Smart Phone Advice

Storm - the poor mans iPhone knock off

Storm - the poor mans iPhone knock off

Dear Internets, please advise me on the choice of a decent smart phone. You see, I really want an iPhone but I’m with Verizon and it really doesn’t make much sense for me to switch providers at the moment. Most people I know use Verizon I can call them for free. If I would switch to AT&T to get my hands on the coveted Apple device I would likely be paying for each call – unless they have some sort of a plan for Verizon refugees. Granted, I don’t talk on the phone that much – I am more of a text/email person. So it could work out. But it probably wouldn’t be a smart move. I used to use AT&T years ago – and I didn’t really have major problems with reception, unless I was at home, at my school or at my former place of employment. I got zero bars at all those places so if I needed to place or receive a call I had to leave the house and go across the street or go stand in a specific spot in the campus quad. I’m suspecting this has improved since then but you can probably see why I was happy to switch to Verizon back then.

I’ve been eying Blackberry Storm which has been hailed as low quality, poor man’s iPhone ripoff. But the damn thing has been attracting negative reviews the way a turd attracts flies. I watched some video reviews and saw it was incredibly sluggish – the reviewer actually had to cut away because the device simply wouldn’t flip back to the vertical mode which sort of made me reconsider buying it. Then again, supposedly a lot of these early bugs were fixed by the recent firmware upgrade.

I had a chance to play with it the other day and I actually didn’t find it so bad. Changing the orientation worked fine (not like in the video), and the typing was ok. Granted, the click screen is a little wonky but it didn’t seem like a deal breaker. I think I could live with it – it actually felt like a step up from trying to type on my non-qwerty LG phone. It seems that Storms touch screen gets slammed the most by people who switched over from other Blackberry models and felt that it was throttling their typing speed by not allowing to press 2 or more buttons at once. I’d have to agree that a physical keyboard and iPhones multi-touch interface are probably superior. But I didn’t hate it.

The browser was fine too. I went to my company website and it looked great. I didn’t try Terminally Incoherent cause I was at work, and… It would take a lot of typing. Yes, I am aware my url is pretty difficult to type and remember. I just can’t figure out how to shorten it and I’m pretty sure that Texas Instruments won’t let me have ti.com domain.

The Storm user who allowed me to play with her phone confirmed that the device sometimes does lock up. She said it happened to her only twice since she purchased it. She didn’t have any other complaints – and said she was pleased with the purchase. Unfortunately she couldn’t really tell me how is it on the application side. How much software and support is there for the Storm. I mean, I know I’m not going to get iPhone like variety of apps but I’d like to know that I’m not investing in a prematurely dead platform that no one is developing for anymore due to the bad press.

Any Storm users around here? How is that phone treating you? Is it worth investing into? And if not, what else is out there. Should I look at Blackberries at all? Curve maybe?

I looked through the reviews of Verizon smart phones on CNET and it seems that not a single one of them was really rated positively. The reviewers could not say enough good things about AT&T’s Blackberry Bold and of course the iPhone (apparently both can cure cancer, and iPhone even has a free app for ending the world hunger but no one has ever bothered to download it) but they pretty much trashed every single Verizon device.

Basically I just need a phone that would let me get email, browse the web and have some applications for stuff like Twitter, Facebook and maybe let me upload pictures to Flickr. I was looking at storm because I do have an iPhone envy – so I naturally went for the cheep knock-off. But I’m willing to consider alternatives. What should I get?

Would you switch providers in my situation to get the iPhone?

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17 Responses to Smart Phone Advice

  1. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    All I know is if you want a smartphone that works really well as a…well…PHONE…then what I have heard says “Stay away from iPhone.” Not just for that, but for the fact that it is, like all Apple products, vastly overpriced. My brother uses the Storm, and if you insist on getting a smartphone, I would suggest that one. He seems to like it, and it seems way more functional than the iPhone.

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  2. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I have no clue whatsoever about smartphones, but when it comes to making your URL shorter, my “solution” is to have it bookmarked in Firefox with a keyword attacked. Now whenever I type “TI” into the address bar it knows exactly where to go.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Steve: Really? Most of the iPhone users I talked too can’t say enough about their toys.

    Funny thing about Storm is that people either love it or hate it. I have yet to meet someone who has used Storm for some time and didn’t have any strong feelings about it one way or the other.

    @Matt`: My solution to “shorten” url of a blog is to add it to my feed reader (Google Reader). This way I don’t actually have to remember them, and I can see when they are updated all in one place.

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  4. s BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    What about the G1 or are those simlocked as well (i’m really glad simlocked phones are forbidden in Belgium!)
    I’d never buy an iPhone because the touchpad keyboard is just not as fast as a physical one. I saw a youtube vid where a reviewer showed how he had to switch to a secondary keyboard to get “special” characters like the dot (!).

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  5. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    The company I started to work for a couple of weeks ago does a lot of mobile applications and sites, so I’ve been trying to catch up on all that I’ve ignored since the last time I upgraded my phone. I only know one person who has the Storm, and she doesn’t like it. I don’t know about that model specifically, but Blackberries in general have a very crummy browser. If you’re dead set on an iPhone, wait until near the end of June as, I believe, the new version is supposed to come out then. The G1 is really cool and definitely worth considering if you’re willing to switch carriers (though you could get a dev phone and….). I think a dedicated keyboard is a plus but probably not a deal killer.

    Honestly, smartphone choices are pretty limited at this point and a lot of them have bipolar reviews. For instance, the OmniaHD looks awesome in a thousand ways, but half of the reviews say the touch screen is the worst thing ever. Personally, despite where I work, I am trying to wait a bit before getting one until the choices improve.

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  6. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    The iPhone 3G is sold unlocked in my country, Singapore, although it’s sold by only 1 carrier here. However, I have tried sim cards from the other 2 carriers here and it works fine.

    Usually, it’s sold with a contract, but there are proper channels where one is able to purchase without one. Check out this shop. They don’t sell it online though; the site is only a price guide. I’ve bought a few phones before from that shop, so it’s quite reputable (aka. not stolen goods).

    If you want, I could ship it for you, but I haven’t tried my iPhone with another country’s sim. Plus warranty could be an issue.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @s: Yup, G1 is locked to some other carrier. Unfortunately in US locking phones is legal, and extremely popular. In fact, if you look at the higher end phones offered by Verizon and AT&T there is almost no overlap. If you switch carriers, you can’t take your phone with you. :(

    @Ian Clifton: Yeah, I know – I’ve been reading all these reviews and only iPhone seems to be a clear winner. And not with everyone either. Storm has extremely bipolar reviews.

    @Mart: Ah, you guys and your sim cards. It’s a great idea, but unfortunately Verizon doesn’t do them. When you buy a phone from Verizon you need to sign a contract with your own blood and then they bond it to your very soul with Stygian iron. Want to change a phone you have to call them and go through an activation routine and then wait a few minutes as they cast a new bonding spell. Each time you do this, they must rip out the chain, and part of your soul dies. It is quite painful really.

    So yeah, thanks for the offer but it probably wouldn’t work. :)

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  8. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Luke Maciak: Woah, that’s a pretty f’ed up process. No wonder I read about some articles which state that pre-paid phones are cheaper than post-paid, which is not true here. iPhone with pre-paid card perhaps? ;)

    Alternatively, just get an iPod Touch. :P

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Mart: I don’t know – I never used pre-paid. Verizon goes out of their way to get you to sign 2 year contracts. For example, they will give you up to $100 discount towards your new phone if you sign.

    My current plan is something like $39 /mo and it would probably be $30 more for data plan if I got a smart phone.

    I don’t know if they offer prepaid pans, but if they do, they probably don’t involve cards. You probably activate it over the air just like everything else. I’ve seen prepaid cards for other carriers in stores though.

    Either way – as far as I can tell using iPhone on Verizon network is difficult at best.

    I could get the Touch but I what I really want is mobile email and web browsing. For that I need a cellular network of some sort to carry my packets to me wherever I go. The iPod touch is only useful for that when I’m within the range of Wifi. I already have an old pocketPC for that.

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  10. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Luke Maciak: Ah ok. Yeah, if you only want mobile email and web, then the Blackberry Storm would already be a very nice device. A friend of mine has the Bold, it’s quite sleek.

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  11. Milos UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I’ve been an AT&T customer since I moved to the U.S. back in 1998 and have to say that I am overall satisfied with their network availability and performance. Over that time I have changed several phones and am currently using an iPhone 3G and find it very useful. Then again, most people I speak with on a daily basis are also AT&T customers so I see your dilemma.

    When it comes to the Storm, a co-worker of mine (another IT guy) has it and absolutely loves it so I guess it depends on usage and if the phone is kept up to date on firmware/software side.

    Also, my best friend has been using BB Curve for a while (on T-Mobile) and loves it as well. That could be another option for you.*

    * Note: Not all Curve models are the same across carriers.

    Good luck making your selection and let us know what you’ve picked.

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  12. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Luke, I’ve got a Curve 8330 and love it. Nothing like a REAL keyboard in my opinion. I’ve never played with a Storm, but I don’t think I’d want one. I played with an iPod Touch and hated it. I couldn’t type on it if my life depended on it. Now, my friend has a Touch and he loves it. He uses it all the time for chatting and email and such. I guess it really depends on the person. I hear that Verizon is getting a new smart phone later this year from RIM called the Tour I think. It’s supposed to be a cross between a Curve and the Bold. If you can hold out for that it’s supposed to be one of the best Berries yet. That’s the one I will be replacing my Curve with early next year when my renew every two is up.

    I’m sure you already know this, but stay away from anything with Windows Mobile or Palm OS. Both are crap in my opinion.

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  13. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    Endless phone debate in this thread.

    Blah all you like about different phones and prices, it doesn’t have the app store or install base of the iphone, or the design perfection.

    1) Buy 2nd hand iPhone locked to AT&T

    2) Jailbreak using custom 2.2.1 software freely available from tinternets

    3) Use SSH to change your root pass (Optional)

    4) Use whatever network you like

    I use the camera on my iphone with about 7 different camera apps for filters and improved functionality like taking many low res pictures at high speed, I have decent games on it, fleshbook, twitter, flickr apps, good webrowser, storage for movies – Everything. I run Orange on my iPhone when it was previously locked to O2 (UK here) and can send and recieve MMS texts when that’s not currently possible with locked iPHones. It is the ONLY smartphone that functions as a hardware platform well, instead of just a phone with some additional functionality crap tacked on. And as for jailbreaking: Don’t buy into the baseless fears

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  14. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    Oh, forgot to mention – Jailbreaking takes about 10 minutes, probably less, once you’ve downloaded the software. Then you just put in whatever sim you want

    As for blackberries, the design is crap, the interface is crap, the hardware is crap

    A friend showed me their blackberry and I couldn’t figure out how to use the damn thing. Load of funny dials and a clicker or something on the side

    From the moment I picked up the iPhone I could understand the interface and usage of it perfectly without being told. Superior product in every way

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  15. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Milos: Yeah, if I knew more people on AT&T I’d probably switch. But all my family, and most people from work are Verizon customers. And seeing how I sometimes need to use my cell to make work related calls, it really helps me to be on Verizon.

    My company gives us monthly “allowance” to cover our phone bills but it is a flat rate so if you buy an expensive plan or hit overages you are on your own. Right now, I have one of the cheaper Verizon plans and I never go over my minutes or texts. It is probably due to the fact that most of my calls are in network. If I was calling out of network all the time this would likely change.

    @Rob: How is the browser on the Curve? I read somewhere that the Storm browser is based on WebKit and renders pages better than most blackberries. It might be BS though – I don’t know.

    I was trying to look up BB Tour online but all I find are rumors and unsupported claims that it will be the best thing since slice bread.

    @Mack: Will jailbroken phone work sufficiently well on Verizon though? Again, we don’t have sim cards – you have to activate everything over the phone. So I’m guessing that jailbraking iPhone for Verizon is a bit different.

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  16. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Mack: Hey Mack – I think you suggestion is a no-go for me:

    AT&T (and T-Mobile) use different cellular technology (GSM vs CDMA) than Verizon (and Sprint). The only way this could work is if you also opened up the iPhone, replaced the radios, rewired the phone and wrote new drivers for it to work on CDMA.

    Yeah. It doesn’t seem like I could use my current provider and have an iPhone at the same time.

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  17. tash UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hm I’m in the same dilemma as you are Luke. I’ve come close to getting the bb Storm a few times. Every time I decide to go to the store, I end up looking the storm up online, reading reviews, etc and decide to wait again.

    I’m hoping the new firmware updates will get better reviews but who knows.. I did hear the new version of the bb storm(is that what the tour is?) is coming out soon-ish. I just don’t want to buy a phone, end up hating it and then being stuck with it unless i want to pay a ridiculous price for a new phone.

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