They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then Steve Jobs’ head is in the gravest danger of exploding.
Jobs, of course, is the CEO of Apple and the brains behind the now-ubiquitous iPhone. In its wake has been a flurry of “iPhone Killers” — cell phones with touch-screen interfaces that just don’t match up. Joining the ranks in late November was a challenger from Research In Motion’s successful Blackberry line, the Blackberry Storm.
Blackberry has been trying hold off iPhone’s advances ever since the first iPhone came out a year and a half ago. But with the popular phone’s charge up the ranks of smart phone sales (iPhone is experiencing over 325 percent growth in the past year, compared to Blackberry’s 80 percent), RIM immediately started researching a touch-screen Blackberry device.
Now that the Storm is here, early reviews have been hesitant to call it the David to iPhone’s Goliath. From a hardware standpoint, it does seem puzzling. After all, the Storm’s 3.25 inch display, showing 65,000 colors at a 420 by 360 pixel resolution, 3.2 megapixel camera with flash, and a touch screen that physically presses down to simulate button presses all surpass anything that the iPhone has on board.
Blackberry’s award-winning OS also offers the most business-compliant services of any smart phone. In addition, Blackberry also offers the Blackberry Application Center, a direct rival to Apple’s App Store service for the iPhone. All this comes in a package with a $199 price, just like the iPhone. From a technical standpoint, it’s at least the equivalent of the iPhone, if not slightly better in some respects.
But the Storm simply can’t compete.
In the eyes of the public, there’s just no comparison. Ask the people sitting next to you in class if they’ve heard of the Blackberry Storm. Chances are, they haven’t — and that’s the Storm’s biggest challenge.
The truth is, Blackberry is trying to be something that it isn’t. It’s trying to break into a touch-screen market with an operating system full of glitches and sluggishness. Multimedia applications and the accelerometer sensor particularly seems to mess with the software, and it’s not uncommon to wait for a few seconds before the phone recognizes that you’ve turned it sideways. The touch-screen-as-a-button idea sounds cool on paper, but in practice, it’s an annoyance that takes getting used to and does not function at all like a normal Blackberry Qwerty keyboard.
For the hardcore Crackberry addicts, the missing trackball, which is a staple of the current Blackberry generation, makes the Storm seem like a sprinter on crutches. In contrast, the iPhone’s greatest attribute is its intuitive operating system, with software so solid and responsive that you can’t help but marvel at its ingenuity. And let’s not forget the coup de grace: the iPhone is a phenomenon created by an Apple media blitz that has won over everyone — from your grandmother to your little cousin. It targeted new demographics using a “hip and cool” image to sell smartphones to an audience that would normally not buy them. Meanwhile, Blackberry has directed itself towards the Qwerty-keyboard clicking, multi-tasking business force. When its customer base looks at the new Storm, it’ll see a finicky touch screen that simply isn’t worth the hassle and gimmicky media extras.
When you can’t even win over your own audience, how do you expect to win over somebody else’s? The Storm isn’t an iPhone killer — it’s a Blackberry killer.