Readers React to David Pogue’s Review of the BlackBerry Storm

I learned something last week.

In my Times print column, I reviewed the BlackBerry Storm, by far the worst product Research in Motion has ever produced. I had problems with its concept, problems with its clicky touch screen, problems with its speed, and above all, problems with bugs (which the company refused to acknowledge, even when I sent them videos of the phone acting up and even locking up).

About 100 readers wrote to say that they had bought the Storm and now regretted it. Some samples:

“I want to thank you for validating the experiences I’ve had with my new BlackBerry Storm. It has been an absolute nightmare. As soon as I return to New York, I will take advantage of Verizon’s 30-day return policy and get rid of this monstrosity.”

“I rushed out last week to try the new Storm–and was frustrated, confused and bewildered by the device. I couldn’t use the browser, and was even hard pressed to make a phone call.”

“My Storm was like something from a Stephen King novel: possessed of its own mind. Touching or selecting on the screen highlighted something totally unrelated. The lag in switching from horizontal to vertical almost made it seem that the screen was deciding its own when to shift.”

“One of my co-workers, who is almost militant in his disdain for all things Apple, couldn’t wait to get his hands on a Storm. Lo & behold, 30 minutes later, he was trying to figure out a way to get his money back.”

“I think there’s an important distinction between quality control (whether or not something works as designed) and quality of design. This device fails miserably in both categories.”

“Where do I begin? The address book is a joke. Can’t go straight to any given letter, so must scroll all the way through every time. Everything’s slow: Scrolling, screen rotating, selecting apps, search… everything. It has crashed several times just trying to play movies. When you press the screen, it jumps over and “clicks” the key next to what you wanted… this is maddeningly frustrating. The bottom line: BlackBerry has created the Zune of touchscreen phones.”

“Having tried the Storm on two different days to make sure it was really as bad as it seemed the first time, I too find it unbelievable that these are for sale. Verizon should just box all these Storms up and send them to Toys R Us, who can sell them in the Brainteaser section, right next to the Rubik’s Cubes.”

“Typing is not easy. My fingertips hurt after a few e-mails, not to mention the frustration with many typos. Also, when you are scrolling and you touch the bottom edge of the screen (landscape mode) by accident, the keyboard pops up. It takes so long to do anything. Not worth it.”

“The most disappointing piece of equipment I have ever seen. I waited a year to upgrade to Storm from Treo…Now I got a good old BlackBerry 8330 instead, and I am a happy girl!”

“Oh my God! I read your review, and it was the exact same experience I had! I was EXTREMELY disappointed. This thing is a dud. I am very sad, but at least I have my Curve.”

“I could not agree with you more about the BlackBerry Storm. I picked it up at my local Verizon store, and after typing an e-mail on the full keyboard (which took 3 full seconds to appear when I went to landscape mode), and seeing the delayed key response and multiple errors, I just put it down and walked away. If it can’t do e-mail well, the rest is irrelevant. I will wait for the BlackBerry ‘Silver Lining’: a Storm interface and a true BlackBerry keyboard.”

Not all readers agreed with me, however. About a dozen new Storm owners wrote to say that, while they, too, found some bugs and sluggishness, they liked the phone nonetheless.

But I also heard from about a dozen people who have not tried the Storm, but nonetheless poured on me the Internet equivalent of molten lead:

“Having you comment on technology is like having Tom Cruise comment on religion. You stretch and distort facts to fit your opinions. Your biases are obvious to any objective person.”

“I have serious doubts about your ability to evaluate tech. And your friends, for that matter. Yes, the Storm has a different emphasis than past BlackBerries, but it will continue to sell like pancakes.”

“Your article is a shameful report from someone who obviously is not knowledgeable in any of these newer items. Perhaps you should find something else to write about; although from this article you probably wouldn’t do well in any area. Shame on you and on THE NEW YORK TIMES FOR SUCH INFERIOR REPORTING.”

“For those of us with no need to speed type, the Storm is a great phone. In an economy like this, the world can do without ignorantly people more concerned with their own egos ripping apart an innovative and well conceived product. May the Devil find out you’re dead immediately after you’re gone.”


It always blows my mind when people tell me that my assessment of some product is wrong — without ever even having tried the thing themselves. I just can’t get over that.

And now for the thing I learned:

For years, tech critics like me have occasionally endured abuse from the Cult of Mac. If you write anything that even hints at a less-than-perfect Apple effort (like my reviews of, for example, the original Apple TV, iMovie ’08 or MobileMe), the backlash is swift, vitriolic and heated. We’re talking insults, vulgarities and even threats. I’ve always thought that that vocal sub-population of Mac fans make up the world’s most watchful, most hostile grass-roots lobbying arm.

But now I see that I was wrong. There’s an even nastier one: the BlackBerry nuts.

When did this happen? Maybe when Apple entered the smartphone racket and started getting all the attention. All of a sudden, Apple was no longer the underdog; it was suddenly Goliath. The poor little BlackBerry was the underdog.

In the third quarter of 2008, the iPhone unseated the BlackBerry as the world’s best-selling smartphone (6.9 million to 6.1 million). Now, those numbers may not be representative of a trend: the iPhone benefited from pent-up demand for the 3G version, while BlackBerry sales were suffering because everyone was waiting for the three hot new winter models (Bold, Flip, Storm). (Apple’s “quarter” ended September 27; RIM’s ended August 30.)

But if the iPhone keeps it up, watch out. There’s a new oppressed minority in town. And you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

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