BlackBerry Meant Well

There is a fascinating time between January 2007 and January 2010 in the world of smartphones. This short 3-year span was one where Apple was blazing a trail with the iPhone and other manufacturers responding in kind. One standout is the BlackBerry Storm phone. It was a revolutionary failure.

Rewinding to Steve Jobs' unveiling of the iPhone, we were told something we'd never considered as consumers prior: the buttons on a phone were set forever. The iPhone could change or hide buttons whenever. At this time the BlackBerry line was THE smartphone to own. Many came for it and it always dominated. With Apple setting fire to the definition of what it meant to be a smartphone, BlackBerry got to work on its response. Chaim Gartenberg at The Verge has more about the BlackBerry Storm.

The Storm had a unique “SurePress” display: rather than keyboard buttons, the entire display was a gigantic button that could be clicked down like a trackpad. On an iPhone, you simply tapped away at a virtual keyboard with no real indication that you were pressing anything. On the BlackBerry Storm, you physically had to “press” each key to type, complete with an ultra-satisfying “click” sound, thanks to the mechanical switch underneath.

The Verge

BlackBerry was becoming a shell of its former self. These moves were all reactionary and this SurePress screen was awful to use. I remember trying a colleague's Storm when it came out (and comparing it to my iPhone) and thinking how clunky it was.

It just goes to show how difficult hardware is to get right. When the currents are shifting in an industry, it gets even harder. BlackBerry was not the only company to attempt to combat the iPhone and fail, but they were the biggest one to fall.