Drew Rattray : Design vs. Functionality
Drew Rattray
| News and views on design vs. functionality balance across the communications and technology space.


Will the BlackBerry Storm blow the competition away?

October 2, 2008

I'm behind the times when it comes to my mobile phone.  It's not that I don't want a 3G phone, but I'm afraid of it becoming a leash.  However, times are changing, and I really can't afford to not have e-mail or browsing capabilities on the road anymore, so now I have to figure out... which one?

A big part of my hang-up on this is that I like certain aspects of a lot of phones and don't want to invest in one while coveting another.

Interesting "First Reactions" to the BlackBerry Storm

October 8, 2008

An interesting marketing video was just released by Verizon Wireless for the BlackBerry Storm.  It's advertised more as a fun and stylish tech-toy more than anything else.  It's very apparent that they are targeting it at consumers who have interest in iPhone like capabilities, and not so much at the power a BlackBerry has to offer functionally.  I'd like to see some feature demos myself.

Don't fret though...it got a "dope" review.

Check it out here.

Finally... the BlackBerry Storm is here

November 21, 2008

I've been loosely following some of the hipe in this blog and now we've finally reached the release day.  As of this morning, you can purchase the worlds first touch screen BlackBerry.  Through Verizon it is available for $199 ($249 2 year price minus $50 mail-in rebate debit card) and a new 2 year activation.

I was hoping to be one of the first to comment on real world experience with its functionality and the pro's and con's of the touch screen design...  but I was informed last night by my fiancee that I am now in the "Christmas Blackout" period.  Basically I'm not allowed to buy myself anything until December 26th.

So please feel free to drop me a line or comment here and tell me and the rest of the TMCbloggers how great this phone is or how terrible your experiences are with it.

YouTube Client Offers Richer Experience for BlackBerry Storm Users

December 31, 2008

The BlackBerry Storm's built-in web browser is capable of browsing YouTube, but it was a little depressing that my new toy did not come with a YouTube application out of the box like the iPhone does.  The experience worked well enough for my purposes, but a dedicated client is usually much more user friendly and offers more on a mobile device.

Google answered the call and has now released a YouTube client for the BlackBerry Storm (Version 1.6.10).  According to Google this dedicated client will offer Stormies a much richer mobile video experience.

I downloaded the 520.1KB client to my Storm this morning and I fully agree.  This is a much better mobile YouTube experience. 

Features included in this client:
  • Browse through millions of videos through different criteria on your phone
  • Access favorites and playlists from your YouTube account
  • Upload videos directly from your Storm to YouTube
  • Share and rate videos
  • Keyword search for videos
  • Related video suggestions to videos you watch
If you own a Blackberry Storm and you use YouTube semi-frequently...  I highly suggest downloading this client.

Download YouTube Mobile for the BlackBerry Storm.

BlackBerry Storm Not So Touchy With TalkLock™

January 2, 2009

One design flaw that's bothered me with the BlackBerry Storm is that the touch screen remains active during a phone call.  CellAvant has offered a solution to my frustrations with TalkLock™.

While on a call, the BlackBerry Storm touch screen stays active and displays your number, your connected time, and as much information as is available with who you are contacted to.  On the bottom half of the screen you also have 4 large buttons, one for speaker, one for mute, one for flash and one to add participant.  Then at the very bottom there are 5 menu buttons. One to show keyboard, one to launch the notes application, one to navigate you to the home screen, one to show your calendar, and one to show your contacts.

All of these options are great and very useful in keeping everything at my fingertips that I might need during a call.  The only problem is I've got big cheeks...  Yeah I know it's an odd thing to say, but while talking or smiling, my cheeks constantly hit the mute button and I get mad at my phone because I'm talking and the person on the other end of the line can't hear me.  I've resorted to holding the phone out and hovering during the calls.

Now... I imagine the phone was designed this way because RIM and Verizon assume that a good percentage of their clients are Bluetoothing.  Everyone who lives off an earpiece would have no idea what I'm talking about and I can see how this current design works perfectly for them.  I however hate walking around with an earpiece as I've said before, and I know I'm not the only one.

Well, for the rest of us Stormies that are frustrated with accidental screen presses during a phone call, CellAvant is offering the free utility TalkLock™ (BETA), a touch screen lock for the BlackBerry Storm.

Once downloaded, the utility automatically engages a few seconds after a call is connected.  It locks your screen similar to the image shown in this entry.  While you see this screen, all normal touch screen functions during the call are intercepted, preventing screen presses from launching functions or programs.  If you need to access all those options you would normally have on a call, just slide the lock bar across, and you return to the normal Storm call screen.  When the call ends, TalkLock™ automatically releases your phone and hides until the next call.  The background image that you see during the call is also customizable (save a 360x480 PNG format image over TalkLock-Background.png in the home/user folder of Device Memory and do a full reboot).

To install TalkLock™, register here, providing an email address that delivers mail to your BlackBerry Storm. According to my device the download was 69.0KB for Version 1.01.

Pandora for the BlackBerry Storm?

January 7, 2009

I usually have Pandora, the internet-based radio station, running in the background while I work, and I see the ads showcasing the Pandora application for the iPhone just about every time I log in.  In fact, Pandora for iPhone just went 2.0, adding new functionality to an already well designed application.

So I have to ask...  where is version 1.0 for my BlackBerry Storm?  Why can't I join in to the Music Genome Project from one of the most advanced mobile devices on the market?  I can't even access Pandora through the web browser on the Storm.  Pandora Mobile already supports Sprint, AT&T, and Windows Mobile phones.  Why not support the latest and greatest from Verizon, the soon to be largest US Carrier?

When emailed a request for a Pandora app for the Storm, this was the reply:

Thanks very much for writing.

Each version of Pandora software for a portable device needs to be separately developed and approved by the cell carrier. We're currently working to bring Pandora to more devices including the Blackberry.

I don't know exactly when it will be available for the Storm but I would encourage you to stay tuned to our "On the Go" page for updates: Pandora Radio - Listen to Free Internet Radio, Find New Music for updates.

Thanks for listening in the meantime!

Tom K@ Pandora

The PerfectStorm?

January 18, 2009

Got an iPhone?  Want a BB Storm?  Well before you go changing carriers and investing in a couple hundred dollars of hardware, there's a new iPhone theme you may want to check out first.

The self proclaimed PerfectStorm brings the look and feel of the BlackBerry Storm to your Apple iPhone.  Once installed, most of the user interface resembels the Storm including icons, lock-screen, calculator, media player, camera, dialer, sounds, browser, and keyboard.

Personally, I think it's silly, but I guess if you are really having that much trouble choosing between the top touchscreen phones, it's a middle ground of some kind.

Weather the Storm

January 27, 2009

I'm exceptionally bad at checking the weather, and with the way this winter is going, I'm bound to get into trouble as a result of it sooner or later.  There's been a certain buzz  today about the snow and ice coming tonight and tomorrow, and honestly, if my fiancée hadn't said anything while I was walking out the door, I probably wouldn't have known about the storm until I found the roads covered in 4 inches of snow in the morning.

It made me realize that I really should start using my Verizon BlackBerry Storm for this type of thing.  It's always on me and has the functionality to keep me in the know with a simple touch of the finger.

I've found that it's not too difficult to check the weather using the browser on the Storm, but it's not very smooth either.  On the BlackBerry Bookmarks Home Page, there's a weather link that navigates to WeatherBug.  Once there, you plug in your zip code and you can get pretty decent reports and alerts.  But as always, I'm looking for a better, faster, and easier way.

While browsing for Storm 9530 Apps, I managed to find a unique WeatherBug application.  The application has a simple design and utilizes the touch screen functions of the Storm fairly well. One feature I found helpful, is that it will find your location through a GPS fix.  If for whatever reason your GPS is on the fritz or you don't want to wait for it to find your location, you can plug in locations as favorites and slide through them with a quick touch of your finger.

The application also features an icon that updates itself to tell you what the current conditions are for your area (if you're not near a window), the current temperature, and the high/low of the day.  Basically, you actually need to open the application if you just want a quick update on the weather outside.  Well... you could do that or just get off the computer for a minute and walk outside. 

Inside the application there is a current conditions page that tells you anything you want to know including temperature, wind speed, dew point, and much more.  You also get a 7 day forecast, which if you slide further too the right has detailed descriptions for night and day forecasts for every day including precipitation percentages and possible accumulations.  There's also a radar feature to see the conditions around your area, an option to view the conditions through the camera of the weather station you selected, and a weather advisory button to display alerts for your area.

The app is free and you can download it here.

Slacker Radio Beats Pandora to the Punch

February 9, 2009

I'm a Pandora addict.  It's always playing in the background on just about every computer I sit down at.  I have been dying for Pandora to release an app for my BlackBerry Storm because I've recently gotten myself back in gear and into the gym 4 or 5 nights a week.  It'd be nice to just bring my Storm and some headphones while I work out, and get a nice variety of music that I didn't have to purchase or spend hours organizing into "perfect" playlists.

Well Pandora dropped the ball, even after myself and others have repeatedly harassed them over the past month or two. Slacker Radio beat them to the punch and is now available for the BlackBerry Storm.  It's a sweet little application for streaming internet radio, and even has a function to cache a song to listen to later offline.  You can get artist bios, album reviews, can ban artists from your stations, and the music continues to run while you use other applications on your phone.  It also has a nice landscape design that works well with the touch screen functionality of the Storm.

Honestly, I'm very impressed, and have even switched my computer over to Slacker Radio to really test what it has to offer.  Who knows, the switch may be permanent.  It really appeals to me when a company tries to stay on top of new technology, and makes sure it's accessible across all formats.

Who's the slacker now Pandora?

Google Latitude is Just a Bad Idea

February 19, 2009

For those of you not on the up and up with Google Latitude, it's a free application that works with Google Maps and basically allows mobile users with GPS to upload their exact location to friends, family, and anyone else they allow.

Google has recently released a new version of Google Maps that now supports GPS for BlackBerry which includes the Google Latitude application.  I decided to try it out with my Verizon BlackBerry Storm and after about 30 seconds of letting everyone know where I was, I freaked out and turned it back off.

I'm addicted to my BlackBerry now, but it took a lot for me to finally upgrade to a smartphone.  I like being accommodating but not instantly and entirely accessible.  Even with those feelings, I can currently be found with my BlackBerry Storm by calling, text, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook, and E-mail me at 4 different accounts.  I admit, it's a bit much, and I find myself living in this phone.

The times I don't want to be found... I ignore that flashing red LED.  But, with Google Latitude I won't have that luxury.  If I don't pick up, I could potentially find that persistent (and now forever creepy) person tapping me on the shoulder minutes later.  I've got enough common sense to not allow questionable people to have my GPS fix in the first place, but sometimes you don't realize who the creeps are until they do something pretty creepy.  What's that quote you always hear on the news from the old lady who lived next to the mass murderer?  Something like, "He was such a nice man. Very normal...

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