RIKLReviewTM — The BlackBerry Storm (Entr'acte)
I still have a number of the capabilities listed in Part 2 to review. However it's taking me longer than I thought it would to get familiar with some important features. As with any complicated, software-driven gadget, there will be bugs. Big bugs, little bugs, not-sure-they're bugs, and infelicities. I've kept a log, so without dignifying this with a Review Part Number, I'll just list some of the issues I've encountered. There are many more than there should be, and some of them seem quite serious. There are also many more than I've listed. Plenty of room remains in the log...
The Great List Of Bugs
What happened to my connection? I noticed one afternoon I couldn't send or receive either email or telephone calls. A tiny icon seemed to imply that my network connection was turned OFF. Cycling power accomplished naught, but I found an option to "manage my connection," and turned it back on. How did it get turned off? No clue!
Even after I got my telephone connection back, the email function was not working. I cycled power again, and suddenly it was working, with three hours-old emails waiting for me.
I recorded a video. When I tried to play it back, I got a message that the device couldn't play that format. I recorded another video. When I stopped the recording, the Storm froze, and I had to remove the battery and reinsert it before it would pay attention to me.
Trying to fast-forward or rewind music requires sliding one's finger on the progress bar. What progress bar?
Twice I've had the "sound profile" change without any instructions from me.
When you add music or photos, it seems that you have to cycle power on the Storm for them to be recognized.
On Page 80 of the PDF manual, one finds: "You can only improve sound quality when you use stereo headphones with your BlackBerry® device." So aren't Bluetooth headphones headphones? Only the plug-in headphones seem susceptible to equalization.
GPS provides latitude, longitude, and altitude. In the GPS mode you can see your position on a map, you can copy latitude and longitude to an email or to the clipboard. You can even send your position on a map to someone else! But there is no display that shows your current latitude and longitude. And I haven't found any way to see altitude at all, even though it's available from the GPS navigation solution with no effort and is often extremely useful. How about a GPS Receiver Status Screen?
You can "geotag" your photos. But there seems to be no way to read the tags!
The Clock application shows the time very accurately. The stopwatch application reads time to the fraction of a second. So why not show seconds on the clock?
I set up all my contacts using the "LOUD." When I got a call, I realized that "LOUD" activates the vibrator as well, which I have no desire to use. There seems to be no way to edit the LOUD (or any other) profile to turn off the vibrator, or any way to simply disable it.
Plugging in the USB cable cuts off the Bluetooth music.
The equalizer has an interminable list of settings, including "hip hop," "dance," and "lounge." I have no idea what any of them mean although there are some comprehensible ones such as treble and bass boost. Why not just provide an equalizer with actual equalizer controls?
Sometimes it seems to take a long time to respond to a screen press or highlight specific icon, sometimes it happens instantly. It's as if the Storm had a double secret hard drive powering up when it comes out of Lock.
The earphone jack is on the side instead of the top.
Speaking of Lock
The Motorola Q had a simple "Lock" and "Unlock" system, which I actually like. To Lock, you press Home and then Space. To Unlock you press the left softkey and Asterisk. This two-key sequence makes it almost impossible for the unit to lock or unlock accidentally. Unfortunately, the Storm has a single Lock key, and it's all to easy to grab it unintentionally just by picking up the unit or to activate it even when the Storm is simply bouncing around in your pocket. This could be one reason why there were so many uncommanded actions and adjustments.
I thought of a workaround: I tried to set the Password to a single digit, but it wouldn't allow that. Two digits? No good, either. Why can't I have whatever password I want? Whose Storm is it, anyway? In any event, the Lock mechanism is problematic. In fact, as well intentioned as the side "convenience" keys all are, there are so many control surfaces that it's hard to simply pick up the Storm without doing something, usually something you don't want to do. A better and more thorough LOCK mechanism would improve that.
A program called BlackBerry Desktop Manager is furnished with the Storm. I'm using version 4.7 with Windows XP and the latest patches and service packs.
Trying to synchronize with both Bluetooth and USB is very confusing. Either interface, individually, works most of the time, but checking the box that allows USB to override Bluetooth takes a few tries to work, which it sometimes does.
The main problem I have encountered is inconsistency, especially with the Roxio Media Manager that is part of the package. I have found that I can't routinely use the Storm as a mass storage device because the rest of the Storm software doesn't recognize either music, photos, or even ringtones, regardless where stored, when it is plugged in to the PC. It is also easy to get the system in a state in which Media Manager crashes (and disappears) from the screen every time you start it.
Speaking of Media Manager, would it kill them to use a standard format for menus, displays, etc.? You can actually zoom in on text menus! But why not display them compactly instead of offering this totally useless "feature."
I tried to do a backup of the BlackBerry to the PC. It worked four times and stopped with an "unknown error" message one time. After restarting, it worked. "Unknown error" is not terribly helpful.
Copying data from my Motorola Q to the Storm seemed to go well. One benefit of the Storm software is that there is no arbitrary limit on how many PCs can be synchronized. The Microsoft synchronization program only works with two PCs. While it is not clear why there should be any limit at all, if there must be, a limit of three would make some sense, covering home, work, and a laptop. The Storm program created a few duplicate "contacts" instead of reconciling the differences, but that could have been my fault, and in any event was only a minor annoyance.
Where's the GPS antenna? GPS signals are very weak and need all the help they can get. Most GPS antennas have a hemispherical receive pattern and work best when the center of the hemispherical bulge is pointed at the zenith. There are two logical locations for the antenna: The top of the unit in portrait mode, or the top of the unit in landscape mode. Which is it? Look in vain for the answer in the documentation. It could be anywhere.
I won't even attempt to populate this section. There are any number of questions I have whose answers are impossible to find in the documentation.
Every time you start up the music player with the included ear buds plugged in, you have the extra step of telling the Storm that yes, you really, really want to play the music despite the danger of losing your hearing. First the car navigation systems, now the music players. I can't wait until my front door refuses to open until I agree to watch out for snow and ice.
The Storm uses a stupid micro-USB connector. I'm angry I had to buy new cables for no reason at all. However, in researching the new connectors, I've found that they are rated at 10,000 mating/de-mating cycles rather than the 1000 or so for the mini-USB. Whether this is valuable or not depends on your usage pattern. I've never had a mini-USB cable or connector go bad, but I can agree that an increase in cycles is Good.
Which does not mean that I'm not still floundering in a miasma of hatred. It's just slightly attenuated.
I'd almost be willing to bet that when I finally finish reviewing the Storm, I will find it necessary to say that it has a number of very bad software flaws, both in the unit itself, and in the ancillary programs. Clearly it was rushed into production without sufficient beta testing. The good news is that everything I've whined about above with the exception of the Micro USB connector and headphone connector location is remediable. Accordingly, I shall continue with the review instead of having my Storm crushed.
NP: "Lonely is the Night/Don't Say No" - Billy Squier (my own personal segue)