By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated October 15, 2009.
There's a new Storm coming. On Wednesday, Research in Motion and Vodafone announced the BlackBerry Storm2 smartphone for Europe and South Africa. The newest version of the Storm line has improved touchscreen technology and enhanced features.
The new device will be available initially in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy and South Africa.
RIM said Storm2 offers its new SurePress technology, in which a user receives tactile feedback after pressing the touchscreen. Pressure applied at any point on the screen receives the same feedback, and the company also said the virtual keyboards are "easier, more comfortable and more accurate."
A letter can be typed into the keyboard with one thumb, even though another finger might be touching or resting elsewhere on the screen, such as on another letter. RIM said this allows faster typing and Shift-, Alt-, or other multi-key combinations.
The screen is a 3.25-inch, 360x480 capacitive display, with Send, End, Menu and Escape as integrated functions. Connectivity is Wi-Fi, UMTS/HSPA (2100 MHz), and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM, and the 3.2-megapixel camera has video recording, variable zoom, autofocus and flash. The microSD/SDHD memory card slot supports 16GB cards now, and will support 32GB cards when they're available.
There's also built-in GPS, Bluetooth and such BlackBerry software as Media Sync for syncing iTunes and Windows Media Player music and Desktop Manager for syncing with PCs and Macs.
Original 'Didn't Take World by Storm'
The OS also enables the user to use the device to manage Microsoft Exchange e-mail folders, such as Add or Delete, as well as to forward appointments, and sync improvements for Contacts.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said the Storm2 "was the one RIM would like to have had a year ago" when the original Storm was released.
Apologizing for the bad pun, Greengart noted that the original Storm "didn't exactly take the world by storm," even though it sold a respectable million units. He added that the Storm2's improvements in physical design and software makes it a more attractive offer, especially since the first Storm largely used the existing BlackBerry user interface, wasn't particularly designed for touchscreen interaction, and was "buggy at launch."
RIM's refinements are aimed, he said, at keeping the Storm line "aimed mostly at consumers wanting to use a touchscreen for viewing photos or surfing the Web" as RIM attempts to compete with Apple's iPhone.