BlackBerry Storm more of a squall‾

Storm! What a cracking name for a smartphone. Marketing must have hugged themselves when they came up with that moniker. If only it lived up to it. But in truth RIM's BlackBerry Storm is not so much a storm, more of a squall.

Here's why. Being a phone these days is pretty straightforward. You do phone calls. You throw in lots of things like clocks, cameras, music-playing capability (though barely anyone uses it) and especially contacts and calendars. That's a phone.

For a smartphone, though, you need to go further: email, web browsing, integrated applications such as maps, and dedicated applications for things like Flickr and Facebook and Twitter. All the other stuff - phone calls, cameras, music, video playback - is taken as read.

The BlackBerry Storm has all these. Well, sort of - you have to install the applications such as Flickr and Facebook yourself. As it doesn't have Wi-Fi, you'll be doing this on your data allocation. (That's 500MB per month on Vodafone's 'unlimited' plan for the Storm, at £35 per month. How does 'unlimited' equate to '500MB'‾)

And this is as good a point as any to discover that it's all about the interface. The Storm has a touchscreen. Actually, no - it has a 'prod' screen. When you touch a point, it's highlighted. But to select it, you have to prod the screen - which clicks on a rocker. (You can't put it on a table; the rocking makes it impossible to use.) You can get used to it, but compared to the iPhone's touch-sensitive screen, it's awful. Why should I have to prod a touchscreen‾ It's senseless.

I spent quite some time trying to find any aspect of the Storm that was better than the iPhone. The lack of Wi-Fi is a serious omission. Magnification‾ It's only one prod to magnify the Storm's screen, against the iPhone's two-finger pull. Maybe better - unless your prod is on a hyperlink, which perplexed it. The virtual keyboard (which rotates with the phone, like the iPhone's) is the BlackBerry Pearl's 'two letters per key' style, not the standard Qwerty. Some people swear by it; I swear at it. Camera‾ It has more pixels than the iPhone, but the shutter lag made it unusable. It does take video; the iPhone doesn't. Huzzah.

The interface, though, is just a mess. The 'scroll' doesn't move smoothly; it's stiff, as though it needs oiling. The installation procedure for applications is remarkably annoying: you scroll through miles of legalese, download the application (on your data plan - count those megabytes), and then you're left back at the place where you just agreed to the download. Plus you have to hunt for the new application.

Some people say 'it's corporate! It's not an iPhone!' This seems to me to be the 'Survivors' argument: if it were the only smartphone in the world, you'd love it. However, it's not, by a long chalk. There are better products out there - some from RIM itself, such as the BlackBerry Bold. As BoingBoing put it: 'iPhone killer‾ It's not even a BlackBerry killer.'

Pros: BlackBerry email integration; video capability

Cons: 'Prod' screen; bad install experience; bad user interface