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BlackBerry Storm 9500

 BlackBerry Storm 9500 on Vodafone Discontinued
8th November 2008

The BlackBerry Storm 9500 is RIM's first touchscreen BlackBerry device, incorporating many features found in the BlackBerry Bold 9000 along with an all-new display.

The touch-sensitive panel is clearly the most interesting thing on the BlackBerry Storm. It's a 3.25" 480 x 360 pixel panel that apparently gives user's the feeling of pressing down on a real key, which then lights up. Other companies (notably Motorola) do this using a technology called "haptics", exactly how the 9500 improves on this is not clear.

BlackBerry devices are all about messaging, and yet there's no physical keyboard on the 9500. RIM's approach is to use an on-screen keyboard, but cleverly they have two distinct versions - a SureType virtual keyboard (as found on the BlackBerry Pearl) is used in portrait (tall) mode, with a larger QWERTY keyboard for use in landscape (wide) mode. The Storm automatically switches between modes when rotated, so if you suddenly find that you need to do some more intensive typing than the SureType arrangement allows then it's a hassle-free transition.

 BlackBerry Storm 9500 in lansdcape mode Although cosmetically similar to the user interface on the BlackBerry Bold, the Storm's UI supports multi-touch, slides and taps in a way similar to the iPhone. No more messing around with tiny trackballs or jog wheels here, then. The clever looking web browser takes full advantage of these interface improvements.

The Storm 9500 also has a built-in GPS receiver and a navigation function. The GPS can also be used to automatically geotag photographs taken with the 9500's camera, which is a 3.2 megapixel unit with autofocus and flash.

It's hard to say if this is a business phone or a consumer device. For business users, the BlackBerry Storm 9500 does of course support BlackBerry push email, and it also comes with a document editor so that Microsoft Office files can be viewed and edited on the move. But on the flipside, the BlackBerry Storm also has a comprehensive multimedia player and a 3.5mm audio jack, so this is a capable music phone too.

This is a 3G device, the BlackBerry Storm 9500 has quad-band GSM and UMTS 2100 with support for HSDPA high-speed data. There's also a US version, the BlackBerry Storm 9530 which runs on CDMA/EV-DO networks. Neither version of the BlackBerry Storm supports WiFi, which is a serious omission in our view.

 BlackBerry Storm 9530 on Verizon It's quite a hefty device at 155 grams and 113 x 62 x 14mm in size. The large 1400 mAh battery can give up to 5.5 hours talktime and 15 day standby time on 3G, which is impressive. The overall design is smart but unexciting, with just four physical keys on the front underneath the large screen.  Internal memory is 1GB, expandable by up to 16GB using microSD cards.

The BlackBerry Storm 9500 is exclusive to Vodafone at launch, and we don't know if any other carriers will take it in the future. Vodafone say that the Storm should be available in Europe, India, Australia and New Zealand from next month. In the US, the Storm 9530 is exclusive to Verizon Wireless (45% owned by Vodafone). It's clear that Vodafone have done well to acquire exclusive rights to the BlackBerry Storm, and perhaps it compensates in some way for not having a relationship with Apple to push the iPhone. Vodafone have provided a video about the Storm here.

Overall, this seems to be an impressive but flawed device. It offers almost everything you could want from a smartphone except for WiFi, and for a top-end device such as the Storm this should be standard. If you are a corporate user on the Vodafone or Verizon network, then it does actually look like a good business device, especially with the clever virtual keyboard and long battery life.

Would we want one? Well, no.. we like the look of the Pearl Flip rather than the pocket-busting Storm. But it's certainly a useful addition to the BlackBerry range and we can see that it will appeal to many.

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BlackBerry Storm 9500 at a glance

Available:

Q4 2008

Network:

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 + UMTS 2100

Data:

GPRS + EDGE + UMTS (3G) + HSDPA

Screen:

360 x 480 pixels

Camera:

3.2 megapixels

Size:

PDA-style device
113 x 62 x 14mm / 155 grams

Bluetooth:

Yes

Memory card:

microSD

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

Not specified

GPS:

Yes

Battery life:

5.5 hours talk / 15 days standby (3G)

 

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