I had to stop by my local, friendly AT&T retail outlet the other day to see if they could help make my Blackberry Pearl well.
My Pearl ball had stopped going down. It would go in every other direction: Up, left, right. But not down.
It hadn't been a good week between AT&T and I. Something had trashed my AT&T home phone connection (not the first time), and I was sans my voice umbilical cord to the world for a good 36 hours.
When your home is also your office, these things are important.
So while I was in the retail outlet, a nice, cheerful young lady swapped out the ball on the Blackberry Pearl (there is no navigating a Pearl without its Pearl-like ball), and it worked fine after that.
While in the store, I took the opportunity to ask her what word she'd heard about the coming Blackberry Storm.
Not much, she replied.
In fact, she suggested her Research In Motion sales rep had been downright snarky with she and her staff.
To which I say, little hubris goes a long way, especially when you're allegedly moving into iPhone territory.
My other question for her was, will AT&T ever be carrying the Storm?
She indicated she did not know.
For the record, I will NOT be switching carriers just so I can jump on the Storm bandwagon, but I would still suggest AT&T and other carriers be in a position to have a definitive answer to the question.
In any case, after reading the Engadget review of the Blackberry Storm, one would have to give pause before flying down to one's local Verizon outlet.
The concern that concerns me most is around the usability of the new touch-screen interface, the navigation of which Engadget believes isn't in harmony with the Blackberry OS v. 4.7.
Specifically, they write that "the Storm's UI is not custom built for touch navigation -- touch navigation is added after the fact."
Considering the ease with which I've been able to navigate my Pearl, particularly in moments where time is a factor (i.e., I need to get access to this information NOW!), that certainly would be an issue in the "con" column.
Engadget also suggest the clickable touchscreen keyboard is designed in such a way that it can actually slow down the typing speed one has come to expect from RIM:
"As you press down to engage a 'key,' you're required to release before moving to another, which means that you can only type so quickly."
That was always the point of a Blackberry...to be able to easily type, and to be able to have tactile contact with the keys.
There's plenty more where that came from, and if you're in the market, I would encourage you to read the full Engadget review.
To balance things out, they loved the camera and said the phone had "loud and clear earpieces and speakerphones".
But if you're a Blackberry loyalist like me, a happy customer who's not in the market but still curious, the review is disappointing, and suggests the device may not have lived up to its hype.
I would reserve final judgment until I could go into an AT&T retail outlet and see for myself, but it seems that that may not happen anytime soon, if ever.
But based on what I read, I just wonder, in terms of innovation, whether or not RIM may have gone too far down the alley of "me, too."
Though I know they can't afford to ignore the iPhone threat, I think they also have enough existing market share and loyal customers to recognize there are certain characteristics and features that have become intrinsic to the Blackberry -- the ease of navigation, the easy-to-type keyboard, the trackball.
Don't throw the keyboard baby out with the touchscreen bathwater.
Don't lose the Blackberry forest amidst the iPhone trees.