Will Blackberry Storm the iPhone Citadel?

Forget Google’s G1.

The hot new smartphone to watch out for – and one that could threaten iPhone’s glorious run – is the soon-to-be-launched Blackberry Storm.

Although much ink and web space has been devoted to Google’s Android operating system based cell phones like the G1 from T-Mobile, the more likely challenge to the iPhone will be Blackberry Storm, scheduled to debut this fall.

A touchscreen phone (unlike the new Blackberry Bold), the Storm includes the following: wireless e-mail, organizer, browser, phone with 5.5 hrs talk-time and 15-days of standby time, a 3.2 megapixel camera, 3.25-inch display with 480×360 resolution, video recording, BlackBerry Maps, media player, GPS, corporate data access, SMS and MMS.

Like the iPhone, the Storm also comes with a built-in accelerometer, enabling its touch-screen to automatically switch between landscape mode and portrait mode as the user rotates the handset.

The Blackberry Storm weighs 155 grams compared to the iPhone’s 133 gms.

Blackberry Storm

No Wi-Fi Support
However, one glaring omission in the Blackberry Storm is lack of support for Wi-Fi (iPhone and G1 have it).

Given the patchy 3G coverage even in the U.S., absence of Wi-Fi support is probably be going to a big negative for some potential customers.

We are also not happy with the measly 1GB internal storage though you can add 16GB via a microSD card. iPhone 3G comes either with 8GB ($199 with the 2-yr AT&T plan) or 16GB internal storage ($299 with the plan).

App Store Coming
Blackberry manufacturer RIM has already said it’s going to be opening an App Store in March 2009 to let customers easily download applications for their Storm and presumably other Blackberry phones as well. Let’s see if developer enthusiasm for the Blackberry App Store is anywhere like for the Apple App Store. There are a few thousands of applications for the Blackberry platform already.

To encourage development of applications and services for the BlackBerry platform, RIM and Thomson Reuters have established a $150 million BlackBerry Partners venture capital fund.

Differences from iPhone
The iPhone has limited multi-tasking capabilities.

In contrast, the Blackberry Storm seems to be better designed for today’s multi-tasking crowd: You are supposed to be able to take phone calls while sending and responding to e-mail or surfing the net, maintain GPS-based directions or maps on the display even while taking a call, snap a picture and send it out even when you’re on the phone, and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files while using the speakerphone.

Sounds interesting but we’re still uneasy about lack of Wi-Fi support.

Roam with Ease
For the peripatetic folks, the BlackBerry Storm promises to let ’em roam globally on UMTS/HSPA and quandband EDGE/GSM/GPRS networks. So you can travel around the world with mobile voice and data coverage and without worrying about changing smartphones, phone numbers or e-mail addresses.

Where Can You Buy the Storm?
In the U.S., Verizon Wireless will exclusively offer the Blackberry Storm

* In India, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Vodafone will peddle the Blackberry Storm.

Our guess is that RIM/Verizon will price the Storm at around the price of the 16GB iPhone, which is $299.

Consumer Rush?
Like the iPhone, Blackberry has its dedicated troop of supporters, mostly in the corporate arena (the easy to use e-mail is a big plus).

So far, we haven’t seen mainstream, non-corporate folks embracing the Blackberry devices in a big way. But given its multimedia and touchscreen features the Storm could provide Blackberry the opportunity to make inroads into the consumer market as well. Let’s see.

Ever since the iPhone debuted about 17 months back, it’s been the smartphone benchmark and the device to beat for all other smartphone manufacturers. So far, none have come anywhere close. In 2008 alone, Apple & its carrier partner AT&T sold over 10 million iPhones.

Based on its feature set, we think the Blackberry Storm has a fair chance to take on the iPhone if it’s priced appropriately and the device works as promised.

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