It’s official: Verizon Wireless will start selling RIM’s (RIMM) new touchscreen BlackBerry Storm on Nov. 21. The iPhone-ish smartphone will sell for $199.99 after subsidy and a $50 mail-in rebate, assuming you are eligible and sign a two-year contract.
This is an important launch for both companies, as Apple (AAPL) beat RIM in unit shipments last quarter, and Verizon (VZ) hasn’t yet had a credible answer to the iPhone.
However, this is hardly an aggressive play. We think Apple still has the upper hand.
We had read rumours that Verizon Wireless was considering selling the Storm for free after subsidy, as its part-owner Vodafone (VOD) is doing abroad. That would definitely give the iPhone a run for its money.
But at $199, the Storm is the same price as Apple’s 8-gigabyte iPhone, while offering fewer features. (And the obnoxious hassle of a mail-in rebate.)
The iPhone, for example, has a much better app platform, multi-touch controls like “pinching” a map to zoom, better music/video platform, and wi-fi. (Update: The Storm ships with an 8-gigabyte card included, so both ship with about the same amount of storage; the Storm’s can be expanded with additional memory cards.)
Meanwhile, the Storm’s potential advantages that we can think of so far: Better 3G Internet service — the iPhone’s has ranged from average to terrible in our experience; better mobile email; higher resolution camera; turn-by-turn GPS; and maybe a better on-screen keyboard, if RIM’s “click-screen” is any good.
So it seems that most people who’d buy it are people who are tied to/prefer Verizon Wireless/BlackBerry email — or people who hate Apple. (We’ll reserve judgment until after we’ve had time to play with it.)
It’s also possible one or both companies will cut prices again before Christmas sales ramp up, which could help sell more phones. Especially if this quarter is really as terrible as everyone says it’s been.
One thing we don’t know yet: How much Verizon will charge for monthly service. Our bet is $70 per month, the cheapest plan AT&T (T) offers for the iPhone.
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