Research in Motion said Monday that it plans to release a new version of its BlackBerry Storm. Speaking to Reuters, company CEO Jim Balsillie said that the time is right for a new BlackBerry Storm. He believes the market is "very large and untapped."
He went on to say that the BlackBerry Storm was "a huge success in terms of sales and adoption." Balsillie said he believes the next iteration of the mobile phone could enjoy the same kind of success he claims its predecessor did.
I had the opportunity to use the BlackBerry Storm when it was first released. It was a mess. I had trouble clicking the desired icons, and I was generally unimpressed with the device's OS. The idea of "clicking" the screen to access the desired app, while good on paper, turned out to be a nightmare, in my experience. I was disappointed with the BlackBerry Storm.
But that doesn't mean I'll automatically rule out the BlackBerry Storm 2 (or whatever it will eventually be called). I think RIM had a good idea with the first device, but now it needs to refine its offering.
Kill the clickThough it became the Storm's signature, RIM needs to kill its clicking mechanism when you push on the screen. I realize that it provides some tactile response that the iPhone doesn't, but after using both I can say that it's much easier to use Apple's device than RIM's. The Storm didn't make typing any easier. Clicking on apps was difficult. And more often than not, I was wondering how hard I would need to push just to perform my desired operation.
It needs to go.
Add a trackball
I know that RIM was trying to take aim at Apple, so it kept the Storm as simple as possible, but adding a trackball would totally transform the device. It would make finding and choosing apps simpler. And most importantly, it would make using the device much easier. As a proud owner of a BlackBerry Bold, I don't know what I would do without my trackball. It's convenient. The BlackBerry Storm isn't.
Ditch the virtual keyboard
Just because Apple thinks the virtual keyboard is the way to go, it doesn't make it right. The BlackBerry Storm's virtual keyboard is awful. I had trouble clicking the right letters and at times, I was so frustrated with it I gave up. In those moments, I realized something: what makes the virtual keyboard such a necessity?
The BlackBerry Bold's physical keyboard is fantastic. RIM should add a nice, full-size QWERTY keyboard, similar to the Bold's, that slides out from behind the Storm 2's big screen. That way, the touchscreen is employed to do special things like "pinch," while the keyboard is used to help professionals and consumers enjoy a better experience with the device.
Enhance the App World
The BlackBerry Storm 2 will never achieve the kind of success Apple has with the iPhone unless it can improve the BlackBerry App World. Right now, there is no comparison between RIM's store and Apple's. The BlackBerry App World has just a handful of useful apps, while Apple's is filled with outstanding services.
If RIM wants the Storm 2 to be successful, it needs to make a concerted effort to work with developers and coax more of them to the store. Apple has transformed the mobile market into a space where add-ons really, really matter. RIM has, so far, not competed on any level with Apple's App Store. It must if it wants the Storm 2 to be successful.
That might seem like a lot of work, but if RIM really wants the Storm 2 to take on the iPhone, it needs to change. A lot.