RIM BlackBerry Storm2 9550 Review

Introduction and Design

On paper the Storm was a success for RIM and Verizon.  In the flesh, not so much.  It was plagued by software issues that were eventually ironed out, but more so by the utter failure of RIM’s SureType technology.  The screen was cumbersome to use, tiring and inaccurate.  An iPhone killer it was most certainly not, and we dubbed it the worst BlackBerry ever made.  So, how does RIM fix it?  A new screen, now with four click points and Piezo technology to prevent accidental clicks.  We have to admit we are much more impressed this time around.

In the box you’ll find:
•    Li-Ion battery
•    AC Adapter
•    USB cable
•    Stereo headphones
•    16GB microSD card


Visually, there isn’t a lot of difference between the 9530 and the newer RIM BlackBerry Storm2 9550.  The overall feel is very much the same, and again one of the first things to catch our attention was the weight of the device.  The Storm2 measures in at a nearly identical 112.5 x 62 x 13.9mm compared to the Storm, but weighs in at 5g more.  The battery door latch mechanism is similar to the one found on the 8520, which is a welcome change, and the speaker has also moved from the back to the bottom of the phone, making it easier to hear when laid down.  The side keys are now rubber instead of silver, again taking their design cue from the 8520.  All of them offer plenty of travel and reassurance when they are pressed.

You can compare the RIM BlackBerry Storm2 9550 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The largest design difference is the function keys below of the screen.  On the original these were four physical buttons, separate from each other, but this time around these are incorporated into the screen itself.  Our preview unit had all kinds of issues that prevented us from actually pressing these buttons most of the time, but on this latest unit everything is great.  The Piezo technology is definitely in effect, and is very cool.  When the power is off the screen is not clickable, but it doesn’t end there:  RIM has blended Piezo and capacitive technologies so that when the screen is turned on it is only clickable with bare skin.  This prevents accidental key presses and is a very cool addition.

The display is again gorgeous, measuring in at 3.25” with a resolution of 360x480 at 184ppi but just 65K colors.  We’re not sure that this is any better than the screen on the Storm, but then again that was a very pretty panel as well.  More importantly it is much better to use.  The wiggle is gone, and we can no longer see the circuit board along the edges of the display.  Now with the new SurePress technology, it is much easier to click and the multiple input sensors make typing much more accurate.  This time around autocorrect was able to fix most of our mistakes, though not quite all.  In a typical message we’d have to manually correct only one or two words, which is way better than the original.  It also does a better job of replicating the feel of a physical keyboard, but it is still well behind the Tour’s physical keyboard.

We have to think that this is what RIM was going for the first time around.  The difference is so night and day that we really feel RIM should have dropped the Storm name, even if the two devices are extremely similar.  This new implementation of screen clicking is worthy of a new brand name.

RIM BlackBerryStorm2 9550 360 DegreesView:


This is the first device to ship with the new BlackBerry 5.0 OS, though the Storm did get upgraded a few days before the Storm2 launch.  Users won’t notice much difference in the new software, and much like 4.6/7 was an incremental step from 4.5 which was an incremental step from 4.3 which… you get the picture, 5.0 isn’t a big jump.  Threaded text messaging is finally supported, a much needed addition especially in such a messaging-centric lineup.  Other official enhancements include “multi-touch text selection enhancements (for copy/paste,)” “fine Cursor Control (for text editing)” and “updated spin boxes (clock, calendar, date/time, etc.)”  Copy and paste is indeed easier to use, but for the most part it is just more spit and polish on an outdated operating system.

On the flip side, there’s something to be said about not fixing something that isn’t broken.  This is the zippiest BlackBerry we’ve used to date.  Menu animations are slick, scrolling is smooth (though we would have liked to see it go faster) and we experienced little to no lag.  What they do they do well, we’ll give them that.

Phonebook and Organizer:

Again, there isn’t much new to report here.  It’s as simple and straightforward as ever, and you can store virtually an unlimited amount of contacts.  Each contact can hold three email addresses, two work phone numbers, two home numbers, a mobile, pager, fax and “other” number as well as a space for a BlackBerry PIN number. There is a slot for both a home and work address, as well as dates for anniversary and birthdays. Contacts can be sorted by user definable categories, each entry can have a custom ringer and picture ID, and there is a section for a webpage and notes.

Like the Storm 9530, homescreen contact search is missing on the Storm2.  The keyboard is accessible when in the full menu, but it will not search the contacts by either name or number.  Instead, when you click on any letter it will take you to the phone application.  This is a shame, because it’s one of the little features we really like about the BlackBerry OS.  Voice dialing is handled by Nuance (formally VoiceSignal) and is excellent.  The left soft key is still preprogrammed to activate it, and it is still slightly annoying but the higher button placement leads to much less unintended presses.

Like the phonebook, the calendar function is very robust. It can be managed either on your phone or on your PC, and when paired to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) it can be remotely managed and synced over the air. Creating an appointment is simple, and options such as reminders and recurrence are present. Appointments can also be marked as private for added security.

Other basic PIM functions are available, such as Tasks and a Memo Pad. Tasks is very basic, but reminders can be set and they can also be grouped into categories. The Memo Pad is a basic notepad, no bells and whistles, and a basic calculator is also available.


There have been some enhancements in the SMS app, most notably the threaded text messaging.  The user has more control over notifications now as well, for instance they can set the alert to repeat (from 1-10 times) for each type of message (SMS, email, etc.) as well as for individual contacts.  Smiles have been enhanced as well.

As you would expect the Storm2 9550 supports every form of messaging out there.  There are the standards (SMS, MMS), personal and corporate email via BIS and BES, BlackBerry Messenger, and popular IM clients such as Google Talk and AIM.  All of these are actually fairly pleasurable to use now that RIM has worked out that whole keyboard thing!

Connectivity and Data:

Like the Storm 9530, the Storm2 9550 is a global device and has a European partner in the 9520.  The 9550 is CDMA focused, but supports quad-band GSM and EDGE.  High speed cellular data is handled in the States via Verizon’s EVDO Rev A network and overseas using UMTS at 2100MHz.

Locally the Storm2 supports Wi-Fi b/g, a welcome-but-not-as-important-as-everyone-is-making-it-out-to-be-change from the Storm.  On America’s GSM carriers it’s one thing, but on the CDMA side there is an abundance of 3G coverage.  Still, those without it will appreciate the addition.  It also supports Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and the HSP, HSF,PBAP, SPP, A2DP/AVCRP and DUN profiles.

The browser has been reworked to give faster load times, and we did notice a difference, but why multi-touch is used for items like copy and paste but not for the browser is beyond us.  This is virtually the same browser found on the Storm, just a bit faster, so all-in-all it’s very good.  It still is not up there with the iPhone and Pre, or even Android just yet.

BlackBerry Desktop Manager handles desktop sync as always.  It is used to manage calendar, tasks, contacts and email synchronization with your desktop.  You can also use the data cable to load media onto the memory card, and Media Sync will allow for iTunes syncing of non-DRM files.

Multimedia and camera:

Multimedia is still an area where the Storm2 excels, though there haven’t been any notable changes.  Like we’ve seen recently the Media Player has been broken up and is now visualized as a folder with each individual component as an independent app.  Everything still works the same though; videos look great and the music interface is clean and intuitive.  The Storm2 supports Verizon’s VCast Music with Rhapsody service.

The 3.2-megapixel camera performed much better than the one on the original, but still wasn’t great.  For the most part colors were reproduced much better, though it still had issues with some of the fall colors.  For example, in our picture of the flowering bush the redish leafs and purple flowers are very distinct in real life, but blended together in the picture.  Detail was somewhat better but images still had some graining to them.  Setup time has been halved, and you can launch the app and snap a picture in just under 5 seconds now.  The interface has been reworked slightly and the entire image field is now displayed on-screen, unlike the Storm where the bottom was cut off by the controls which could lead to stray fingers in some pictures.


Memory has been doubled on the Storm2 which now features 2GB of on-board media storage and 256MB ROM. The Storm2 comes with a 16GB microSD card, which you can always replace with a 32GB one.  This is expandable by up to 32GB thanks to the microSD slot, which thankfully can be accessed without removing the battery.

BlackBerry App World gives the user access to over four thousand applications, more than most people would ever want.  Apps you’ll find on the phone are pretty standard: Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Docs to Go, the aforementioned messaging apps, Word Mole and the ever popular Brick Breaker.  These aren’t exactly pre-installed, as the user must download them on first use, but the shortcuts are at least there.  Verizon apps are also “pre-installed” including VZ Navigator, City ID and Visual Voicemail.  It should be noted that all of these have a monthly fee if the user should choose to install them.


The Storm2 is overall very good.  Callers said we sounded distant, but on the whole good and rated us at an 8/10.  We would do them slightly better and rate them at an 8.5, with no major complaints but not standout either.  Talk time is a solid 5.5 hours, and without use the Storm2 can go over 11 days between charges.  In our use the battery was good, but not as outstanding as we are used to with BlackBerry devices and we were usually charging it every day or two as opposed to every 3 to 4.


Despite the very similar design and software, the RIM BlackBerry Storm2 9550 manages to be a major improvement over the Storm 9530.  This change can be attributed almost wholly to the improvement in RIM’s clickable screen, which now can register multiple inputs properly and due to the four sensor points feels much more like a real keyboard.  The increased memory and new 5.0 OS proved quick and snappy with almost no lag.  On the media front the Storm2 is as solid as the first time around, with needed improvements to the camera.  At the end of the day we’ll still take the non-clickable screens of the Palm Pre, Apple iPhone and HTC Hero, but if tactile feedback is your thing the BlackBerry Storm2 is a solid choice.

RIM BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 Video Review:


  • Vast improvement in screen technology makes the Storm2 better to type on
  • Threaded messaging
  • Navigation keys are now integrated into the screen for a sleeker look
  • Very good media player


  • It works now, but we’re still not sold on the whole clickable touchscreen idea
  • Battery may be a concern for very heavy users

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