The much-rumoured successor to the BlackBerry Storm will be available in the UK later this month from Vodafone, but I was given the chance of a quick demo today by RIM.
The Storm2 looks very similar to the original model, but its styling has been tweaked a little with contouring to make it more comfortable to hold, and the four keys (call, hangup, go back and BlackBerry key) have been moved onto the glass instead of being separate buttons below the screen.
But the biggest change is the display. The updated SurePress technology uses an electromechanical system to give tactile feedback, instead of the screen actually moving, as was the case on the original Storm. This should, hopefully, make the device more robust.
With the power off, the screen is obviously solid and unmoving. But when the Storm2 is active, pressing on the screen generates the sensation that it gives slightly then springs back.
When you press the screen, any control that your finger touches lights up, but is not activated until you press. Anyone used to other touch-screen phones might find this a little strange at first.
RIM maintains that the new system makes it easier and faster to type on the touch screen, but I found I kept hitting the wrong keys when thumb typing, so it possibly takes a bit of practice.
Fortunately, the new Storm2 is also the first Qwerty BlackBerry to come with auto correction, and users are encouraged to just bash away and "trust" the Storm2 to work out what they are typing, according to RIM.
Like the original Storm, you can use the device upright and get a SureType-style on-screen keyboard, or you can rotate it sideways, whereupon the display automatically changes to match, while the keyboard switches to a full Qwerty to make better use of the screen area.
One good thing about the new display is that it is multi-touch; you can hold down the shift key and press another one to access an upper case letter, just as you would on a physical keyboard.
Also new in the Storm2, all of the on-screen controls are active, so you can (for example) touch the Wi-Fi symbol to turn this function on, instead of having to hunt through the menus.
Other features I saw in the demo include markers that can be positioned by fingertip to mark the start and end of text to be copied and pasted, and a touch-activated search in the email window.
Here, touching the name on an email returns a list of all messages associated with the same name, while touching the subject shows just those messages in a particular email thread. The resulting messages are opened automatically, and you can jump from one to the next with a quick sideways flick on the screen.
Overall, the Storm2 looks like an improvement over the original, but from the brief hands-on, I would still prefer a BlackBerry with a real keyboard for heavy messaging work.
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