Canadian BlackBerry users ponder Storm purchase

Canadian smartphone aficionados are mulling over whether to make the switch to the new BlackBerry Storm 9530, while their neighbours south of the border are starting to weigh in on a user experience that is a few weeks old.

Both Telus Mobility and Bell Mobility released the Storm in retail stores and on the Web starting Tuesday. Both carriers are saying the current “limited release” will not meet demand.

Meanwhile, the first touch screen phone from Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion (RIM) has been available since Nov. 21 to Americans through Verizon.

Telus promoted its release by providing pre-loaded content from Canadian music label Arts & Crafts on a 8 GB microSD card. Featured performers include groups such as Broken Social Scene. While the promotional content won’t come on all Storm units sold in the future, the microSD card will remain in the box, according to Tammy Scott, vice- president of communication marketing at Telus.

“After our limited time offer, we’ll still include the card, it just won’t have that specific content on it,” she says. “The Canadian pre-loaded content kind of sweetens the deal at launch.”

The deal was sweet enough for many customers who went to the Telus Web site to purchase the device. One of them, Azim, writing on ITBusiness.ca’s discussion board says he logged on too late to place his order.

He notes that the devices were “out of stock” soon after the release and wonders whether this situation was due to high sales volumes or “very limited stock [being available] to Telus and Bell.”

Azim also expresses doubts about whether he will be able to make the transition from a hardware keyboard to the Storm’s touch screen keyboard.

BlackBerry users who use the e-mail functionality often may want to opt for a hardware keyboard model, Telus’ Scott says.

She points out that Telus also offers the BlackBerry Pearl and Curve phones that feature more traditional QWERTY keyboards.

“But there are other people who want the best of both worlds,” she says. “There are those who want to do some e-mail, but they want all the multimedia functionality that comes with the Storm.”

The touch screen issue is the only major deterrent to corporate adoption of the Storm, according to Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont. The bias towards physical keys could hold the device back a bit.

“The good thing is it’s a BlackBerry,” he says. “But without a full QWERTY hardware keyboard, heavy-duty data entry types in the enterprise probably won’t adjust, even though it has the clicky touch screen.”

Dedicated BlackBerry user Chris Slattery, president of IT services company BlueCurl, located in Langley, B.C., says he will “probably” get the Storm because he won’t consider devices outside of the RIM family.

“I’m not big on the iPhone – I think it’s a bit too gimmicky,” he says. “I don’t like the drag down screen or how it looks…The battery life on it isn’t good and it’s just not as functional.”

Canadian consumers who are still undecided about whether to purchase the Storm, may be helped from the experience of American users. Storm users have been flooding the Web with blogs and YouTube videos giving their own personal review of the device since it was released into the wild.

Here’s a selection of the most interesting YouTube reviews done on the device from south of the border, provided by PC World (US) writer Mark Sullivan.

It is worth noting that Verizon users may be referring to problems related to older Storm software. Canadian Storm models include upgraded software.

5. Kyle: This Is the Best Verizon Phone. Period.

Kyle (aka jameskm03) likes the Storm’s new touch screen and its camera (“The 3.2-megapixel camera is MONEY!”), but he doesn’t like the fact that the phone doesn’t support WiFi.

4. College Boy: This Is Not an iPhone Killer

Here’s the counterpoint to #5. Once this guy (college student and YouTuber “mdscinto”) finally gets going (just fast-forward to about 1:15 in the video, where he starts hitting his stride), he touches on many of the major criticisms of the Storm now making the rounds among tech critics and Apple fanboys/girls: uncomfortable typing motion, slow OS, no Wi-Fi, etc., etc. So here he is on the dorm-room cam, making art not war…

3. “Gorgeous, Sexy, Amazing”

I’ve watched this video from “gotenkslovesme” about five times now — never mind that the video’s oriented sideways for undisclosed reasons. Though this wee slip of a lass is no Walt Mossberg, I just can’t get enough of her heavy Scottish brogue, especially when she says: “It’s the first ever clickable touch screen…” Wow.

2. Jon4Lakers: BlackBerry Storm vs. iPhone

This is the most-watched BlackBerry Storm review on YouTube right now, with 271,301 views (at this writing). The reviewer, Jon Rettinger (aka jon4lakers), pits the Storm side-by-side on a table top against the 3G iPhone to make his comparison more vivid. The matchup includes a download speed test (cool) that Verizon’s EvDO network wins handily.

1. From a Bunker in the Suburbs

This youngster, “themacfan45”, caught a lot of flak in YouTube comments responding to his review of the BlackBerry Storm. But PC World has his back. Good review, my bespectacled friend, and keep ’em coming. Someday you may grow up to be a highly paid hot-shot tech journalist like me and David Pogue. Just lay off the cough syrup, okay? It might help with your delivery.

With files from Michelle MacLeod and Mark Sullivan.

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