Yes, the BlackBerry Storm 2 is a vast improvement over the original BlackBerry Storm smartphone. However, that isn’t saying much because, as befitted its name, the latter handset was pretty much a disaster. Worth noting, though: The Storm 2 does have a capacitive touchscreen with software that mimics tactile resistance, unlike the clunky mechanical screen found on its predecessor. Inside, the cell phone also has more features and memory. But even if the Storm 2 steps its game up, so what? If you’re looking for a new Verizon wireless smartphone and your company doesn’t require you to own a BlackBerry, you’re much better off with one of the far superior Motorola Droid phones.
Inside the BlackBerry Storm 2 is a vast array of by-now-familiar BlackBerry and Verizon features such as the V CAST subscription video and music service (with Rhapsody) and Verizon Navigation, which you also have to pay for. (By comparison, on the Motorola Droid for Verizon Wireless you get Google Maps Navigation for free.)
A welcome addition to the Storm 2 is WiFi connectivity. The Storm 2 is also a dual-network world phone and comes with a SIM for GSM UMTS/HSPA 3G access outside the U.S.
Cosmetically though, the handset is nearly identical to the Storm 1, with a 480×320 3.25-inch capacitive SurePress touchscreen. It’s a heavy phone, weighing in at 5.64oz, and, like the Motorola Droid, has no physical control or navigation buttons, just four touch buttons – Send, Menu, Back and End – located along the bottom of the touchscreen.
The original BlackBerry Storm (Storm 1) had a clunky mechanical screen – when you pressed it, the entire screen toggled. Thankfully, manufacturer RIM has replaced this silly arrangement with a software-controlled touchscreen. Now it just feels as if the screen is moving behind your touch.
That said, however, touch presses on the new SurePress screen don’t feel as localized as haptic feedback, and the Storm 2’s screen still requires a firm push. First the selection lights in blue under a light touch, letting you know your firmer push will complete the touch transaction. But when navigating a tightly-packed menu or Web page, we often ended up accidentally activating an adjacent item. And, before realizing the wrong choice lit up, we’d often complete the SurePress push before we could stop ourselves. Worse, your violent pushes quickly smudge up the screen, resulting in an interface that’s messy and annoying in more ways than one.
Like most BlackBerrys, the volume toggle is located on the right spine of the phone, with the camera activation/shutter release button above it and the 3.5mm headphone jack found below. On the left side is the voice dialing/command control, located just above the microUSB power/sync jack. Up top/left is the on/off toggle opposite a handy mute button. On the back is housed the 3.2MP digital camera lens; the microSD slot, with a 16 GB card pre-installed, is found under the battery cover.
BlackBerry’s primary advantage over all Android smartphones is its Desktop Manager desktop client, which lets you easily sync PIM information and load photos, video and music. Better yet, the manager even enables you to load unprotected music files from iTunes. As for the Storm 2’s screen ratio, it’s an almost analog TV-like 4:3 rather than the widescreen 16:9 (and wider) models found on competing Motorola Droid phones. This squarer shape doesn’t work well for either widescreen videos, which get letterboxed, or Web pages – you get wider text lines, but shorter pages.
Sound and Call Quality
Voices come through crisp and clear, despite a bit of echo and hollowness. However, those we called from the phone ourselves made frequent requests for us to repeat ourselves – an unusual and odd sign since we’re loud talkers.