Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BlackBerry Storm & T-Mobile G1: Hands On

Instead of simply speculating about how the latest mobile phones work, I decided to go and try them for myself.
BlackBerry Storm
I went to the Bishop Street Verizon store in Downtown Honolulu. They were amazingly friendly and helpful. I guess this time of day wasn't that busy for them. So, one of the employees really helped me to understand all the functions of the BlackBerry Storm.
As an avid iPhone user, I thought I might be overly tough on the Storm. But, I was pleasantly surprised that I did like the overall feel of the device.
I didn't think the keyboard was as bad as everyone else makes it out to be. Sure, you can't type faster than on the iPhone because you have to press the whole screen down and let go before typing another button. But, I was able to get adequate speed. I thought the predictive text worked fine. Although the screen didn't have the sophistication of multi-touch, it could swipe and double-tap nicely. The one thing I did notice was that when I pushed buttons closer to the edges of the screen it didn't work 100% of the time. If there was a criticism about that screen, that would be it.

Not all was good with my Storm experience though. I hated the browser. If Opera Mini was available I'd throw it on that bad boy immediately. Also, the GPS was a bit tough to use. On the iPhone, one tap of a button gives you your current location very close to real-time. I had to jump through hoops to get my current location on the VZ Navigator. But, the one great feature of Navigator was getting traffic reports. For whatever reason, traffic reports on the iPhone does not work in Hawaii. That's no surprise because the Navigation system in my Acura can't get traffic reports either but it can on the mainland. But, for some reason Verizon in Hawaii can.
As I expected, video on the Storm was NOT in widescreen. In fact, the trailer that was preloaded was for "Babylon A.D." The familiar green preview screen was in widescreen but the rest of the trailer was in fullscreen. Very odd. I tried to double tap to see if it would transform into widescreen but to no avail.
Loading pictures also seemed to take forever. It was probably loading them from the MicroSD card. Music on the Storm seemed to play very quickly. I'm not sure if they were loaded on the 1GB of onboard storage or on the MicroSD card.
I just also want to mention that there is no Wi-Fi capability for the Storm, which to me is a dealbreaker.
The person who helped me was so gracious that she even let me take a picture of the Storm using my iPhone! If I ever had to switch carriers, I would make it Verizon.
UPDATE: I remember now the one thing that really bugged me about the Storm's keyboard: a lack of a proper shift key! It has a one key upper/lower case selector in vertical mode. I suppose the landscape mode is a bit better, but the upper/lower case selector is a bit too low for my tastes.
T-Mobile G1
Then, I went to the Alakea Street T-Mobile store about a block away.
There was a long line of people waiting to be helped. I certainly did not want to stand in that line and no one was free to help me. So, I never did get to try the best part of the T-Mobile G1 which is its Android software platform.
The only thing I can comment about is the physical hardware of the G1 since the floor models were not actual working versions. After you hold the iPhone 3G and the BlackBerry Storm, holding the G1 in your hand is like holding a Nintendo Game Boy. Whereas the other two phones are sleek and sexy, the G1 feels like it is made from very cheap plastic. It's nice and light, but the "cool" factor is not there. It also didn't help that one of the floor models was broken: the hinge of the screen that reveals the physical keyboard was broken. That REALLY made me think that the hinge could someday break off like the floor model. The way the screen hinge moves is quite violent instead of elegant. And the physical keyboard itself did not feel good. The keys are so flush that you REALLY have to press down to make sure you hit the key.
And, to me, the trackball at the bottom also feels cheap. Another thing that really disturbed me was that I could literally pull the screen off at the top of the phone since there is no hinge there to prevent me from doing that. I'm sure the Android software is revolutionary. But, the hardware leaves a lot to be desired.

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