My husband has had a turbulent history with cellular phones. He (admittedly) has never been skilled at choosing cell phones. He averages about one phone per year, often replacing his phones out-of-contract because he dislikes them so much. Two phones were the victims of "accidents," though I'm starting to think they were intentional incidences of destruction. One took a swim in the washing machine while another was stomped as my husband changed in a dark closet.
With his "New Every Two" promotion end date approaching, my husband decided to look into a smart phone. He wanted a touch-screen, but didn't want to change providers to get the iPhone. He also wanted to avoid the BlackBerry Storm after reading so many negative reviews of it. He kept an eye on the news about the BlackBerry Storm 2 9550
since it was announced earlier in the year. After months of research, checking news, and reading reviews, he purchased this phone the day it came out. Despite a few bugs, it is a great phone!Design of the Phone
The BlackBerry Storm 2
is a moderately-sized smart phone, measuring 4.43 inches high by 2.45 inches wide by 0.55 inches deep. Matching the dimensions of the original Storm, it fits comfortably in the palm of my hand. The phone weighs only 5.64 ounces, making it very portable.
The style of the Storm 2
is a bit sleeker than some of the other BlackBerry models. It looks more like an iPod than a phone. The exterior is mostly black, which I prefer as it masks scuff marks and dirt over time.
The phone features a 3.25-inch, 480 x 360 pixel color touch-screen. The picture is excellent for a cellular phone. One major reservation I have against touch-screens is their propensity to pick up fingerprints, yet I have found that this is not a problem with this phone. The screen feels durable, but my husband keeps the phone in a holster for better protection.
Though most of the phone's functions are controlled from the touch-screen, several buttons line the side and top edges of the phone. One button, located on the right edge of the phone, initiates the voice-dial feature. This is my one complaint about the phone's design. The placement of this button is very inconvenient as my husband and I both hit it accidentally when we hold the phone. Considering how much our hands differ in size, the button must be very poorly placed for us both to have the same issue.
As a mobile phone, the Storm 2
performs very well. Both the handset and speakerphone volumes are sufficiently loud to hear the person you're talking to clearly. Some speakerphones cancel out so much background noise that they cancel out your voice. This phone's speakerphone is sensitive enough to pick up my voice when positioned a few feet away, which is immensely helpful when I don't have a Bluetooth earpiece handy in the car. The phone is compatible with Bluetooth earpieces, allowing for hands-free phone calls. This is a necessity for my husband, who drives often for work in areas where laws prohibit the use of handheld mobile phones.
Thus far, we have consistently had a strong signal with this phone. My parent's house is usually a low signal area for Verizon phones, but this one has two bars there.
The phone has limited ringtone options, but can use any MP3 as a ringtone. The "normal" volume setting is loud for a phone, and with another "loud" option, I don't think anyone would complain that this phone rings too low. The phone may also be set to vibrate, which is one of the most powerful vibrate options I've seen on a phone. The only time it's difficult to feel the phone vibrating is when it's in a holster hanging from a belt loop. It's hard to feel the difference between the phone vibrating and the normal movements of the phone in the holster.
The Storm 2
has an extensive address book feature which is versatile enough for personal or business contacts. Each entry has a section for the contact's first and last name, a picture, company name, job title, email address, work number, home number, mobile number, pager number, fax number, other numbers, PIN, full business and home addresses, birthday, anniversary, webpage, and more. With the free Facebook application, your contacts sync up to your Facebook contacts, filling in the available contact information for you. It even associates contact's profile pictures with their address book entries, which display when the person calls.
Like every other phone today, this phone has SMS/MMS capabilities. The text messaging is very efficient, with an intuitive dictionary that provides options for completing words as you type them. Email
The BlackBerry Storm 2
, like other smart phones, features email connectivity. This was my husband's primary reason for upgrading to a smart phone. He works for a company that maintains recorders for the fire department. The position requires him to be on-call to deal with recorder failures and monitor the network several times daily. Having a constant connection to his business email account helps him stay current with the latest network status reports and allows him to receive notifications when a recorder has not uploaded data within certain periods of time. It has made our lives much easier on weekends now that he no longer needs to be near a computer most of the day.
Setting up various email accounts was very easy. The Storm 2
required only an email address and password for not only my husband's gmail and aol accounts, but also his work accounts. The latter surprised him as he expected to need to enter his pop3 settings for his work email to connect.
This phone supports up to ten separate email accounts being connected. Each are organized into separate folders, where you can view the incoming and outgoing emails for that account. There is also an all-encompassing message folder that displays mail from all of your email accounts, in addition to missed calls, voicemails, and text/media messages.
Emails may be sent from any of the email addresses linked to the phone with a default option available for you to link to your most frequently used address. My only complaint about sending email is probably not the phone's fault. When sending email from the gmail account, it shows the outgoing message on the phone, along with a duplicate message that appears to be incoming, since gmail outgoing messages are also sent to the phone.
This phone is capable of reading Microsoft Word and Excel documents, which has been immensely helpful for my husband. He has several spreadsheets and documents that he has previously kept on-hand on a flash drive for easy reference. Now they are stored on his phone where he can view them without having to find a computer!Web Browser
As with other smart phones, the Storm 2
provides users with mobile web browsing. This may be done through the provider's 3G network or through a Wi-Fi connection, which is a newer feature that was not included in the previous incarnation of the Storm. The Wi-Fi supports 802.11b/g connections. It was very easy to get it connected to our home wireless network. We only had to enter our encryption key and it worked.
Web browsing is pretty slow on the phone, perhaps equal to that of DSL. It works slightly faster when connected through the Wi-Fi than the 3G connection. The BlackBerry browser works well for "mobile" versions of webpages, but otherwise messes up the formatting of websites. The opera browser (which is available as a free download) works a little faster. Other Features
The Storm 2
has no shortage of features. The phone offers many of the features of Microsoft Outlook, including the address book setup I described earlier, notes, and a calendar. This allows you to sync the phone up to your Outlook. The calendar feature also works in conjunction with the free Facebook app to add your friends' birthdays.
The Storm 2
has GPS capabilities as well. Even if you have a separate GPS, I recommend downloading the free Google Maps App which provides all of the search capabilities of Google Maps and uses your GPS to give you specific information for your location. This was very helpful on a trip last weekend when we wanted to find a diner near our hotel. We found a great spot based on reviews and proximity to our GPS coordinates!
Other practical features include voice notes, which can be attached to emails, MMS, or BBM messages. The alarm clock has multiple snooze interval options and allows you to wake up to any ringtone on your phone. We use it daily and set it to an escalating volume so we will wake up to the lowest volume setting possible.
The phone has a 3.2 megapixel camera built-in. Though it only has a 2x digital zoom, the image stabilization and flash make it one of the better phone-cameras. It definitely served its purpose last week when my husband was in Home Depot shopping for a sconce for our living room. I was able to clearly see what my choices were and we found one we both liked. The phone records video as well. The quality isn't great, but it too ranks high against other phone video options.
With the Storm 2's
multimedia capturing abilities, it should come as no surprise that the phone also functions as a multimedia player. The phone can play videos, including MPEG4 H.263, MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile, H.264, and WMV files. Thus far, there haven't been any videos the phone wouldn't play.
The multimedia capabilities extend to audio as well. The phone supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, and WMA ProPlus audio formats. It isn't a substitute for an MP3 player, but with the included 3.5mm stereo headset, it's pretty close. This phone has 256 megabytes (MB) of flash memory and came with a pre-installed 16 gigabyte (GB) microSD card, which provides plenty of storage for music and other files. There are also several applications which allow you to stream radio through your 3G or Wi-Fi connection, including Pandora (which can be downloaded from their site) and Slacker Radio (which is available through BlackBerry App World).
BlackBerry App World comes preinstalled on the Storm 2
and provides access to an immense library of applications. Some applications cost a small one-time or monthly fee, while others are available free of charge. There are games, music programs, messaging applications, and various utilities. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) comes pre-installed for instant messaging to other BlackBerry users. You can install a weather channel application to get free weather updates, a dictionary and thesaurus for references on the go, and social networking applications, all free of charge. My husband even installed an app called "Whipoh!" which makes a whipping noise when you make a whipping motion while holding your phone. I'm not sure what practical applications such an app could possibly have, but my husband finds it hysterical.
As much as I like the BlackBerry App World, it has been frustrating. In general, I try to avoid newly released electronics, but my husband had wanted a new phone for over a year. As expected, there are a few bugs with this phone that will likely be solved with a firmware update in the near future. The BlackBerry App World is very buggy. Sometimes the icon disappears or the application uninstalls, especially after the phone has been connected to a computer. When you try to reinstall the application, it says the application is already installed, even though it cannot be accessed anywhere on the phone. Often it will then give you the option to "downgrade" the app, even though you're trying to reinstall it. The same happens with applications, which sometimes completely disappear. Usage
If you have ever used a BlackBerry before, there will be a minimal learning curve for using this phone. More inexperienced users may find it a bit intimidating to learn the touch-screen and BlackBerry operating system at the same time. The BlackBerry operating system is very intuitive, making it relatively easy to navigate. I have always liked how it allows you to have a lot of control over the organization of your phone, giving you the ability to hide icons and rearrange them as you please. This also adds to the phone's versatility as a tool for various users. Business users can make sure their emails, calendar, and notes are the first thing they see. Personal users might prefer to have their email, Facebook, and streaming radio as the top icons.
Most of the phone's functions are controlled through use of the touch screen. The screen is sensitive enough that it's easy to manipulate various icons on the screen, including the keyboard when typing. My husband is able to text message at lightning speed. I have a much harder time as my long nails make it impossible to use the tip of my fingers to type. I instead need to use the flat part of my thumbs, which often results in the selection of multiple letters or the wrong icons. It's incredibly frustrating.
The phone's screen toggles between landscape and portrait orientation based on how you hold the phone. I find the former to be much better for typing, while the latter is best when reading emails.
This phone connects to the computer via the included USB cable, allowing you to update firmware and transfer data. The BlackBerry software makes everything self-explanatory. Battery Life
The BlackBerry Storm 2 9550
provides lackluster battery life. The battery is said to last 11 to 12 days in standby or 5 to 6 hours of talk time. I assume standby means a time when you have absolutely no interaction with the phone whatsoever. The actual observed battery life is closer to fifteen hours of normal usage (a few short 5 to 10 minute phone calls, checking email all day, and sending/receiving several text messages). My husband recharges the phone each night, uses it as an alarm in the morning, uses it as described above, and the battery is normally low by the end of the night.
The battery is recharged using the included charger. It takes about two hours to charge from a fully discharged state. In The Box
Included in the box:
-BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 Cellular Phone
-Lithium-Ion Battery (1400 mAh)
-BlackBerry 3.5 mm Stereo Headset
-BlackBerry Micro-USB International Charger
-International Adapter Clips
-16 GB MicroSD Memory Card and SIM Card (pre-installed)
-Quick Reference Guide and Tips Foldout
-Global Support Kit
This phone was priced at $279.99 with a new two-year activation with Verizon Wireless. We used our $100 "New Every Two" credit and a $100 mail-in-rebate that was available. This brought our final phone price down to $79.99. Verizon requires their unlimited data plan with smart phones, which is an additional $29.99 per month.The Storm 2 or the Curve?
The BlackBerry Storm 2
and the BlackBerry Curve
are very similar in functions and features, and both are good phones. For me, the Curve is the better fit since the touch screen is completely incompatible with my nails. I find it far easier to use the track ball, which I can control with the flat part of my thumb, and the keyboard, which I can manipulate with my nails. The Curve also gets far better battery life. If nails weren't an issue, I would probably recommend the Storm 2
for most users. The Wi-Fi compatibility and large screen are nice to have. My husband and I both have a free blackjack game on our phone. My version displays only the tabletop, while his had a nice image of Vegas along the top.