RIM Announces Touchscreen BlackBerry Storm

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Canada’s Research in Motion has formally announced its new BlackBerry Storm smartphone, touting what the company is calling the world’s first “clickable” touchscreen design: the screen depresses slightly when the screen is pressed, giving users a sense of tactile feedback for their clicks. The phone is due to launch this fall in North America exclusively on Verizon Wireless, and will also be available to users in Europe, New Zealand, India, and Australia via Vodafone.

“The BlackBerry Storm is a revolutionary touch-screen smartphone that meets both the communications and multimedia needs of customers and solves the long-standing problem associated with typing on traditional touch-screens,” said RIM presidents and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, in a statement. “Consumers and business customers alike will appreciate this unique combination of a large and vibrant screen with a truly tactile touch interface.”

The BlackBerry Storm offers 3G connectivity, which on Verizon means it packs EV-DO Rev. A/CMDA connectivity along with quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM and 2100MHz UMTS/HSPA for global use. The Storm features a 3.25-inch, 480 by 360 touchscreen display, an integrated 3.2 megapixel camera, 1 GB of onboard memory (along with expandable microSD storage), Bluetooth, and an integrated GPS unit. The Storm also features an accelerometer so the unit can automatically switch between portrait and landscape more, and offers RIM’s SureType keyboard in portrait mode and a full “virtual” QWERTY keyboard layout for messaging needs in landscape mode.

The Storm is also taking solid aim at the consumer space, offering a media player that handles full-screen movies, a music player (including popular EQ presets), support for streaming audio and video, support for popular social networking services, and an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts backlighting. For the business users, the Storm offers BlackBerry Internet service (complete with a full HTML browser), personal and corporate email support, and the ability to view and edit Microsoft Office documents right on the handset.

RIM plans to announce more details on pricing and availability “in the coming weeks.”

Although Apple’s iPhone is the darling of the smartphone industry, RIM has also been seeing considerable success with its more consumer-oriented models. However, the company also sees narrower margins on consumer smartphones, putting the company in a position where it has to increase sales in order to maintain revenue. So far, that hasn’t been much of a problem, and with devices like the BlackBerry Storm aping some of the iPhone’s key features while sticking with BlackBerry’s traditional strengths, the company may have a winner on its hands—recession or no.

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