Written on: 15/04/2009 by paradise (27 reviews written)
Large, touch screen
Intuitive user interface
Nice leather pouch supplied
Great for e-mail
Unbelievably bad battery life
Can only last a day with minimum usage and half the functions switched off
Poor receiver (for 3G)
Slow internet browsing
Difficult to type on the QWERTY keyboard
Large gap around the screen may fill up with dirt and cause a fault later in the phone's life
Syncing software a bit simple
Not really many 'apps'/games/themes/etc available for it (yet)
Inconsistent Bluetooth connection when pairing with other devices
Tiny speaker (mono)
User un-friendly camera (long shutter lag)
Appalling image recording (very blurry and grainy)
If you've already researched this touch-screen BlackBerry Storm on the internet, then my guess is you've probably read more bad than good. So let me start with some good news - at least you haven't rushed into making a mistake like I have when upgrading from my Sony Ericsson K800i to my first-ever 'smart' phone (and first-ever BlackBerry)!
My reason for changing to a BlackBerry was primarily to be able to access my e-mails on the go and, I suppose, to give mobile internet browsing a go. Up to now, what little experience I've had of the latter has been extraordinarily slow (and not worth the extra expense). I considered that, with 3G now well out of its infancy, it might be worth dipping a toe in the water.
In fact, I'm sure it is... just not with the BlackBerry Storm 9500!
Let's look at the phone's in more detail. It's great looking, really well built (and sturdy for the rigours of daily life), stylish and has an interface that's as intuitive as the many Sony Ericssons I've had previously. This has always been the reason I've stayed with SE, so such praise is not heaped lightly.
Setting up the Storm is extremely simple and, if you've been able to understand PC-to-phone synchronisation with your previous devices, you'll have no problem doing this with the Storm. It links in with various 'office' programmes like Outlook (incl. Express) and you'll be syncing your calendars, contacts, notes and tasks in a matter of hassle-free minutes. Using the interface is then just as simple, but one area of the software that I think is not at all good is the rather basic way in which the phone syncs.
You can decide which takes priority - the device or computer - but, annoyingly, it applies the rules (in whichever direction you've selected) by first removing all the information from the receiver, and replacing it with all the information from the donor. This means that you MUST always treat one as a master. For instance, if you decide to take a snapshot of someone with the phone camera and add it to their contact list on the phone, when you next come to sync the phone with the PC, if the PC's got priority, it'll over-ride the data in the phone and remove the image (as there was no image on the PC data file). How annoying! The only way to get round it is to manually transfer 'out-of-sync' data prior to undertaking a syncing update - which is totally impractical.
I'm with Vodafone and got an excellent 18-month contract (upgrade). Included in the package is fair-usage internet browsing... but it's so slow that you'll hardly use the facility. You have the choice to set the phone to receive 3G, 2G (known as GSM) or both types of signal. 2G is rather slow (hence why 3G was developed), but I my Smart just doesn't seem to take a good 3G signal. If I put it to receive just 2G, it shows a full strength signal at my home (as GPRS). But when I swtich the phone over to 3G, there's only a weak showing and the phone can often neither make, nor receive calls! I'm not sure that this is a location problem, but more a phone receiver problem. The upshot is that mobile browsing the internet in 3G is horribly slow... and no better than if doing it through a 2G signal.
At home, at MacDonald's, airports or other places with communal wireless, connecting via wi-fi would be much better... except that this phone has no wi-fi facility whatsoever!!! For a so-called 'smart' phone, this is a glaring omission by BlackBerry/RIM.
The 9500's giant screen shows all the icons very clearly and seems to be pretty tough. All the same, I've put on a screen protector to avoid scratching it and this doesn't seem to have affected its touch sensitivity. You 'click' it down to make entries in the most part, and I've found this to be extremely easy to get into. However, I have concerns as to the rather large gap all the way around - I wonder if this is going to fill up with dirt and cause the phone to malfunction in the future?
You need to spend some time getting used to the typing. I've found the landscape 'QWERTY' keyboard is a lot easier than the push-button type KBs of other smartphones - although as a touch typist, I will say it's still quite a slow affair. I've chosen to 'type' with my index fingers; my thumbs are just too wide. A good tip is to use your left digits for the left-hand keys and right digits for the right-hand keys as BlackBerry have set the sensitivity of the keys (user adjustable) to suit an angled 'attack'. When you press the key, it lights up all around (in blue), but I prefer Apple's iPhone/iTouch system which shows you what letter you've actually typed above the key. So at least you can see that you've mis-pressed a key on the Apple! That said, though, the corrective dictionary is simply superb, so most erroneous typos will be auto-corrected on the BB.
Sending (and checking) e-mails and messages is very straight forward, as is making telephone calls, either from the call log, contact list or virtual dial-pad. There are probably one or two more buttons to press than you're used to, but it's so straightforward that you won't find it at all time-consuming.
There is a camera, complete with image stabilization system. However, it's far too boosted gain-wise, so the images are quite noisy (grainy). Worse, there's an unacceptable delay between you pushing the shutter and the image actually being captured. This is made all the more worse by the fact that the viewfinder goes black between these two events happening. The result is VERY blurry pictures 90 per cent of the time and don't have a cat in hell's chance of grabbing an action photo. And even if you brace the phone during the image capturing process, the actual image quality - which is roughly equivalent to a 7 x 5 inch print at 300dpi resolution - is incredibly poor. And I do mean incredibly; it's not as good as my old Sony Ericsson T610... and I got rid of that some five years ago! As a camera phone, the BlackBerry Storm is worse than useless. I haven't even bothered trying the video capture facility.
Like the 3G reception, the Bluetooth is a bit of a hit 'n' miss affair during most pairing attempts - and sending anything via Bluetooth is quite longwinded, both in terms of the interface and actual transfer. It works, but seems a few steps backwards by comparison with the popular mobile phones.
And finally, the battery. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The poor life of this is well documented on the web, as are all the workarounds suggested to make it last a bit longer. An initial series of draining it right down and then 'overcharging' it for 12 hours or more does help a little bit in improving the battery's performance - but if you are a 'medium' phone user and want to get through the day, you've simply got to switch off just about evertything in order not to run out of juice.
Don't leave applications running in the background, switch off GPS, turn the auto-dim to its minimum 10-second setting (great!), the screen brightness down to 10 per cent (and squint), switch off vibration... and don't play any music media whatsoever, including the alarm. You might as well switch the thing off... and even then I see reports of that draining the battery! For the record, I have the very latest firmware installed (v18.104.22.168) and I can't get through the day unless I plug in to some form of power supply. (That means you've probably got to buy a car charger.)
Vodafone - who have officially acknowledged this issue if you quiz them deeply enough - are kindly sending me another battery... though I don't see why I should have to power-down half-way through the day just to have a phone that's working at half-power. What's more annoying is that BlackBerry claim standby times of a week-plus. This simply isn't true and they should be taken to task on it. Typically, a 15 minute call drains the battery anything from 10 to 20 per cent, which I think is truly apalling.
Unfortunately, because I've perservered with the phone - probably out of disbelief that it can actually be this bad - I've run out of time to exchange it and I'm stuck with the thing for the next 17 months. Today, I ran out of battery and needed to make urgent business calls. I felt was totally stranded, which has prompted me to write this somewhat negative - but very honest and objective - review. I can see me actually splashing out a shed-load of money to purchase some other model (like the Nokia E71) - and I will probably avoid investing in the BlackBerry brand for ever more. This phone is a bad experience for me and I would take a bet that the 9500 Storm it will be superceded extremely quickly. That's not nice for owners who have committed to it based on BB's misleading marketing hype. Personally, I think BB/RIM (Research in Motion - the makers) have rushed this into the marketplace and are now using the unsuspecting public to Beta-test it free of charge.
In short, I would strongly recommend that you don't invest in one... or get an E71 and I'll swap ya!