Hands on: RIM BlackBerry Storm 2 smartphone

The BlackBerry Storm 2 phone is an overall improvement from its predecessor, but SureType still feels a bit unintuitive.

RIM BlackBerry Storm 2 smartphone

RIM BlackBerry Storm 2 smartphone

The new Storm also has inertial scrolling, which means that you can move through your contacts or media library quickly with a flick of your finger. It isn't as speedy as the iPhone's scrolling, but it is a big improvement from that of the older Storm, which barely budged when you flicked to scroll. There were times when I had to flick multiple times to get the phone to respond, however. The cut/copy/paste functions are also easier to use, since the "handles" you grab to select text are bigger.

While the Storm 2 retains the original's 480-by-360-pixel display resolution, the user interface looks a lot brighter and sharper. This is due to the BlackBerry OS 5.0 software, which has sharper icons, brighter colors, and blacker blacks than does BlackBerry OS 4.7 (which shipped on the original Storm). The interface is clean and simple to navigate, thanks to the easy-to-identify icons.

Call quality over Verizon's 3G network was very good, with no background static or hiss. Voices were loud enough for me to hear easily, and they sounded natural. Parties on the other end of the line could hear my voice clearly while I was standing on a busy street corner.

Like all BlackBerry products, the Storm 2 has excellent messaging and e-mail capabilities. You get BlackBerry Enterprise Server support for your work e-mail, and you can load up to ten work or personal POP3 or IMAP accounts. The Storm 2 doesn't come loaded with the new BlackBerry Messenger 5.0, but you should definitely download it from BlackBerry App World. Trust me, you'll never go back to the old Messenger: Version 5 sports a spruced-up interface that's easier to use, it offers more emoticons to choose from, and it has the ability to display your location via GPS.

Pages loaded quickly over Verizon's 3G network, and even faster over Wi-Fi. Yes, the Storm 2 has Wi-Fi, and that alone makes the revised handset a big step up from the original Storm. RIM says to expect all of its future CDMA handsets to ship with Wi-Fi connectivity, so kudos to the company for finally getting past that roadblock. The browser will default to a mobile page when one is available, but it also loads full sites without any issues. Of course, the BlackBerry platform doesn't yet support Flash, so Flash-heavy sites won't load.

The music player displays album art and has easy-to-access touch controls. Audio quality sounded a bit hollow piped through the bundled headset and on my own higher-quality earbuds. Video playback was very smooth throughout most clips; I noticed only a bit of stuttering in fast-action scenes.

Overall, I was impressed with the Storm's 3.2-megapixel camera. Snapshots taken both indoors and outdoors looked better than pictures taken with the iPhone 3GS. Colors were a bit washed out and even more so when the flash was on, but details were sharp and I didn't detect any noise or graininess.

The BlackBerry Storm 2 is definitely an upgrade from the first Storm in design and usability. And while the keyboard handles better, I still can't really get the hang of it. Before you decide to purchase the Storm 2, try it out extensively in a Verizon store. If you discover that it isn't for you, consider getting a phone with both a touchscreen and a keyboard, like the LG enV Touch or the HTC Touch Pro 2. With one of those models, you get the best of both input technologies rather than something in between.

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Ginny Mies

PC World (US online)
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