Review: Blackberry Storm

I am not a gadget nerd.  In fact, I am oddly gadget adverse — unless it works out of the box and works easily, I will put the gadget down and never pick it back up again.  This is odd considering what I do for a living but there it is: I generally don’t do gadgets because they have terrible UI design and they annoy me.  I love my iPod, I put up with my Palm Tungsten because I need a checkbook, and everything else gets on my nerves.

I have, up until now, avoided the Blackberry addiction.  What I wanted originally out of a phone was a phone that made phone calls.  Then I wanted a phone that made phone calls and got me football scores when I could not be watching football.  But as my parents, and my entire family, moved off into gadgetland and away from actual phone calls, simply having a phone that made phone calls became more and more challenging.  Over Christmas, I had weird arguments with my Mom because I couldn’t get to my regular email until 8pm at night and there was Mass Panic.

Something generally needed to be done, so I gave in and got a Blackberry.  And, because I will carry it for the next two years, I got the Latest and Greatest, the Storm.  Keep in mind that I don’t have an iPhone, so I am not comparing it to any Apple devices. It has also been updated to the newest service packs.

Good:

– It does what I want it to do!  It gets my mail!  It runs twitterberry!  It will get me into Facebook if I am feeling masocist.  It generally gets on the net and grabs news and my feedreader!  Google mobile apps are a real lifesaver and I became very happy after I discovered the LJ mobile interface.

– I have been very happy with the Gmail support.  It deals with my email flawlessly.  It is not difficult to send or respond to mail, and it has really nice Gmail — Contact book integration. It doesn’t crash and support for reading email is very smooth and very clear.  Considering that Gmail with push mail integration was my #1 feature request, this makes me quite happy.

– Google Talk is very good.  It will run multiple conversations at once and thread them. It will alert when someone has responded so you don’t need to stare at the Blackberry.

– The web browser works well in landscape mode with zoom.  I found I could read Washington Post, NY Times, CNN, etc. without any real problems.

– I can type about 30 words/minute when the keyboard is in QWERTY landscape mode.  This is actually very good — and I like that it lights up the letter it thinks I want under my fingers before I push it.  Granted I type normally at around 90 words/minute, but this is really so much better than the terrible SMS I was stuck with before.

– The contact book and calendaring systems are very powerful, which is expected from a Blackberry.

– I actually like the size.  It is smaller than I expected and very thin.  It fits in my hand comfortably.

– Post a full day of use, it was down 1/2 a battery.  This is, of course, after the service packs were applied.  Before that, it drained 1/4th the battery in an hour of use.  Apply the patches!

Quirky:

– The tilt sensor is a little bit quirky.  Sometimes it doesn’t respond, and sometimes it tilts when you don’t want it to.  I get that it’s like that for all these sorts of devices.

– It gets confused where you want to click sometimes.  You have to click away and click back where you want before it will respond to the click.

– When typing on the QWERTY keyboard, sometimes it pops up and suggests some strange characters.  I’m not sure how to turn that off, but I really don’t need anything outside the main ANSI set.

– I couldn’t… figure out… how to make a phone call.  And it’s a phone!  Nominally!  I did figure it out, but then I had to navigate a voice mail system, and I got lost trying to get the button pad up.  Not the most intuitive interface in the universe.

– When using the browser, it likes to zoom in/zoom out when what you really want to do is scroll.  I’m sure that’s easily controllable, but I’m not sure how.

– Twitterberry has a deeply goofy interface.

– You do have to really press on the screen to get it to do anything, and I worry about two years of wear and tear on the device.  I can see that breaking.

Bad:

– The interace for setting an alarm is terrible.  Just terrible.

– The screen gets gunky fast.  As in, a half an hour of use fast.  I found micro-fiber cloths clean it pretty well, but it desperately needs a cover.  It has to have a cover.

– The lock button is in an awful place and it is not obvious in the least.

– The “say a command” button gets pushed every time I try to put it back in its little case.  Gah.

Overall, I can see how people get hooked on these devices.  Just being able to get my email without being plunked in front of a computer is a fantastic thing indeed.  In general, using it is a real positive experience.  It does occasionally do some inexplicably strange things on me, but in general I have walked through everything I want it to do (read RSS feeds, leave a comment on LJ, get twitter, read my mail, launch google talk, send an SMS, organize contacts) and it does all of this pretty well.

If you have an iPhone, don’t bother.  But if you have Verizon and you’re eyeing one yeah, go ahead and get it.