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Waiting for the BlackBerry Storm: Ask the Editors

CNET editor Bonnie Cha answers readers' questions about the upcoming RIM BlackBerry Storm, including queries about release dates and pricing.


Ever since the RIM BlackBerry Storm was introduced in early October, I've received a ton of questions about the smartphone. A majority of the queries have been about availability and pricing, but there have been some more specific questions about features, competitor comparisons, and whether it will come to other carriers.

Given all the interest in the BlackBerry Storm, I decided to round up some of the most frequently asked questions about the first touch-screen BlackBerry and share them with you in this Ask the Editors post. I've tried to answer them to the best of my ability, but please realize there are just some things I can't completely answer, whether it's because the companies aren't talking (trust me, I'm trying) or because I haven't had any real hands-on time with the device. Still, I wanted to get as much information as I could out there.

Also, if you have any questions that weren't answered here, post them in the comment section below and I'll try to get them all.

Q: When will the BlackBerry Storm be available and for how much?

A: Ahh, the million dollar question. I talked to Research In Motion on Monday to try to get more information, and not surprisingly, I got a canned response: "The BlackBerry Storm will be available from Verizon Wireless this fall. Pricing in the U.S. will be determined by Verizon Wireless and they haven't announced the price."

To be fair, these details will largely be determined by Verizon, so I can't really fault RIM. I did also reach out to Verizon Monday and have yet to hear back (I'll update as soon I do), but I suspect I'll get a similarly vague response.

Great so that's of absolutely no help, right? Well, before you start throwing tomatoes and stones, here's some information that shed a little more light on the situation. Many blogs and other media outlets are reporting that the BlackBerry Storm will be released sometime in November, and I don't think that's a far-fetched idea.

Like a lot of other carriers, Verizon has a tendency to release a lot of its new handsets near the holiday shopping season, so historically, the November time frame makes sense. If I had to guess, it will likely be late November, right around Thanksgiving. The smartphone has also cleared the FCC and there have been some recent events, including an L.A. launch party and customer giveaways, that might be a sign of an imminent release (or just a smart marketing move to keep the momentum going).

As far as pricing, Fortune reports that Verizon is mulling the idea of selling the Storm at a price lower than the 8GB iPhone 3G, which currently goes for $199.99 with a two-year contract. The article quotes Nielsen IAG analyst Roger Entner, who says the carrier will put the Storm at $150 or maybe $99, to boost holiday sales.

Frankly, it would really shock me if the BlackBerry Storm were priced lower than the iPhone. Obviously, the goal is to move as many units as possible, but still, given the Storm's high-end features and again, based on Verizon's history, I can't see the price dipping below $199. Of course, I hope I'm wrong, but I see the Storm more around the $249.99 range. Which brings up a question: how much are you willing to pay for the Storm?

Q: Hello. I am a BlackBerry user for about four years now and love it. I have a BlackBerry Curve from Verizon and I am interested in upgrading to a Blackberry Storm. Is this a good idea? --Michael Strosnider via e-mail

A: Michael, I think this will largely depend on whether you can live without a tactile keyboard or not. The BlackBerry Storm is getting all the attention and that is because it's the first BlackBerry to have a touch screen, which has its pros and cons. The ability to launch applications, navigate your phone, and perform other tasks with just the tap of the screen is an incredible convenience and time saver. However, for heavy e-mailers, the lack of a physical keyboard might not be worth the flashy touch screen.

Like you, Michael, I personally own a BlackBerry Curve, and to be honest, I don't know if I'll be able to make the switch because I absolutely love the convenience of having that full QWERTY keyboard. I'm not a huge phone talker so I text message and e-mail a lot, and the Curve fits my needs.

The Storm features something called SurePress technology to give you that sensation of pressing an actual button when using the onscreen keyboard, but as I noted in my First Take, it's not a natural feeling to physically push down on the screen. It's largely a personal preference so my suggestion is to go try it out in stores to see if you like it.

As far as features, you'll get many of the same capabilities of the Curve on the Storm, as well as the addition of dual-mode functionality for world roaming. RIM also emphasized that when it was developing the smartphone, it was important that the Storm have a similar user experience and functionality of previous BlackBerrys, so the device will feel familiar to current BlackBerry owners.

Q: Do you know if the Storm will have an external keyboard accessory capability? I was thinking of using this device as a laptop replacement for work on the road, but if I have to type MS Word reports using only my thumbs, well, it isn't going to work very well. Previous BlackBerrys have external keyboard accessory capabilities, so I'm curious to learn if RIM will maintain this capability with the Storm. --Mark via e-mail

A: Yes, Mark, you will be able use an accessory keyboard with the BlackBerry Storm via Bluetooth.

Q: Will the BlackBerry Storm be available for T-Mobile? And if so, how soon?

A: For now, the BlackBerry Storm will be a Verizon Wireless exclusive, but I would say chances are pretty high that the Storm will eventually make the rounds to the other major carriers. If you look at the BlackBerry Curve, the BlackBerry Pearl, and the BlackBerry 8800 series, you'll see that these models are all available from the four major carriers, and some of the regional service providers, so I see the same happening with the BlackBerry Storm.

Unfortunately, if you aren't with Verizon, I don't see it landing at AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile until after the new year.