RIM's Storm Gets Touchy Feely

This week, Research In Motion announced its newest smartphone, the Storm, and it's all about touch.

If you're a BlackBerry user and have felt left out by the tide of touch-based smartphones, salvation is at hand. This week, Research In Motion announced its newest smartphone, the Storm, and it's all about touch.

The Storm is one of the most significant handset announcements of the year. Research In Motion, famous for its BlackBerry smartphones, has always provided a physical keyboard on which to type out emails and other missives. It's the email device maker's hallmark feature -- and it tossed it out the window for this latest phone.

Anyone familiar with the iPhone knows that it uses a software keyboard for messaging typing. That's the same solution employed by RIM with the Storm. If you hold the phone sideways, it will provide a full QWERTY keyboard to type on. If you hold it regularly, it will give you a software version of its SureType keyboard (the one used on the Pearl) for typing out messages. Both software keyboards have sophisticated software that guesses at what you're typing and will automatically suggest or correct words as you go.

There's a lot more to the Storm than a software keyboard, however.

It will be available exclusively through Verizon Wireless in the US and will be capable of surfing the mobile Web on Verizon's extremely fast 3G data network. If you travel to Europe frequently, you'll be happy to learn that the Storm will also work overseas. It come with all the radios necessary to work both in the U.S. and most anywhere else. Verizon's partner, Vodafone, will be offering the Storm to its subscribers in the U.K. and other European markets. As with all BlackBerries, it will sync your email, calendar and contacts seamlessly with your business's servers. This means you'll always be in-the-know when on-the-run.

But the Storm is not all about work. It is also an impressive multi-media device. Music playback? Check. Video playback? Check. Slideshows? Check. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera that includes auto-focus and a flash, and it will also record high-quality video. This means you can use it to capture videos of you kids at weekend birthday parties and to get work done.

It will ship with an 8 gigabyte memory card, giving you plenty of room to store music, video and pictures files (oh, and work documents such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint files as well).

It also has a full HTML Web browser so you can see the real version of Web sites as you surf and supports full GPS for location-based services such as turn-by-turn directions.

Verizon and RIM have not said exactly when the Storm will be available, but you can bet it will be in stores before the holiday shopping season.