Due in large part to the overwhelming success of Apple's iPhone smartphone, touch screen technology is winning more attention than ever before.
Countless handset makers have tried to mimic Apple's success with the iPhone by creating touch-screen-based device of their own, but the vast majority failed to sell even a fraction of the number of handhelds Apple shipped in 2008--somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million devices.
The latest--and perhaps most notable--smartphone manufacturer to take on Apple's iPhone in the touch screen arena is Research In Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry handheld. Rumors about a BlackBerry Touch first hit the Web almost a year ago, six months after Apple first released the iPhone. But it wasn't until early October that RIM confirmed the existence of such a device. Last week, Verizon Wireless, the exclusive U.S. Storm carrier, announced that the touch screen BlackBerry will go on sale on November 21, for $199 after a $50 rebate.
When the BlackBerry Storm becomes available next week, smartphone buyers will be presented with a choice between the most popular touch screen handset in the world, the iPhone, and what could prove to be the world's first true iPhone rival, the Storm 9530. Here's my thinking on eight reasons why the iPhone 3G might be the better choice. Click on over to part two of the series for the flip side: eight reasons why the Storm might be the best option for you.
8) iPhone Now Second Generation
The Apple iPhone has been available for almost a year and a half now--the first-generation iPhone was released in June of 2007; the second-gen iPhone 3G came in July 2008. And though it hasn't been all smooth sailing, Apple has largely worked through the initial hiccups, so new iPhone users can expect a relatively seamless experience.
Not so with the BlackBerry Storm. Today, Vodafone U.K. is expected to become the first global carrier to sell the Storm--a different version than the 9530 edition that Verizon will sell in the U.S.--and though there have been some early reviews of pre-production units, it's still unknown exactly how well RIM's "Click Through" touch screen tech will work and/or hold up over time.
If you're anxious to get your hands on a touch screen smartphone before the holidays, it might be wise to choose the iPhone 3G--at least until somebody really puts the Storm through the motions.
7) Built-In Memory
The iPhone 3G currently comes in two versions: the 8GB iPhone ($199 with new AT&T contract); and the 16GB edition ($299 on contract). Both the 8GB and 16GB iPhone feature internal storage that cannot be swapped out. That means new iPhone users have immediate access to either 8GB or 16GB of storage, and there's no need to purchase or manage multiple memory cards--it also means memory cannot be expanded.
This can be both a bane and a boon for smartphone users, depending on personal preferences and digital media habits. Folks who don't really need any more than 16GB of memory could appreciate the fact that they never need to purchase memory cards or remove any iPhone components to swap or expand memory. However, users with large digital media collections might want to use multiple memory cards so they can access more of their digital content.
6) iTunes App Store
With the second-gen iPhone 3G came the iTunes App Store, the sole distribution channel for iPhone software. The App Store makes it simple for iPhone users to locate, download and update third-party software--from a desktop computer or via iPhone--and Apple vets each and every app, so users can trust that they're safe in downloading new programs.
From a software developer's perspective, the App Store may not be an ideal mobile application marketplace, but for users, it's simple, reliable and familiar, since it's a part of iTunes and works accordingly.
BlackBerry Storm owners are expected to get an app store of their own in March 2009, tentatively called the BlackBerry Application Storefront, as well as an on-device Application Center, though details on how both will function and to what degree they'll be available in 2009 are sparse.
5) iTunes Integration
From the start, Apple designed the iPhone to work hand-in-hand with its popular iTunes software--in fact an iTunes account is required for new iPhone users. For your average iPhone owner, the relationship is mostly a beneficial one, as it simplifies the transfer of new applications and media; lets you easily modify iPhone settings via desktop computers; and facilitates the acquisition of iPhone-formatted music, video and other content.
Another huge advantage the iPhone and its iTunes partnership have over the BlackBerry Storm: iTunes works on both PCs and Macs. The BlackBerry Desktop Manager, which is the equivalent desktop software for BlackBerry smartphones, currently only runs on PCs, so many advanced functions aren't available to Mac users--though RIM says Mac-specific user tool are coming in 2009.
Also, RIM's Desktop Manager is clunky and unintuitive in comparison to iTunes, so less-than-tech-savvy users could benefit from Apple's familiar interface.
4) Full QWERTY (Virtual) Keyboard
The iPhone may not have a physical QWERTY keyboard--read: buttons--but the virtual keyboard that appears on screen is always a full QWERTY keyboard, meaning each and every letter/numeral/symbol has its own on-screen key.
That's not the case with the virtual keyboard found on the BlackBerry Storm--unless it's in landscape mode. When held upright, the Storm's touch screen keyboard is a SureType keyboard like the ones found all of RIM's BlackBerry Pearl devices. SureType keyboards have multiple characters on keys, and though RIM's predictive text system can be helpful after you get used to it, it doesn't lend itself particularly well to rapid typing and can be a nightmare for new users.
When the BlackBerry Storm is tilted 90 degree on its side--landscape mode--the virtual keyboard extends itself and becomes a full QWERTY, but changing the orientation in this way greatly reduces screen real estate and makes view certain pages more difficult. Though the iPhone cannot be used to type in landscape mode unless you purchase a third-party app like TouchType, we much prefer the iPhone's existing full QWERTY to the Storm's SureType keyboard.
3) Wi-Fi Support
The iPhone currently has Wi-Fi, but the BlackBerry Storm doesn't. That could be a deal breaker for some folks, especially those who don't have great wireless coverage in their homes but want to utilize a personal wireless network.
iPhone users also get free Wi-Fi hot spot access at more than 17,000 AT&T Hot Spot locations, including various Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and McDonald's restaurants. AT&T already offers free Wi-Fi to BlackBerry Bold users with unlimited data plans--though whether or not it's actually available is another story--and the carrier says it will soon extend the offer to more of its RIM smartphone users. But Storm owners are out of luck, as the Verizon 9530 doesn't support Wi-Fi--just like all the other BlackBerrys Verizon sells.
2) iPod Media Player
Apple's iPod is the number one digital media player in the world, and that's for good reason: The iPod is remarkably simple to employ, its user interface is beautiful and intuitive, and thanks to Apple's impressive marketing blitz, the device is perceived as "cool" by teenagers and baby boomers alike.
The iPhone is both a mobile phone and iPod--hence the creative name--and, though RIM has drastically improved the media player found in BlackBerry handheld OS versions 4.5, 4.6 and with the Storm release, v4.7, the BlackBerry still has nothing on the iPhone's media player. (To be fair, I haven't spent any time with the Storm's media player and it could be vastly improved over both the BlackBerry OS v4.5 and 4.6 media players, with which I'm very familiar. However, I feel comfortable in saying that the iPhone will still have a leg up over the Storm when it comes to media.)
1) iPhone's Safari Browser
My favorite thing about the iPhone is its Safari Web browser. In fact, I have trouble calling the iPhone's Safari a mobile browser at all, since it comes so close to a real desktop browsing experience. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for any current BlackBerry device. (Again, I've only had a few minutes with the Storm's BlackBerry browser, but the currently available versions are light-years behind the iPhone, so I'm not hesitant to predict that the Storm will still be lacking in this regard.)
One of the best things about the iPhone browser is how it integrates with the iPhone's touch screen to allow for easy, touch-gesture based, scrolling, zooming and other basic navigation. The Storm has a variety of touch-based navigational gestures, as well, so it will no doubt improve upon earlier versions of the BlackBerry browser. But if I had to base my purchasing decision on mobile Web browsing, I'd pick the iPhone every time.
Now that you've read my argument for choosing the iPhone, check out "BlackBerry Storm v iPhone 3G: 8 Reasons to Pick the Storm."