The Blackberry Storm

Sleek and sophisticated, the highly-anticipated Blackberry Storm provides loyal fans of the Blackberry with their first touch-screen alternative.

Like Apple's iPhone, the Storm, which is $199 with a two-year Verizon contract, comes with a built-in, 3.2 megapixel camera and media player. It is also easy to navigate and makes Internet browsing, social networking, gaming and Web browsing only one tap away.

The Storm also offers access to an "Application Center" that, like Apple's App Store, allows users to choose from a bevy of mobile-optimized applications. All the regulars -- Facebook, Flickr, Google Talk and others -- are ready for installation.

In size and shape, it's also like the iPhone but slightly shorter and heavier.

When you open up the browser or click through to the e-mail function, a keyboard pops up, as it does with the iPhone. Depending on your mood, you can rotate the phone and the screen will automatically change orientation from vertical to horizontal.

Once you start to tap on the screen, however, you'll begin to notice the difference between the iPhone's keyboard and Research In Motion's Storm's.

With the iPhone, just a light touch of the finger activates a letter. On the Storm, a finger's touch highlights the letter, but you have to press down with a bit more force to cause the letter to appear.

Veteran Blackberry users might find this a bit tedious and time-consuming. As a fan of the tried-and-true Blackberry keyboard, I found that it felt less comfortable to attempt long messages on the Storm. Not only could I not type as fast, I also found myself generating messages laden with errors.

Still, the Storm has much to admire.

The high resolution (480 x 360-pixel) display is very impressive. Videos appear sharp and bright on the 3.5-inch screen. And, like its Blackberry predecessors, the smart phone's e-mail capabilities are first-rate.

If you're locked into a Verizon contract, but want to shake things up a bit with a touch-screen, the Storm could be a good alternative. But if you're a heavy e-mailer who needs a smart phone that can keep up with your fast-paced lifestyle, you might want to look elsewhere.

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