By Mike Joubert 10 February 2010


Although highly anticipated, BlackBerry’s original Storm left many users a bit miffed, with its dodgy touch experience especially a let-down. Now the Storm2 (S2) is here to correct past mistakes. The two most notable upgrades to the S2 are a much better touch-screen experience and the inclusion of Wi-Fi. There aren’t many cosmetic changes; the S2 still looks a lot like the original Storm, except for the four navigation control buttons at the bottom which now also form part of the touch-screen and a bit of a tint on the chrome finish. Although screen size is the same, the screen feels a lot more solid, with the looseness of the Storm’s screen all but gone.

Next-gen SurePress
The S2’s touch experience is much improved, thanks to the next generation SurePress technology with the screen now being electrical rather than mechanical. You still need to physically push down on the screen to make a selection, with a noticeable clicking sound present, but it’s an overall less frustrating touch-experience. More importantly it was accurate when working on the QWERTY keyboard, which allowed for a lot less typos when SMSing or emailing. The S2 incorporates predictive text, but as far as ease of use in terms of input goes, the iPhone and HTC systems still work best.
While the S2 allows for two fingered input on the screen, you can’t for example pinch and zoom into webpages. You can do this however to zoom into a subject when using the camera, but it’s a cumbersome experience.
The addition of Wi-Fi was only logical, since very few smartphones these days come without it. It was dead easy to find our local wireless network and to connect to it, and as always all connectivity options are handled very neatly by the Manage Connections function.
It must be said that the S2, just like all BlackBerrys, handles email exceptionally well, with up to 10 email inboxes supported. Setting up email is a breeze and moving your mail from another BlackBerry device to the S2 is even easier.
As far as user interface is concerned BlackBerry is sticking to their pragmatic button icons. Compared to what’s on offer from Android, HTC’s Sense UI or Nokia’s Maemo 5, the BlackBerry user interface feels cold and uninspired. There is no place on the home-screen to quick-link to your favourite contacts, websites, or applications for instance.
If pragmatism is the ruling philosophy over at BlackBerry, they don’t extend it to the sorting of folders. It’s especially apparent when it comes to downloadable applications. Downloaded apps aren’t found in the Applications folder, or in the Application Centre, which BlackBerry populates with pre-selected apps for download such as Flickr and Windows Live Messenger. Rather the apps you download from BlackBerry App World will fall under Downloads; it’s all very confusing.
Speaking of apps, you’ll find a bunch over at BlackBerry App World. Once you’ve installed the App World app you can browse and download a variety of other apps. While one of the better stocked app markets, it’s still far, far behind the more than 100 000 apps available on Apple’s App Store. We also noticed that a number of free apps we tried to download would simply give the message that the app is not available for download.
Although BlackBerry’s Maps system is present to work in conjunction with the onboard aGPS, we found it of little use. If you want turn-by-turn navigation rather download Vodaphone Sat Nav in the Application Centre.
Digital Camera
BlackBerry didn’t do much to improve the digital camera, with it still standing on three megapixels with so-so quality, although pics can be geo-tagged. BlackBerry also failed to improve the device’s processor, which is the same as in the original Storm running at 528 MHz. Taking into account the 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running on HTC’s HD2 for example, 528 MHz seems antiquated. Although BlackBerry OS 5.0 runs quick enough, some experiences, like browsing through photos, would have done better with extra power under the hood. BlackBerry didn’t make the same mistake on the memory front though, doubling capacity to 256 MB.
One of the problems facing the S2 is that it simply cannot be rated only against the original Storm. As such, the S2, with its next-gen SurePress touch-screen technology and Wi-Fi, is a far better, more rounded phone, but compared to the latest smartphones on offer the S2 lags behind. In the S2 you have a first class messaging device, but it lacks the flair, processing power, personalisation and browsing experience of other recent smartphone releases.
Next-gen SurePress makes typing bearable, excellent emailing capabilities and setup, good Facebook integration.
Can be slow at times, UI cold and boring, camera only so-so.

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