RIM & Bell Update the BlackBerry Storm to v4.7.0.148 (Rel. 203)

BB Storm with the 148 update

I cleared my inbox and tasks this morning to download the much touted update for the BlackBerry Storm and try to rekindle my love affair with the BlackBerry again. Lately, I’ve been getting that 7 year itch feeling whenever I use the Storm. The younger smartphones like the iPhone are suddenly looking really sexy and have recently become all grown up devices that makes an experienced user like me think that I might be missing out on something. But then there’s the MILF of all smartphones just around the corner, the Palm PRE, and you know that hooking up with this one again could be just like old times except that now the old cougar has so many more moves and is looking pretty damn good in that skinny little black number. So then, why would you want to stick it with the old faithful, apart from merely prolonging this antagonizing sexual innuendo, because after all these years you’ve really come to know each other and you know you’ll be able to rely on it.  Let me explain…
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My two biggest issues with the BlackBerry Storm have been the accelerometer response time and the inconsistency between the way the UI handles input. Basically it’s a little slow and the virtual keyboard is kind of crap. I noticed just how bad it was in the recording of our second DadCast, due out this weekend, when Steve and I were dueling input methods after I had openly blasted RIM, a Canadian company, for providing us French users with an AZERTY keyboard from France and not the QWERTY keyboard we’ve all been using since the keyboard was invented. Well the iPhone totally PWN’d my Storm in the very scientific 1..2..3..Go rotate your screen test, there was simply no competition. And even though both devices have similar input methods, the iPhone was just more responsive and scrolling through the text you had just written was so much easier than dragging to drag my ape like fingernail between two letters.

Well appararently Steve and I were not the only people to notice these issues and the Folks at RIM issued Software Update for the Bell version of the Storm, this is third software upgrade in less than and year (0.76, 0.122, 0.148) and the second one since April. The first two items in the changes list directly address these issues:

Improved response time after unlocking.
Enhanced screen response when changing to or from portrait or landscape modes, this includes if the home screen appears twice or other screens appear scrambled.
Improved scrolling of message lists.

They also added in a few extras like improving .mp4 and YouTube playback quality and fixing the annoying clicks and thumps whenever you would receive an email or SMS. They also appear to have upgraded the Nuance Voice Dialing software for clearer use with Bluetooth headsets and car kits.  All minor changes to justify the firmware update.

The first I noticed when I did the upgrade was that the AZERTY keyboard was finally gone but now so was the entire French language, RIM has effectively taken care of what most politicians west of Toronto have been trying to do since the failed Meech Lake Accord. Somehow, I’ll have to recover that or else the BlackBerry will forever question my use of the words poutine, rondelle and Tabarnak. What is pretty cool though is the new cursor when your editing text (looks like a radar) and the actual [GO] button on the virtual keyboard when your typing our URL’s and search queries.

BB Storm Focussing to Edit Text

The next thing I noticed was that after the upgrade is complete, everything gets wiped… Everything. Sure once you complete the enterprise activation, the address book, calendar, corporate email and call log all return but you’re still left without any of your apps, as a matter of fact, the App World disappeared altogether too, as if it had been sucked in to a black hole.

As much as this really pissed me off, and pretty much ruled out any more actual work this morning, I set up compiling a list of apps that I would not bother to reload. To my surprise the GMail app did not make the cut. I’m still desperately waiting for RIM to officially release the Enhanced GMail Plug In that will actually take care of every last thing the GMail app could do better than the native IMAP mail implementation from the BlackBerry Internet Service. Google Sync already keeps my Google Cal in sync with my Outlook and Enterprise calendar as well as the iCal app on the MacBook at home. And only recently Google Sync added contact synchronization to the mix. Another one I had to get rid of was the useless Facebook app, in all fairness the mobile site in the browser is still by far the better version, it loads faster and you can browse more sections as well. Facebook still does not implement and push version of it’s own messaging system in the app. Instead, they rely on the user setting up his plain email account on the BIS service and simply hijack the notification emails which means you still have to filter and file those emails on your desktop or webmail account a second time. Not to mention that Facebooker who signed with a Hotmail/MSN/Windows Live/BingBung mail account still can not set up their email on the BIS without paying for a pro account.

Of course there were a whole bunch of Apps that I couldn’t live without. So here’s the list of what’s hot and what got cut.

Returning Apps:

  • Ubertwitter – Probably the best FREE Black Berry Twitter client available.
  • Evernote – My must have note taker for all things, written, found online and offline via the camera.
  • WordPress for Blackberry – Still testing this beta, watch out for another post about this.
  • Poynt – Find stuff near you like Yellow Pages but with shopping cart for movies and services
  • Flickr – Snap and post your pictures to Flickr
  • Google Maps – It’s Google Maps with added Storm GPS goodness.
  • Quick Pull – Resets your BB without a battery pull

Apps that didn’t make the cut

  • TwitterBerry – It went stale and never gets updated.
  • GMail (replaced with the Enhanced GMail plugin)
  • Google Search – The built is search is fine and just as quick
  • Facebook (Still better in the browser)
  • Level – uses the accelerometer as a level /The app went Pro and they now want $5 US for a Level == FAIL

After all is reloaded, you must by all means pull the battery at least one more time just to make sure you clear the Java OS cache. The reboot will still take 5 minutes so make sure you’re near an office phone that you have already forwarded your calls to. This is still the most annoying part of rebooting a BlackBerry and it only gets worse when your on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

So you’re probably still asking yourself why put up with all of this when the Jesus Phone is just so alluring and the Palm Pre is begging for some attention, not to mention the fact that Blackberry Tour is just about to get launched.  To be quite honest it has nothing to do with the fact that the company provides my device and uses a BES or that the CTRC imposes all Blogs North of the Border to maintain a certain quota of Canadian Content. In all fairness it simply because the BlackBerry is still a great device; it’s robust, reliable, has excellent application integration and specifically with the Storm, an enormous gorgeous screen, a fast processor and remarkable call quality. After all it’s still a PHONE.