BB Storm not for Geeks but for Professionals

OK, let's get the Apple iPhone comparisons out of the way at the beginning: When it comes to pure cool, the BlackBerry Storm, the new global smartphone from Research in Motion, is no match for the iPhone.

While the Storm sports a touch-screen interface rather than a physical keypad, it can't match the iPhone's finger-flicking, pinch-zooming touch-screen panache.

Nor does it have many of the slick consumer applications the iPhone offers, such as Shazam.

Finally, while the Storm is stylish, it is thicker, heavier and not quite as elegant as the iPhone.

So why bother? Actually, many consumers — especially professionals — will find good reasons to opt for the Storm over the iPhone.

For starters, a lot of organizations don't allow use of iPhones because they offer limited enterprise-management tools and they lack the security of full-device encryption. BlackBerries, including the Storm, excel in both categories, making them a more attractive choice for certain professionals.

Second, while many veteran BlackBerry users won't want to give up their physical keyboards in favor of the Storm's touch-screen keyboard, the latter is decidedly easier to use than the touch-screen keyboard offered on the iPhone. The Storm's touch-screen is unique in that it moves perceptibly when you push on it. As a result, when you use the touch-screen keyboard, as well as menus, you get tactile feedback.

In fact, the Storm allows users to choose between two touch-screen keyboards. When you turn the phone between landscape and portrait mode, the contents of the screen change as well. This makes it handy to get a better view of certain photographs or Web pages.

But it also changes the configuration of the keyboard. In the landscape mode you get a full Qwerty keyboard. In the portrait mode, the truncated keyboard can be configured to employ either a mulitap method — in which you tap the button multiple times to evoke certain letters — or a SureType mode, which tries to guess what you're trying to enter.

At first, I thought the SureType mode was a loser. But that's because I was watching what it came up with after each press of the key. When I went ahead and typed without looking at the results, I found the SureType method was surprisingly effective.

By giving up the physical keyboard, of course, Storm owners gain a lot more room for cruising the Internet and viewing photos. Here, too, the Storm has an edge over the iPhone. The Storm's 480 x 360 pixel display offers just a tad more resolution than the 480 x 320 pixel display sported by the iPhone. As for photographs, the Storm's 3.2 megapixel camera overshadows the 2.0 megapixels offered by the iPhone camera.

Both the Storm and iPhone can open and read Word and Excel files, a handy feature for traveling professionals. With the Storm, however, you can install DataViz software that allows you to edit these files as well. Of course, no one is going to want to do extensive editing on a cellphone, but the capability to make limited changes is very welcome.

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