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BlackBerry Storm 2: Hands-on with the happy clacker

We got our hands on the new BlackBerry Storm2, which brings a clicky touchscreen to lovers of the berry nero. But can a BlackBerry succeed without its keyboard?

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RIM doesn't want BlackBerry fans to be left behind in the tap-happy touchscreen frenzy, and it's hoping the BlackBerry Storm2 will succeed with touchscreen lovers where the original Storm failed.

Yesterday we told you about the specs of the Storm2, including its 83mm (3.2-inch) capacitive touchscreen. Now we've had a chance to be bold with it, and we liked the improvements BlackBerry has made to the phone.

The SurePress screen is still there, which means that when you want to click an icon you press the whole screen, which depresses slightly and gives your finger physical feedback. But unlike the original Storm, the Storm2's screen is seated in its case without any gap, so you can't peek through and see the gubbins inside the phone. The click is very subtle and the movement is controlled by electronic actuators, instead of mechanical levers like the first Storm, so it won't click at all when the phone is turned off.

The new SurePress screen also supports multi-touch, so you can click more than one keyboard button at once, for example. BlackBerry says this should make typing much faster, because you don't have to wait for the screen to pop up before you can type the next letter.

Click 'Continue' to read our hands-on impressions of the BlackBerry Storm2 in the flesh.

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The Storm2's menu has huge, finger-friendly icons that we had no trouble pressing. But, like the icons on other BlackBerries, we find they look too much alike. A case of style over substance, we think.
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The Storm2's touchscreen allows a user interface that's more intuitive than tradtional Qwerty BlackBerries. For example, you can tap the signal-strength icon on the home screen to open a connection menu, without having to navigate through the phone's menu.
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The Storm2 has offers a choice of an on-screen SureType keyboard layout, where two letters share each key, or an on-screen full Qwerty keyboard.
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You also have the choice of predictive text, like on traditional BlackBerries, or word correction. The first tries to guess what you're typing from the first few letters, while the second corrects your words after you type them, helping sort out typos from hitting the wrong key.
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We liked the landscape version of the on-screen full Qwerty keyboard with word correction the best, and even typing at our fastest, with our fingers all a-blur, we thought it did a very good job of sorting out our button mashing. The click feedback should be helpful for those who don't like the flat feel of other touchscreen keyboards.
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BlackBerry has tweaked the Storm2's design so it feels smaller than the Storm, although it's the same size. The Storm looked oddly massive, but the Storm2 looks more like a normal, large smart phone, similar to the iPhone.
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Small details such as a flush 3.5mm headphone jack and moving the speaker to the foot of the phone instead of the back actually do help the phone feel smaller and sleeker than its predecessor.

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