RIM Wins Mobile World Congress Award for BlackBerry Storm Screen. Seriously?
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
Though Research In Motion’s (RIM) presence at the 2009 Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona this week was somewhat minimal—at least in comparison to other handset heavies like Microsoft and HTC—the company won two prestigious awards from the GSM Association, which operates MWC. RIM won one of those awards, Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough, for the introduction of the BlackBerry Storm’s “SurePress” touch screen. Yes, you heard that correctly. RIM has been commended for the same touch screen that has been drawing criticism—and sparking returns–since the device was first unveiled last October.
From the GSMA judges: “RIM does it again, with a new twist to the touch screen. The SurePress screen incorporates touch with confirmation, taking interaction to a new level.”
RIM’s SurePress screen is cool in that it’s a completely new take on touch; the screen actually “clicks” to provide users with tactile feedback while typing. After Apple’s impressive success with the iPhone, every mobile phone maker in the world tried its hand at touch, with nobody offering anything truly innovative. Until RIM came along with the Storm and its SurePress screen, that is.
The problem: The Storm’s SurePress screen just doesn’t work very well. For example, no matter how much time I spend with the Storm, I’m still making at least one typo in every single sentence—at least if I type at my normal, rapid speed. That reality, coupled with the fact that RIM can’t seem to crank out a stable OS for the device, means the Storm’s not yet suitable for demanding users like me. And unfortunately, there are many, MANY demanding BlackBerry owners out there.
Visit any BlackBerry forum or RIM blog and you’re sure to see questions/complaints about the BlackBerry Storm’s screen and buggy OS. You’ll also see folks singing the SurePress praise, but after a few months of observation, I can say that most of the folks still defending the BlackBerry Storm—especially those still using it—haven’t had much experience with other BlackBerry devices, and therefore, don’t know what they’re missing. Either that or they just don’t want to admit that their buying decision may have been a bad one. This is, of course, a generalization, but it’s one I feel comfortable making.
Now a bit of my own personal background with the Storm is in order: RIM sent me a Storm 9530 from Verizon Wireless for review shortly before it became publicly available in November. I used it as my main handheld for a couple of weeks, until I felt like I could accurately evaluate it, and then pushed it aside, using it mostly for testing new apps. Oh yeah, and all the constant OS upgrading in hopes that the device would “just work” like it was supposed to work. I literally installed more than half a dozen beta versions of the Storm OS before finally giving up on the device and shipping it back to RIM.
I was also one of the first folks to defend the BlackBerry Storm when it was being lambasted by bloggers, reviewers, analysts and everyone else who got their hands on the device. I even wrote a heartfelt retort to New York Times reviewer David Pogue’s scathing Storm review, in defense of RIM’s first touch-screen BlackBerry, because I saw–and continue to see–much potential in the technology.
But enough is enough. A Best Technology Breakthrough award for a product that’s a headache to use? Come on…
I’m well aware
that the award is for the SurePress screen and not the device as a whole, but something still rubs me the wrong way about all of this. I’m fairly sure RIM will introduce new devices in the coming years that will also employ SurePress touch screens (think: “Magnum”) and I hope they’ll be as impressive as some of RIM’s other handhelds, the Bold 9000, for instance. If they are, I hope RIM ought to receive the recognition it deserves. Perhaps it’ll even take home a few more deserved awards?
To end this post on a positive note, RIM also won the GSMA Chairman’s Award, the group’s highest honor, for “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of mobile communications around the world.” And in the humble opinion of this blogger, RIM is 100 percent worthy of that particular honor.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.