BlackBerry Release OS 5.0 for the Storm on Bell

Just as I was putting my finishing touches on my already overdue Samsung Galaxy review, a little bird told me that Bell and BlackBerry had quietly released the long-awaited OS 5.0 for the BlackBerry Storm 9530. Now other devices also got the 5.0 nod, but since I use a Storm daily for work, this is the one I’ve been waiting for and have been particularly waiting for. I updated to 4.7 a while back and this took care of a few touch screen niggles of including a much easier cursor movement while editing text. You can read more about that here in my last review.  So what is the big about this latest operating system  release? Did they magically turn the BlackBerry into the iPhone killer they were touting it as a few years back? Better yet, have they finally stopped building the platform on Java?

Of course not, don’t be silly. The official release notes which are buried so deep even Cornish miners don’t dare venture further with out a level 71 Darken Iron Dwarf by their sides:

  • Flag for Follow up
  • Mail Folder Management
  • Sticky Dates
  • Auto Correct / Word Completion
  • Main Messages Icon Settings/Dedicated Desktop Messages Icon

Personal Information Management Features – Calendar

  • Viewing Attachments within a Meeting Invite
  • Forwarding Appointments
  • Delegating Appointments

Personal Information Management Features – Contacts

  • Synchronization of Distribution Lists
  • Synchronization of Multiple Contact Folders or Address Books

Multimedia Features

  • Media Folder
  • Volume Overlay
  • Highlight Currently Playing Media
  • Support for Play Button on Bluetooth/A2DP peripherals
  • Media Memory Management
  • Consolidated Send / Share Menu Option
  • Photo Resize when Sending or Sharing
  • Photo Full Screen Preview
  • Support for Auto Focus Modes
  • Improved Picture Library
  • Support for Bluetooth 2.1 and Secure Simple Pairing
  • Support for Metadata via Bluetooth AVRCP

Security Features

  • Improved Security Options Menu
  • Improved Security Wipe Screen
  • Content Protection renamed to Encryption
  • MicroSD Smart Card support
  • Improved Firewall PIN Message Blocking
  • Improved Lock Screen for Emergency Calls

Browser Features

  • Improved Web Page Rendering with AJAX support
  • The following browser standards are now implemented in the BlackBerry Browser using BlackBerry Device Software version 5.0:
    • JavaScript® 1.6
    • CSS 2.1 (including Lists, Box Model, Positioning, Floats, Visual Effects, Tables, Colors, Backgrounds, & Text Properties including system fonts and generated content)
    • CSS 3 (partial support including Namespaces, Selectors, Color, Marquee, and Media Queries)
    • DOM L2 (including Core, HTML, Style, Events)
    • HTML 4.01 (including Forms, Maps, Tables, Frames, Objects)
    • HTML 5.0 parsing and forms
    • XMLHttpRequest
    • SVG Tiny 1.1
    • XML-stylesheet processing instruction
  • Gears Support
    The following Gears

    • Factory
    • Blob
    • Database
    • Desktop
    • Geolocation
    • HttpRequest
    • Timer
    • WorkerPool

Native/Core Application Features

  • Improved Application Listing within Options
  • Application Install Location
  • Applications Memory Management
  • Precision – Today Theme
  • Configure Application Download Folder
  • Native or Device Application Controls
  • Press and Hold Menu Key for Application Switcher and Double-Click Menu Key for Default Action (available since 4.7)

Setup Features

  • Improved Setup Wizard
  • Improved Email Settings
  • KB16382– Setting up filters for an email account
  • KB16384– Deleting an email account
  • KB16383– Resending service books for an email account
  • KB18258– How to create a user name and password for your BlackBerry Internet Service account
  • KB16385– Editing email account settings

Maps Features

  • Improved Search Usability
  • Photo Geotagging Layer within BlackBerry®Maps

Other Features

  • Notification Indicators on Folders
  • Enhanced SMS Interface
  • Boot Progress Indicator
  • Time zone change detection
  • Remote File Exploring
  • Event Sounds
    • Device On (boot up)
    • Device Off (shutdown)
    • USB Cable/Accessory Connected
    • USB Cable/Accessory Disconnected
    • Full Battery Charge
    • Battery Near Depletion

I’ll be the first to admit that these aren’t your usual Apple or MS release notes. It really does look like RIM put some effort into this release to make the OS clearly a better system. Sure some of the features were already present in the 4.7 release from last summer even though they might not all have worked so well.  And some of these features are clearly me too offerings. But the most welcome changes so far are definitely  the Browser and the even tighter integration with your exchange email, calendar and contacts. The other notable feature that I really like so far is the full qwerty keyboard in portrait mode. Suretype has been pretty god to me over the years, been using it since the Pearl, but it truly sucks when typing in French without changing your input location. You might not think that is important, but just try to type any Montreal street name and see what a balls up Suretype makes of it. There is still one small problem with the on screen keyboard which is totally independent of what screen rotation you’re using: the numlock keys should be sticky. When was the last time you only ever used one digit in text? If you hit the numlock key to start entering a phone number or dollar amount, you should have to hit again to have it disabled. Or at the very least allow us to enable or disable this via a setting. Something I have been unable to find in the options>screen & keyboard section. Generally speaking though the keyboard actually does feel more responsive and the editing cursor is easier to drag into place, selecting text to copy is a little smoother for anyone who had previously been using the 4.7.x Storm release. For those of you that never bothered to update your device, these little updated in the UI will make the device feel like a brand new BlackBerry.

So far in my day-to-day use, the Storm has felt a lot faster when switching apps and pulling up menus. The Google Apps are now blazing fast and the GMail app is almost as quick as in the built-in push email. Text messaging is a lot slicker with the new speech bubble presentation even though that screen does seem to fritz out Windows XP style under fast scrolling as shown here.   You still tend to have to wait for certain apps but this is mainly due to the EVDO Network being a little slow in the new HSPA+ era. I have absolutely no proof to back up my claim that certain Carriers from Hell have crippled their EVDO networks to speed up HSPA+ adoption apart from a few weeks of simultaneous usage of a device on each. But as I’m not engineer, my test based on overusing Twitter and Foursquare should really not be taken as scientific fact.

In conclusion, you should definitely upgrade to this OS 5.0 FREE update unless you’ve dropped your BlackBerry Storm down the concrete steps of your local train station one too many times, or have already sold your soul to the Cylons and jumped on the Android / Nexus ONE bandwagon.  The changes and new features are pretty solid and this will allow you to ride out your contract a little longer putting you in a better position to either jump on the new entrants offerings or find out what Apple are going to release in the OS 4.0 version of the  Apple iPhone.

Official Download From BlackBerry (You will have to select your device from the list)