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Smartphone Success May Be in the Touch

There's no debate that the touch screen is having a phenomenal impact on the smartphone market. Apple's iPhone finger-tap panel design is literally rattling the competitive smartphone industry into refreshing traditional small static screens and is driving handset innovations across the device from the keyboard to applications.

Now such a phenomenon may happen again, and possibly to a greater degree, as Research in Motion's BlackBerry Storm 9730'click technology' touch screen is viewed as an advancement on Apple's innovative design. And just like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), RIM's tenacity in taking its time in development and to get to market, to get it right out of the gate may pay bigger, according to one industry watcher.

The reason? RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) understands its user base just as well as Apple does, IDC analyst Ryan Reith told InternetNews.com. While many market watchers are already calling the Storm 9730, which RIM formally announced today, the biggest 'iPhone Killer,' Reith believes both smartphones will command impressive market segments.

"Smartphones are all similar but it's the touch screen that's the comparison point with these two devices," Reith said. "Apple and RIM both took their time but have different visions and different approaches," he explained.

Apple's vision, said Reith, was to provide an easy, enjoyable multimedia experience. The iPhone's multi-touch user interface lets users tap once to open applications and access functions, twice to reset the screen panel, and move icons around, and slide/swipe to browse music files, photos, e-mail and Web pages. For text, users tap on a keyboard that will magnify certain letters during activity to help avoid mistyping.

RIM's new touch screen mimics the look and feel and incorporate the 'click' bump of current BlackBerry keyboards. That provides users with a familiar experience, explained Reith. As another pundit noted in a report issued yesterday it provides "superior" typing accuracy as compared to the iPhone -- "leveraging a RIM hallmark" in the handset maker's push into the consumer market.

In typing the BlackBerry touch-screen is depressed "ever so slightly," according to a product press statement. Users experience a gentle “click,” similar to a physical keyboard, according to RIM. Users can also tap and slide screens for navigation needs.

Calls to RIM and Apple regarding touch screen strategy were not returned by press time.

"RIM has put precision into where the user's finger needs to be when typing," said Reith.

"I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong but RIM is pushing the next wave in this [design] area," he said. RIM went with its touch 'click' approach as testing revealed that iPhone touch and as swipe would frustrate RIM's heavy text user base. BlackBerry users are typically enterprise application users and that means much more text and e-mail use.

"What RIM did was make sure its touch screen fit the needs of its users, just as Apple did," said the analyst. "Both are sticking to the core fundamentals and the needs of their users," he added.

The fact that RIM is not deviating from what its loyal 'Crackberry' audience likes and wants could easily keep it ahead of Apple in the market race, and way ahead of newcomers like Google and its G1 Android-based HTC handset, said Reith.

"For example Google's G1 interface is going to change, as its users' needs come into play. BlackBerry already has the core foundation and is not giving up any efficiency, stability or security aspects in its design changes," said Reith.

"Yes, some will say the Storm is the number one iPhone competitor and see them as head to head," said the analyst. "But both have unique audiences and both are targeting those audiences."