updated 02:35 pm EDT, Thu March 31, 2011
BlackBerry Touch given hands-on in leak
RIM's BlackBerry Storm3 has turned up in controlled conditions through a leak and simultaneous hands-on. The phone, also known by its Monaco (CDMA) and Monza (GSM) handles, will now drop the Storm name entirely and may just go as the BlackBerry Touch. The design is "thinner, faster and sexier," than most BlackBerry phones, BGR said, and would drop the often disliked SureType screen, in part to get the multi-touch needed for BlackBerry 6.1.
The OS from the test is similar in many ways to 6.0 but, apart from supporting the much larger and sharper 480x800 screen, is mostly different in how it handles account sync. Rather than give a numeric PIN code, it will ask users to sign into a BlackBerry ID on setup and presumably configure the device afterwards. It bears a strong resemblance to Android and would most likely tie into BlackBerry Protect to back up phones and track them if they're lost.
When it arrives, 6.1 is also known to have hardware graphics acceleration, more home screen customization and voice-guided search, again like Android. The Touch should be equipped to handle the added features with a 1.2GHz processor and 3D graphics fast enough to compete with modern rivals.
The launch of the Touch could also be part of a much larger device blitz, according to the tip. All of the devices from RIM's 2011 leaked roadmap and other leaks, including the Bold Touch, Curve Touch, and Torch 2, may be launched at the same time, at BlackBerry World in early May. It's doubtful any would be available immediately, but earlier tips had one or more shipping in the late spring or the summer.
A decision to drop the Storm name would reflect a disenchantment with the name both at RIM and with users. The original, November 2008 Storm was supposed to be Verizon's first shot at an iPhone rival and launched to lineups, but interest quickly faded in the few months afterwards and led Verizon to steeper and steeper discounts months before it was replaced. The Storm2 received much less fanfare and was deliberately buried by Verizon by being announced and shipping at the same time as the much more heavily publicized Motorola Droid.
For RIM, the Storm badge may now carry a degree of shame since it's now partly responsible for giving up most of RIM's Verizon share. The BlackBerry had once represented as much as 80 percent of Verizon's smartphone sales but dropped to 50 percent by the start of 2010 and was at 20 percent by that fall, even before the Verizon iPhone compounded RIM's problems.