30 Dec. 2008
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RIKLReviewTM The BlackBerry Storm (Part 5)

What Time Is It?

A question asked by Marshall Crenshaw, but one easily answered, albeit unpoetically, by the Storm.  It has a clock/stopwatch alarm function.  There's not too much to say about this.  You get a nice choice of clock faces, including a tasteful analog display with "hands," a somewhat silly "flip clock," and two digital faces, one smooth, one that looks like a segmented display.  My personal preference is the smooth digital, but the others are easily readable, and I'm sure that it they're not already available, someone will make a few bucks providing some of the more exotic faces that can be found on the Web. 

In addition to the ordinary time-of-day clock, there is a stopwatch and a countdown timer.  I'm always intrigued by the visual metaphors companies choose to use in their products.  For example the "flip clock" harks back to the 60s and before, when electronic digital clocks were more expensive and harder to make than mechanical ones.  (Some day I shall try to unearth one of the many I built.)  Given that the majority of cellphone users have probably never even seen, much less used, a mechanical stopwatch, one would think it appropriate for the stopwatch controls to be labeled "start/stop/reset," with start and stop toggling in the same softkey space.  Guess what!

Stopwatch and Controls - Obsolete Visual Metaphor

BlackBerry Storm stopwatch screen with Start and Reset controls Start, Reset
BlackBerry stopwatch screen with Stop and Lap Timer controls Stop, Lap Timer
BlackBerry Storm stopwatch screen showing "lap times" Start, lap time display

Sometimes (well, almost always) a plain word of text is better than an icon or visual metaphor.  Especially an obsolete one.  But what do I know?  Incidentally, if those "screen shots" look better than my previous photos, it's because they're not screen shots at all, but rather image captures from the Storm simulator available from BlackBerry.  I found it while reading up on the "development" process, about which I may have more to say next year.

The clock application, along with almost everything on the Storm screen, is a pleasure to look at.  Bright, great contrast, very sharp.  My one criticism, mentioned earlier, is that the main clock display doesn't show seconds, not even optionally.  For non-critical timing applications, why force one to go through the whole stopwatch/timer selection process when eyballing the seconds, if they were available, would do the job.  If pulse rates need to be checked, this isn't the device with which to do it.


I'm not a fan of computer games, but I do like explosions.  The "Word Mole" game at left at least creates craters in the garden.  I haven't looked at "Brick Breaker."  If someone lets me know that the bricks are broken by nuclear devices, I'll explore it further.


I've finally played with and listened to the music player enough to say that it works.  Although the sound quality through the Bluetooth headphones isn't adjustable, it's loud enough to overcome the noise of street traffic.  I've filled up the 8GB media card that came with the Storm, and I'm sure that when the price comes down I'll get a 16GB card and fill that moments later.  Meanwhile, I do have a few comments about the music playback. 

1:  It works.

2:  Sometimes it works too well.  Even when I think I've turned it off, the act of putting it in my pocket turns it on again.  The Lock/Unlock and Mute/Unmute keys are easy to activate, and many times after I've returned the headphones to their charger I hear this little voice coming out of my pocket.  Not a frog or even a diminutive princess; somehow the MP3 has restarted itself.  Fortunately this is fairly benign, and I've stopped worrying about it.  Eventually I'll figure out a simple sequence to make it stop.

3:  The volume keys on the side require a quick, firm press to change volume.  Tarry on the "lower" key and the music stops.

4:  I've grown to like the "progress bar" on the iPod, and was pleased to see that the Storm has the same feature.  Except that it doesn't, even though the manual claims it's there.  Unless there's a double-secret way of turning it on, I'll call this a bug and suggest that the next version of software will find it.  Perhaps it's hidden in one of the Word Mole craters.

The Voice Recorder

Although I've only played with this a bit, it seems very useful and, even better, easy to use.  I think there's a superfluous step needed to get it to record, but voice notes are good since typing on the Storm (or any cellphone) is not exactly a pleasure.  Hint:  Use it to prove the neighbor's dog is barking too long and too loud.  Try that with a keyboard!

The Bottom?

I took this picture with the Storm today.  I can hardly believe it!  Each time the price of gas goes down I take a picture.  This is the lowest I've seen.

If you click on the picture, you'll see once again that the Storm takes good but not great photos.


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NP:  "What TIme Is It?" - Marshall Crenshaw

Richard Factor

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