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BlackBerry 9550 Storm 2 Review

When the original RIM BlackBerry Storm 9530 hit the market, it was a game changer for BlackBerry fans. It was the first touchscreen equipped BlackBerry, and it promised to deliver all of the finger-friendly usefulness that other platforms were offering. The problem was that its touch experience was too different, and the software that was loaded on the phone was horribly unstable. Sure, it got better through a few (too few?) updates, but it was still a polarizing device.

Now we have the Storm2 9550. It is 95% the same hardware as the original, but that 5% of difference, tied with the new BlackBerry OS 5.0 that is both stable and useful, gives the Storm2 a big edge over its elder sibling.

Physical Aspects
For those familiar with the original BlackBerry Storm 9530 for Verizon, the new Storm2 9550 might not look all that new. The Storm2's 112.5mm x 62mm x 14mm (4.4in x 2.4in x .6in) dimensions are almost exactly the same as the originals, though the Storm2 has gained a few grams of mass, coming in at 161.6g (5.7oz).

There are some real physical differences, though. The most obvious of which is that the 4 hardware keys that sit below the display on the Storm are now part of the new 3.2-inch, 360 x 480 pixel touchscreen found on the Storm2. The Storm2's screen has warmer colors than the original, and they are more lifelike as a result. Like the SurePress system on the Storm, the Storm2's display requires pressure to activate certain functions, like typing, even though the display itself is a capacitive touchscreen(INFO) like that on the iPhone or most Android smartphones.

On the original Storm, the pressure activated a real button that produced a click, and the display moved visibly. On the new device, the display may flex a little, but it doesn't actually move up and down, and the click is entirely simulated. It's quite a good simulation, too, and the result is a tighter seal around the display than was found on the Storm. Additionally, the click only occurs when the phone allows it, so it won't click when the Storm2 is locked, for example.

While the bulk of the changes in hardware have to do with the touchscreen, there are some other real changes that are also an improvement on the old design. The volume control, shutter button, and voice dial button that are located on the edges of the phone are now black in color and blend in more cleanly with the rest of the design. The chrome frame of the phone has also been darkened, which gives the Storm2 a more cohesive looking appearance that is quite attractive to the eyes. The rear panel of the phone, which remains metal in the Storm2, has been given a simpler and improved fastening mechanism that further streamlines the design. Unfortunately, the 3.5mm headphone jack still is located on the side of the phone, rather than on the top or bottom, and the microSD memory card slot is underneath the rear cover.

The top of the device is where the traditional BlackBerry controls for screen lock and mute are located, just as they were on the original. Though they may appear to be touch sensitive, they are actually hardware keys that produce a real click when pressed. The speakerphone grille on the phone has been moved from the back to the bottom edge of the phone, which means it works better when the phone faces up or sits on a desk.

Overall the build quality of the BlackBerry Storm2 9550 seems very, very solid. Better than the original Storm, thanks to the new display. But as to whether or not people will prefer the old hardware controls on the front of the phone over the new integrated controls remains to be seen. For my part, I'm quite fond of the new touchscreen based buttons.

Reference Price: 4,150,000


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