We haven’t had a chance to play with RIM’s new touchscreen BlackBerry Storm yet, but based on early first-hand reviews, it is safe to say it will at least accomplish two goals: Get RIM into the touchscreen market, and get Verizon Wireless — its exclusive U.S. carrier — a decent smartphone competitor to the Apple-AT&T iPhone. And it could actually sell well.
The big gamble: RIM’s touchscreen doesn’t work like the one you’re used to using on an iPhone, Palm (PALM) Treo, etc. If you want to select a button, or type on the virtual keyboard, you have to push it — pretty hard — not just touch it. Because this is new, it might scare people off. But according to two gadget dudes who’ve actually used it, it actually works.
…The true test of any touch-based phone is typing, and we won’t hold any punches here: we’re in love. In fact, we like it enough to pit it against regular button-based keyboards, since it easily leaves traditional touchscreen typing (even that hokey haptics stuff, Nokia, LG) in the dust.
Some people will hate ClickThrough—it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s genuinely innovative and really damn good.
So who’s going to buy the Storm?
- Any of Verizon Wireless’ 69 million subscribers who want a touchscreen smartphone and want to stick with Verizon (VZ), which doesn’t offer the iPhone.
- Anyone who wants a touchscreen smartphone and whose company uses BlackBerry for their mobile email.
- Anyone who wants a touchscreen smartphone and cares more about email than Web browsing, games, multimedia, etc.
- Anyone who hates Apple (AAPL), AT&T (T), Sprint (S), and/or T-Mobile.
There’s still some variables to get ironed out, like pricing. And the phone has some glaring shortcomings, like no wi-fi, no support for iTunes-DRM-encoded music and movies, and a tiny third-party app platform.
But last we checked, the iPhone, for all its merits, was still just 24% of the U.S. consumer smartphone market — meaning three of four buyers were putting their money elsewhere. Bottom line: There’s plenty of room for competition, and with Verizon’s marketing dollars behind it, we think RIM’s new phone will do well.
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