a physical keyboard is great, and in my opinion currently a little better than the iPhone, although Apple adds new features to the iPhone every few months and is surely working on improving e-mail.
R.I.M.'s answer to the iPhone is the Blackberry Storm, the first Blackberry with a large touchscreen and no keyboard.
I haven't had a chance to try one yet myself, but [UPDATE: see below.] David Pogue, the personal technology columnist for the New York Times, thinks that it is a turkey -- and not the delicious kind that those of us in the U.S. are enjoying today. His review is an entertaining read, as long as you don't work for R.I.M. For example:
In short, trying to navigate this thing isn’t just an exercise in frustration — it’s a marathon of frustration. I haven’t found a soul who tried this machine who wasn’t appalled, baffled or both. And that’s before they discovered that the Storm doesn’t have Wi-Fi. ... How did this thing ever reach the market? Was everyone involved just too terrified to pull the emergency brake on this train?
The folks over at the grand-daddy of all gadget sites, Engadget, were similarly unimpressed in their extensive review:
[I]t's not as easy, enjoyable, or consistent to use as the iPhone, and the one place where everyone is sure they have an upper hand -- that wow-inducing clickable screen -- just isn't all that great. For casual users, the learning curve and complexity of this phone will feel like an instant turn off, and for power users, the lack of a decent typing option and considerable lagginess in software will give them pause. RIM tried to strike some middle ground between form and function, and unfortunately came up short on both.
I am glad that R.I.M. is trying to innovate and take on the iPhone. The competition can only serve to make all smartphones better. And it seems that another, more traditional, Blackberry model, the Blackberry Bold, has a lot to offer any lawyer who is only interested in e-mail and who feels that a physical keyboard is necessary. But given these initial reviews, the Blackberry Storm doesn't appear to measure up to the iPhone.
UPDATE 11/27/08: I had the chance to try out a Blackberry Storm just a few hours after I published the above post, and I have to say that I agree with the above two reviews. The main thing that I wanted to try was e-mail because that is where a Blackberry should excel. But typing on a Storm is a disaster. When your finger touches a key, the key lights up and you think that you have typed the letter, but no -- you need to also click down to type. Well then what is the point of lighting up the key? And pressing down on the screen to click feels both unnatural and unpleasant, like a button on a very cheap plastic mouse. It also slows down typing substantially. Unlike the iPhone where scrolling is very fluid, scrolling on the Storm is jerky. Beyond e-mail, I tried out the web browser and some of the other applications, and all of them seem to require a few more taps and clicks that seems necessary. Can a user get used to the quirks over time? Perhaps, but the Storm stands in sharp contrast to the iPhone, which is intuitive and natural to use from the outset. My advice for those lawyers who don't want to or for some reason can't use an iPhone is to get a more traditional Blackberry with a physical keyboard.
UPDATE 12/4/08: Click here for an interesting follow up to David Pogue's New York Times review of the Blackberry Storm.