BlackBerry Storm buyers brave the cold in Boston to be first with the new smart phone

Users making the switch say they are eager to try the Storm's touch screen

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Braverman said he was using a very old BlackBerry and wanted a new smart phone with a camera and video capabilities. He said he asked his IT shop if he could buy an iPhone to use for work, but was urged to wait for the Storm because of the security inherent with BlackBerry and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Simon Pang, an IT manager in the Boston office of URS Corp., a building engineering company, waited more than two hours to get his Storm, and said he liked the Storm's touch-screen feel better than the iPhone's, which he said was "only like touching a piece of glass." He said he plans to evaluate his new Storm for use by building engineers and executives he supports in his job, since it is "really too new" to automatically recommend to them. (See the video on the previous page.)

"I'm BlackBerry all the way," Pang said, noting that the company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server allows his IT colleagues to configure the handhelds and wipe the data clean from a device if it is stolen or lost.

However, Pang was a little disappointed that the demonstration unit he was using in the store before buying his own didn't respond quickly to his touches. He showed how the demonstration unit seemed to take too long when moving from portrait to landscape views with the accelerometer technology.

"The iPhone does that faster," he said, adding that response times were something he'd carefully evaluate in coming days on his own device. Bloggers reported similar delays with beta versions of the Storm and a Verizon demonstration of a beta version of the Storm lagged when moving to new screens.

Pang said he was pleased to see that he could quickly use the Storm's alarm clock feature, which has huge digital numbers. One application he said was sure to use was an RSS reader called Viigo. He added that the industrial design of the case, with various details, seemed "better than any other BlackBerry I've seen."

Overall, Pang's first impression of the Storm was favorable. "It's clearly cutting-edge," he said with a smile. "It's kind of like the feeling of Obama getting elected to office." He added it was too bad the president-elect wouldn't get to use a Storm, since Obama is a big BlackBerry user but isn't being allowed to use it because of a security risk.

Several other Storm buyers who were updating older BlackBerry devices named specific tools they planned to use for their jobs. For example, Maureen Hunt, a real estate agent in Boston, said she was pleased she could have a bigger screen on the Storm to easily view Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which isn't possible on a smaller screen BlackBerry. Plus, she said she could use the device for photographs of properties.

Eric Steiman, a day trader in Brookline, Mass., said he was replacing an LG EnV phone so he can quickly browse the Internet to check the financial markets when he's not at a desktop. Steiman was also curious about how difficult it would be to switch from the LG EnV, which has a QWERTY keyboard, to a touch screen.

Another man, who said he was a financial analyst but did not want to give his name, said fast market information on the Bloomberg Web site was his prime motivation for buying the Storm. "Hopefully, I'll get good service on the 37th floor of my building," he added, noting he'd had wireless reception problems from that location with a BlackBerry on Verizon Wireless service.

The most delighted Storm customer in the store was Jacquelyn Pourroy, a chef who works at Whole Foods in Boston. An LG EnV user for two years, Pourroy said she wondered how the touch screen would feel after getting used to texting quickly on an actual full keyboard. But she said her friends with iPhones had no trouble using a touch screen, although she said their iPhones occasionally seemed to freeze up when used. "I don't want that," she said.

Asked what it would be like for a chef with batter on her fingers to use a touch screen, she paused. "No idea," she said. Still, she said with a broad smile that there was a "definite bling factor" with having a new touch-screen phone. "I was telling everybody yesterday, 'Guess what I'm going to get?'"

Suddenly, her name was called after a two-hour wait. "That's me!" she yelled, and rushed to a clerk.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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