The BlackBerry Storm 9500 is something of a departure for RIM, and not just because it's the first touchscreen BlackBerry. It's also a handset that has been jointly designed by its customers - the mobile phone operators Verizon and Vodafone.
BlackBerry Storm 9500: Applications
In addition to the features we've covered so far, the Storm comes with some fairly standard preinstalled applications include Tasks, Calculator, a Video Camera, a Password Keeper, a Clock and a Saved Messages folder. That's far from all there is, however.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Apple Apps Store is a whole new way of tricking out your smartphone. In fact, PDAs, Palms and BlackBerry handsets have had their own, sizable ecosystem of software vendors and shareware creators for many moons. However, mindful of how well Apple's add-ons have gone down, RIM has centralised this function and made it prominent in the application list, with its own brash icon.
The Application Center is where you head if you want to add extras to your BlackBerry Storm 9500. Unsurprisingly (given their popularity) these include Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger and so on. To install one, you need simply to click its icon, accept the terms and conditions about it being at your own risk if you knowing install third-party applications, and you're all set.
Vodafone's Find & Go service (an operator-branded version of Telmap's solid navigation software) is not installed by default. The 1.4MB download and installation process took 47 seconds on our 3G network. You get to use this turn-by-turn navigator for free for the first six months, after which it becomes a paid-for bolt-on, should you decide it's useful to you.
While the BlackBerry Storm 9500 is by no means the perfect smartphone, there are many aspects of it we admire. The clickable touchscreen works very well – we liked the fact you need to apply definite pressure to initiate a command or enter a character. It also helps distinguish this handset from the expanding pack of touchscreen devices out there. The web browsing experience is vastly improved too; for the first time, you can confidently enter a web address and view it properly, as its designers intended, and can navigate its structure as you would if accessing it from a PC. The contact management and synchronisation tools are rock solid, as we've come to expect, and we can't fault the BlackBerry Storm's phone features either. In these two respects, it shows up the iPhone's shortcomings as a straight communication handset. Even so, we think the iPhone has the edge when it comes to touch-sensitive text entry functions. In the end, which device you choose will probably come down to whether you want a business smartphone with some compelling entertainment features and a strong web browser, or a consumer gadget that serves up the web and email alongside iTunes content.