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BlackBerry Storm 2 review: BlackBerry Storm 2

It's not the perfect Storm, but it's pretty close. RIM's SurePress technology is far better than before, and the increase in RAM makes for a noticeably smoother user experience.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
6 min read

Research in Motion (RIM) first dove into the fiercely competitive touchscreen market a little over a year ago, delivering a touchscreen with a display that "clicked" like a button, and earning confusion and resistance from both loyal CrackBerries and iPhone nay-sayers alike. Our counterparts in the US gave the Storm a seven out of 10, noting that the SurePress screen technology took some acclimatising. Readers who commented on our Australian review were far less kind, complaining about laggy, buggy software and giving it an average score of 5.6. A follow up release was always going to have its work ahead of it.


BlackBerry Storm 2

The Good

SurePress screen makes typing easy. Speedy performance. Excellent multitasking. Power-efficient standby. App World is improving.

The Bad

No pre-installed navigation software. Paid apps still not available to Australians.

The Bottom Line

It's not the perfect Storm, but it's pretty close. RIM's SurePress technology is far better than before, and the increase in RAM makes for a noticeably smoother user experience.


From a distance the differences between the old and new Storms would be difficult to spot. The basic BlackBerry design ID remains the same, the handset dimensions are identical, and only those with sensitive sensibilities will be able to detect the extra 5 grams the Storm 2 adds to the weight of its predecessor. But there are differences; the external controls below the screen are now part of the capacitive touch-panel rather than mechanical keys, and they sit flush with the screen rather than slightly elevated as they were before. The same can be said for external controls around the edges too; gone are the silver buttons of the previous Storms and in their place we find soft-touch rubber buttons in a matching black to the rest of the sides and back of the Storm 2.

The screen is up to BlackBerry's excellent standard, this is a screen you'll be happy to stare at for long periods of time. Like the Bold handsets, the Storm 2 doesn't have an impressive resolution, but its 320x480 pixels pack in so many dots of colour that it's hard to spot the difference between the WVGA screens we're seeing from HTC and Samsung. Colours are rich, the blues and blacks of the BlackBerry OS menu structure is proof of this, and text and images render sharply.

Click this

As you've probably gathered, the screen is also the main input device, and as we said in the introduction, this was a major bugbear for many BlackBerry traditionalists who struggled to make the transition from QWERTY keyboards (or were disinterested in doing so). The make or break in shifting its keyboard users to touchscreen is a technology RIM calls SurePress, a clickable button-like touchscreen that you actually depress to make a selection. This year RIM has given SurePress an overhaul, replacing the single mechanical button below the screen with an electronic solution, providing the user with localised feedback, and making the screen "unclickable" when in standby mode.

If you read our positive feedback on SurePress last year and hated using it, you're probably not going to trust us when we say that not only do we still love SurePress, but this iteration is far better. The localised feedback replicates the sensation of typing superbly, and the Storm 2 is now capable of multi-touch input, which allows you to, for example, touch the top and bottom emails in a list you want to delete to select all emails in that range. To perfect this system, RIM could look into implementing an improved auto-correction feature, similar to what we see in the iPhone and Android smartphones. The predictive text used in the Storm 2 will show correction options based on spelling, but does not take into account the keys around the ones you pressed when typing a word.

Planet of the apps

In case you missed the memo, the BlackBerry App World is alive and kicking (even though only free apps are available in Australia at the time of writing). The App World is an exercise in quality over quantity; compared to the 140,000 Apple iPhone apps, the App World looks scarce, but the apps that are available are a great mixture of tools you might actually use. What the App World lacks in iFart apps and Dave Chappelle sound boards, it makes up for with multi-purpose apps like Viigo — a news and social networking aggregate that pulls together the latest headlines, weather forecasts, RSS feeds and Twitter rolls in one flowing user interface.

The "free-only" approach isn't a deliberate move by RIM, it's instead borne out of a lack of integrated payment options (an issue RIM hopes to address soon, they say), but while this sounds like a negative, only having free apps to choose from is actually nice experience. You can still browse a large catalogue, and anything you see you can have. Alternatively, sites like Bplay.com can sell paid apps to Australian BlackBerry owners, usually delivering them to the handset via an emailed web link.

Comparing core features

Out of the box, owners of the Storm 2 will have access to most of the features one can expect in a smartphone in 2010; calling, email, SMS, MMS, web browsing, etc. The only glaring ommission to this list is navigation. At factory default settings there is no maps installed. Users can add Google Maps with a download through the browser (not in the App World), and Vodafone customers can subscribe to Vodafone Compass, but built-in, free navigation services would help the Storm 2 compete against Nokia phones that now have free turn-by-turn voice-guided directions.

In terms of connectivity, the Storm 2 is on par with the rest. It supports quad-band GSM networks and 2100MHz 3G frequencies. It also has Wi-Fi, something the first Storm lacked, plus can make connections with a range of Bluetooth devices for streaming audio and transferring files. Web browsing is good with the pre-installed browser, navigating pages is smooth and fluid after all data has been loaded, but it is still a notch below the sheer ease of use of the iPhone's Safari browser. That said, it's a very close second.

The Storm 2's built-in 3.2-megapixel camera does a decent job of collecting your memories, assisted by a super-bright flash, and challenged by a less-than perfect auto-focus system. As you can see from our test image, colours are true, if dark, and the focus can be sharp, but this photo is the best of about two dozen we took during testing, most of which struggled to focus.

Photo taken with the BlackBerry Storm 2

Best of our tests: this shows how good these pics can look, but it took a few to find one this good.
(Credit: CBSi)


To make sure that this is an evolution of the first Storm and not simply a rehash, RIM has pumped up the RAM, doubling the application memory of the original to 256MB. The result is a mostly smooth user experience, speedy text input and outstanding multitasking — seriously, we could have eight or 10 apps open without too much slow down. We did run into a few stalls and pauses from time to time, but not enough to dampen our impression of the increase in speed.

Battery life is also a standout, due mostly it seems to outstanding standby battery efficiency, and to the fact that the Storm has an auto On/Off feature which can shut the phone down at night and back on in the morning. Phone calls were fine also; we didn't notice anything unusually good about the call clarity, but it was fine under most circumstances during testing.


Because we love boiling our reviews down to a single catchy phrase, we'd love to say this was the perfect Storm, but while we do think this is a great smartphone, we also think there are a few key areas for RIM to work on before it gives us the Storm 3. Overall, the performance is pleasing, and for our money, RIM has nailed the clickable screen concept.

Considering BlackBerry's popularity with the so-called "Road Warriors", we would like to see a solid navigation solution built into this phone, and all future BlackBerry phones for that matter. That said, a paid, full-featured navigation app on the App World would also suffice, so we might just have to wait until RIM launches paid apps on the store in our region.