RealTime IT News

Storm2 Bursts on the Smartphone Battlefield

Storm2 from Research In Motion
The new BlackBerry Storm2. Click to enlarge.
Source: Research In Motion

The BlackBerry Storm2, the crown jewel of Research In Motion's consumer lineup, debuts today from Verizon in a radically different mobile landscape than its predecessor did a year ago.

Coming in below the usual $199 price point, the Storm2 goes on sale today for $179 after rebates and is generally garnering positive reviews as a slick update to the original model.

The Storm2 operates on the BlackBerry OS 5.0, providing better e-mail folder management and remote file access as well as faster JavaScript processing, according to RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM), and includes Wi-Fi, which was missing in the first iteration.

Also new is support for tethering, a feature still missing from the iPhone 3GS, the Storm2's chief rival. Tethering is the connection of a smartphone to another device with a data cable so the device can access the Internet using the handheld as mobile modem.

The Storm2 has a 3.25-inch display with 480x360 resolution, comes equipped with GPS, Bluetooth and a 3.2-megapixel camera. The Storm2 also has a microSD slot and comes with a 16GB card. For connectivity, it uses EV-DO Revision A, UMTS/HSPA (2100 MHz) and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM networks.

On the software side, the new device comes preloaded with Verizon's Wireless WZ Navigator, and includes other Verizon Wireless mobile features such as V Cast Music with Rhapsody.

The debut of Storm2, the follow-up to RIM's first touchscreen device released last fall, comes amid a blitz of new mobile contenders, operating systems and alliances.

As Palm, Motorola and Nokia try to gain back the luster of earlier eras, Google is emerging as a major player in wireless with the introduction of the open source mobile platform Android and its associated apps, the launch of the Android Market and close working relationships with both manufacturers and carriers.

Android pushes forward along with Palm and Nokia

Google recently partnered up with RIM's longtime chum Verizon to be the flagship carrier for signature BlackBerrys that will co-develop and sell Android devices. The culmination of that deal came today with Verizon, Google and Motorola launching Droid, the first Android device for the nation's largest carrier.

Prior to the Google-Verizon venture, the wireless industry has seen the rebirth of Palm with its new mobile operating system webOS and release of the Pre and Pixi, as well as Motorola's bid at a resurgence with releases of several Android-powered smartphones, including the Cliq.

For its part, Nokia is overhauling its device portfolio to extend to netbooks, striking deals of its own with Microsoft and Intel and tuning up its SDK to try to attract more developers to its Symbian OS.

Even hardware manufacturers, suffering from slumping PC sales, are prepping releases of smartphones, most recently Acer announced the Android Liquid and Dell confirmed its own Android handset coming in early 2010.

Throughout the seismic shifts in the wireless industry, there remains one constant: the ongoing phenomenal success of Apple's iPhone.

Verizon and RIM are banking on the Storm2 to fend off rivals AT&T and Apple -- and while there is some hand-wringing over RIM's ability to sustain marketshare, Waterloo, Ontario still beats Cupertino, Calif. in terms of product moved out of the warehouse.

RIM beat out Apple in US shipments from the vendor to the channel during the second quarter, according to mobile phone market data from research firm IDC. The BlackBerry Curve took the No. 1 spot, followed by the 3GS. The Pearl checked in at No. 3, with the 3G at No.4, and RIM again takes the fifth and sixth rankings with the Bold and Storm family respectively.

The second quarter ended June 30, however, with the iPhone 3GS going on sale June 6.

Still, RIM's older data for its second fiscal year still tops Apple's best recent quarterly earnings ever. Apple sold 7.4 million iPhones for the period ending Sept. 30. In September, RIM reported it shipped approximately 8.3 million BlackBerrys.