Day 1 with My BlackBerry Storm



VZWstorefront_Day1

I am one of the thousands of crazy idiots who got up at the crack of dawn to be first in line to get a BlackBerry Storm on the day of its US release on November 21. This is a brief (and light-hearted) description of what the process was like–in case you ever feel crazy enough to try this for yourself.

First–The Wait

If you are a BlackBerry fanatic, you know how frustrating it is hearing of the promised release date of an ultra-cool new model of BlackBerry only to have your hopes dashed when that promised date is slipped again…and again…and again.

Why does this happen? Rumors include stories of product defects, software glitches, battery problems…but you never really know for sure (unless you’re one of the insiders who are sworn not to tell).

Advice: Until a release date is officially announced to be firm, don’t take any other predictions seriously. It will only add to your anxiety or disappointment.

Next, Intelligence-Gathering

I visited my favorite BlackBerry store which, in my case, is a Verizon Wireless corporate store located in Macon, Georgia, to get the latest word on the release date. Yes, I knew what was being said on the web, but most of it appeared to be only speculation. A popular approach to blogging today is to simply steal some other site’s news or opinion and re-post it as your own (occasionally with links back to the original story, as if that resolves the copyright violation). I hope you have noticed that on newBBie.com, I try extra hard to be original, or at least different.

My local Verizon sales reps and store managers were very gracious and understanding and passed on whatever they knew or were allowed to tell. They were also taking the pulse of their local customer base to prepare for the onslaught of fanatics when the release date became firm. They seemed to be genuinely concerned about the potential response the Storm could bring.

So, they warned me that (1) the number of first-day units they (and other stores) would receive would be very limited, and (2) there would be some (not sure how many) crazy customers prepared to camp out (literally) the night before. Great info to know!

They also informed me of options. They knew their store would be receiving only 21 (!) Storms on Day 1, and they knew they would be grabbed up as quickly as their staff could process the orders. Customers would be limited to one Storm only. An option for the less fanatical was to pre-order a phone and have it shipped with a promised delivery (in this case) of four days. Of course, I would not be taking option 2.

Oh–the Verizon store manager (I think his name is Charles), promised to be on-site at 5 AM with coffee and donuts for those who arrive early. How cool is that?!

Advice: Do prepare in advance. Your local store reps/managers can’t know for sure what’s going to happen, but they have the best information available. And, in my opinion, they sincerely want to help.

Pre-Mission Planning

My plan was what the military might designate a pre-dawn horizontal insertion (I learned that kind of phrase during the last Gulf War; parachuting in would make it a vertical insertion–I would be taking a land route):

  • Check the predicted weather conditions: It was going to be cold, at least by November-in-the-Deep-South standards, and possibly windy.
  • Prepare equipment and supplies: I envisioned a line of people, jockeying for position at the VZW main entrance. It would be critical to hold my ground to keep my place in line. For hours, probably. So, I would need..
    • A good folding chair.
    • Sufficient warm clothes, gloves, etc. to withstand hours of cold and wind.
    • Snacks: granola bars, maybe some fruit.
    • Something to pass the time: a good book, a flashlight (with fresh batteries), and my reading glasses.
  • Prepare for contingencies: What if I had an opportunity to sit in my car?
    • My laptop, with fully-charged battery.
    • Just in case, an AC inverter for my car cigarette lighter in case my laptop battery ran low.
    • OK, this may be a stretch, but…what if a stunningly beautiful woman shows up to wait in line but didn’t prepare as masterfully as I had. No chair. No warm coat. No snacks. I need to take extra stuff just for her. Yeah, that could happen. Good thinking on my part.

Finally, The Mission Begins

Immediately, a problem arises. I had planned to take my teenage daughter and a host of her friends to the opening night of the Twilight movie. I phone the theatre in advance for showtimes, and all the recording reveals is that there is a midnight sneak preview–on the night before the Storm release.

So, I’m on the way to the Twilight movie midnight preview, thinking of how little sleep I’m going to get before arising the next morning to drive 35 miles (yes, 35 miles) to the Verizon store to wait in line for the Storm.

I get home from the movie (it was great, by the way–but the books are better) at about 2:45 AM. Tomorrow is a work day. And the release of the Storm. I set my BlackBerry alarm (yes, I really use my BB as an alarm clock) and try to sleep. I don’t sleep well at all.

I get up at some ungodly hour–I can’t remember exactly when–and shower, dress, eat a little breakfast, drink some coffee, and hit the road. A little later than I had hoped, but it was the best I could manage.

As I approach the Verizon store, I imagined a line of people already waiting at the door. I strain my eyes and…NO! I see what looks like a long line of people already lined up alone the building right up to the door. More people than the 21 Storms the manager said the store had been allocated. All my planning down the drain?

But as I got closer, it turned out to be just a line of shrubs planted along the side of the building. No people, just bushes. Phew!

And only one car in the entire parking lot–YES!

OK, this story is getting kinda long, so I’ll try to pick up the pace.

I park and walk over to the only other car in the lot and chat with the driver. Yes, he’s a fanatic, too. He just got there 10 minutes earlier.

And get this: the store manager comes out to welcome us, and gives us a colorful Storm card with a ticket number on it. The other guy gets ticket #1, and I get ticket #2. Since there are multiple reps at the sales counter, we’re both going to be first in line. So far, it looks like Verizon has really planned this day pretty well. And we got to wait in our cars and not stand in line. Excellent!

To finish up this long-winded story, here are some key happenings along the way:

  • Way more people showed up than were able to actually get a Storm. 21 just wasn’t enough. Those of us who did our advance planning were rewarded.
  • Overall, the service at this Verizon Wireless store was extraordinary.
  • I was thrown off by some unexpected and disappointing changes by RIM:
    • I had to purchase a car charger, even though I own several duplicates already, because RIM decided to use a different mini-USB connector on the Storm–different from that of the Pearl, Curve, etc. Fortunately, the sales rep knew that and advised me of that change.
    • I had to purchase a case (sleeve) because the Storm does not come with one in the box. Since a BlackBerry is designed to be “aware” of the sleeve (for ringing behavior), I really depend on having a proper sleeve.
  • Unlike my previous BlackBerry purchases, the technical reps were required to set up one email account on the phone themselves. Not sure why, but that slowed down things a lot. Other people in line were giving them wrong passwords, etc., and it was taking way too long.
  • My tech rep accidentally locked the keyboard and was having trouble getting it unlocked. The screen says to press the lock button to unlock it. Well, the lock button-looking icon on the screen, when clicked, didn’t do anything at all. Turns out there are a couple of icons on the top side of the Storm that don’t even look like buttons. But when you press them, the case actually clicks. So, that’s how you unlock the screen, not using anything actually on the screen.
  • It took me a little over an hour to get my Storm in my hands. I was very late to work.

Conclusion

If you read this far, you must be a special BlackBerry fan. If you were a first-day idiot like me, too, then I’m interested in how your experience compared to mine. If you are not an idiot, but plan on being one in the future, I hope this gives you a better idea of what your day might be like.

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About the author

This entry was contributed by Kelly Carter
84 entries have been written by this author.

19 comments on this post

Jim says:
Nov 24, 2008 - 01:11:27

I have debated whether or not to get the storm because I am in need of a new phone. Is the internet on it as fast as the older model Blackberrys? Also, about what is the monthly phone bill for the phone that includes many of the options that are needed for daily functions (ie: email, internet, etc) ?

Nov 24, 2008 - 07:11:16

Jim,
I need more time with my new Storm to give a more reliable opinion, but I can share some current thoughts:

* Web surfing with the Storm is definitely more pleasing mostly because of the much larger screen, and no other model of BlackBerry will come close to that. Yes, it seems faster, but that’s more a function of the network than the phone. Yet the newer technology (including OS v4.7) and much larger memory of the phone probably improves performance over other models. If web browsing is a big plus for you, you can’t beat the Storm.

* At least for Verizon, the cost of BlackBerry plans are the same between models. The plan I use is about $35/month extra. If the plan name hasn’t changed, it’s called the BB Email and Web plan. I think there is a higher cost plan that may offer unlimited data service but I know I don’t need it; it may be useful if you use your phone as a modem for your laptop. I’m guessing that’s in the $60/month ballpark.

* I’m not sold on using a touchscreen, be it the Storm, iPhone, or other. There’s just no way you can beat the speed of a physical keyboard. But it seems the inevitable tradeoff is physicla space on the phone for a keyboard or a screen. My employer provides for me an HTC phone that runs Windows Mobile. It has both a touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard. That makes the phone really thick and heavy. I hate that phone with a passion for several reasons. So, providing a phone with both touch and real keyboards is not the answer, in my opinion.

In conclusion, at this stage of my experience with the Storm, if you really want an Internet phone with superior web browsing ability, and you are willing to accept slower and more error-prone typing with a touchscreen, you may truly love the Storm. However, if you are heavy into email (especially sending/typing) and don’t surf the web all that much, other models like the Curve and Bold will make you happier. You also have to live with whichever models your wireless carrier offers.

Hope that helps.
Kelly

Reggie says:
Nov 30, 2008 - 09:11:43

Hi Kelly
I enjoyed your storm story..I was #21 out of 24 available phones in my area, I didn’t prepare quite as well as you did but managed to get there just in time & was very pleased with my Verizon experience as well!
I am enjoying the big bright beautiful screen so much..I began my blackberry experience with the pearl about a year ago & while I loved (still love) my pearl it is so nice to have the big screen for surfing web sites etc…. I think the pictures ( for a phone ) are very clear as well so I am really very pleased! I am hoping I will get used to the typing on it…I find if I just trust my typing it goes very well but when I focus…ugh! I text & e-mail frequently so this was a big concern but I am getting better every day & would never give up the Storm for a phone with a “real” keyboard… I am not a fan of the Curve ( or Bold )….not enough changes from the Pearl & I think they look like calculators so I think it’s just personal preference.

My question ( finally ) is about memory cleaning? When I first purchased the Pearl your site was very helpful, I was losing texts & needed to get rid of a few things on my phone that I didn’t need. I am wondering if you could let me know what would be safe to delete on the Storm? I am a little afraid that I will get rid of something important so any help you can be is appreciated.

Also, are you having any battery life trouble? I have found it to be fine until I tried increasing my backlight setting…for the first time I was in the red by the end of the day. I trust that when I choose close on an application that is all I need to do to keep it from running continuously? Any help on battery life would be great as well!

I’m very sorry for such a long post! Thank you so much for your site…it’s great & I hope that you are enjoying the Storm as much as I am!!
:-)

Nov 30, 2008 - 10:11:12

Reggie,
Thanks for reading and commenting (especially in such depth–I love it) on my story. Wasn’t sure if readers would care about my experience. Glad you squeaked in under the quota and got one of the Storms at your store!

I’m with you–love the Storm big screen but am still getting used to typing on the screen. Will probably never be a big fan of touchscreen typing, but I’d rather have that than (1) give up screen space, or (2) have a separate (e.g., slide-out) keyboard.

About memory: The Pearl was terrible about memory issues. My Curve has never had any such problem because it was blessed with much more spare memory. I’m hoping the Storm will be even superior to that. So, if you don’t NEED to free up memory yet, I wouldn’t risk deleting stuff “just in case” you might need more memory.

However, if you choose to delete stuff, first–BACK UP your phone using Desktop Manager. I’m superstitious in bit, so I back up the Address Book separately, too (to a CSV file, as mentioned in my article about using Excel to manage contacts).

Then, use Desktop Manager’s Application Loader to remove anything you think you might not need. That approach should allow you to reinstall something if you discover afterward that you actually needed/wanted it.

About battery: I have not yet seen any battery problem, although one day I left the Storm at my parent’s house and returned to find it almost fully discharged. I couldn’t remember for sure if I had left it fully charged, but I thought I had. It would be better for me to actually design some battery experiments and test it “scientifically.” If I suspect any battery issues or see any on my phone, I’ll do some battery testing. Please keep me posted if you continue to believe your Storm is having battery issues.

Please give me suggestions on articles you’d like to see about the Storm. I have a big backlog of articles I’m working on, but most are not strictly about the Storm. It helps me if readers give me hints on what they’d like to keep me pointed in the right direction.
Kelly

Reggie says:
Dec 2, 2008 - 10:12:22

Hi Kelly

Thank you for the advice on memory….I will wait & see if I have any issues before I delete anything…so far so good! I will tell you, I am having a bit of difficulty adjusting to the keyboard…it takes me forever to type on it so I’m hoping that I will improve soon.
I was wondering if you had any tips for typing errors. I can’t seem to move my cursor around very well. Sometimes I end up with one letter highlighted that I can not delete… If I hit the space bar it just moves the letter forward & I can’t seem to get my cursor past it so I can delete it? Is there an easy way to move the cursor…I sometimes see a mistake earlier in the text & can’t get back to the spot that I wish to correct…I do sometimes get there but it seems just random luck rather then it moving back to where I have my finger placed. I’m sorry if this is confusing, I guess I’m just looking for any typing tips that you may have.
I am also having a slight issue answering the phone? yes, answering the phone..lol. It seems if I try to answer it with the touchscreen ( where it says answer ) it doesn’t connect the call, sometimes the answer button seems to bounce around as Storm changes the view of my display so I feel maybe that’s the problem?? I seem to only be able to answer calls by hitting the actual green phone button ( I know, just do that but I’m just curious if you are having the same trouble with the touchscreen answering ).
All in all, still very happy with the Storm…it’s just such an adjustment compared to Pearl so I’m having some growing pains…..
Thanks!
Reggie

Dec 3, 2008 - 01:12:05

Nice post. The storm is amazing! the most advanced BB to date. The audio and video is so crisp

Dec 3, 2008 - 07:12:11

@Reggie,
I, too, am struggling with the touchscreen. And I think everyone will–there’s just no way it can be superior to a “real” keyboard. Yes, there is tactile feedback from the screen clicking, but it’s not the same as a single key providing that feedback from both touching and pushing. A touchscreen, from an engineering point of view, is simply the best overall tradeoff to allow a small, thin phone with a big screen. Touchscreens on desktop computers have been around for years but have never come close to replacing conventional keyboards, and I don’t think they will anytime soon.

About answering the phone: my Storm is on an alternate phone number of mine that nobody calls. So, it’s not seeing a lot of “real world” use yet. I’m waiting a bit longer before I switch over day-to-day use on it. I really need to just take the plunge and do it, don’t I?
Kelly

Dec 3, 2008 - 07:12:25

@BlackBerry Videos,
Yes, I love the Storm for playing music videos.
Kelly

Dr. Black says:
Dec 11, 2008 - 11:12:03

Hi It’s a question rather than a comment. My wife has her address book in excel. I can’t find any instructions about how to import it(presumably as an excel csv file) into her Curve. Part of the problem is that I’m using Desktop Manager v4.6.0.13 so the images I’ve found on line don’t match up. A second possible issue is that what I have seen says to use a MS DOS csv file, but I can’t do that when I open the file in excel 2007.

Dec 12, 2008 - 07:12:17

Dr. Black,
I have an article about that at http://newbbie.com/2008/01/19/managing-contacts-in-the-address-book-using-excel/. It is for a slightly older version of Desktop Manager, so the screenshots won’t perfectly match your screens, but I believe it’s still very close. And, yes, you can do all this in Excel 2007, as it does have a “Save As…” “CSV (comma separated value) .csv” option.

Here are the important steps in using Excel to manage your Address Book for your situation:

1. Use her Curve to first EXPORT her Curve Address Book in CSV format to your computer (general directions to follow). If her Address Book is currently empty, enter at least one contact in it just for this purpose. Open the exported CSV file in Excel and study the column headings: you’ll need to get her existing Excel addresses in this same format. The data under each heading has a specific format that must be matched, too. For example, I seem to remember that phone numbers must not have hyphens or parentheses in them–just numbers. This may be time-consuming, but still much easier than entering them all in by hand.

2. In Desktop Manager, the process is a bit clumsy, if you ask me. First, you have to set up DM for “synchronization” (not “synchronize” yet). You have to set it for synchronization FROM the Device TO the ASCII Importer/Exporter (which is a confusing way of saying “to the computer, in a text format). You also have to make up a file name for it to save to, such as AddressBook_2008-12-12.csv, and let DM create an empty file by that name.

3. After completing Step 2, then you connect up the Curve and run the Sychronize function. That runs the synchronization up the way you just set it up. It will export the Curve’s Address Book to the aforementioned file.

4. Now is when you open the resulting file to understand the format of the file.

5. You might want to start with only a few records from your wife’s Excel addresses to test your understanding of how all this works. Change those records (headings and cell data) to match the BlackBerry Address Book format.

6. Return to DM and change the Synchronization setup to reverse directions so that it will sync FROM the ASCII Importer/Explorer TO the Device. And run Synchronize.

7. Use the Curve to examine the Address Book entries that were imported. If you find mistakes, you might need to delete the entire Address Book and repeat until you get everything just right. You can delete the entire Address Book in DM, but you can ask me about that later, if you need to.

I hope the length of this reply doesn’t scare you into not trying it. If you read the comments left by readers of my Excel article, I think you’ll get a feel for how successful most readers have been in doing this. If you’re pretty handy with Excel, you should do just fine. Return and ask more questions if you need to.

Kelly

P.S.–I’ve considered rewriting the article for a newer version of DM, but there are so many versions being used by people, I’m not sure if that would help or not. I’m currently using version 4.7 because I bought a Storm, and that’s what it came with.

Deb says:
Dec 30, 2008 - 01:12:50

I have a Pearl and am experiencing horrible memory problems. Is there something I can do to increase the memory in the phone? Sadly, I’m not very tech savvy so I’m hoping either you or one of your readers can help. I’ve deleted unused/unneeded items and have received some relief that way but not enough. While I’m not dropping texts or emails anymore, I can’t take pictures and perform other tasks that I’d like. I also find that I’m a fanatic about deleting emails and texts in instances when I wouldn’t mind keeping them around for awhile. Can anyone help with this question? Is there something I can buy to add to the phone to increase memory? Thanks for your help.

Dec 30, 2008 - 08:12:21

Deb,
I have two very important articles that you must read. The problems you’re experiencing are very common, and there are definite measures you can take to improve the situation. Please read these, then come back and ask if you need more help:

Article on Pearl Memory Problems

Article on SoftReset–A Terrific Application that Helps

Kelly

Deb says:
Jan 6, 2009 - 11:01:44

Thanks Kelly – The info on the Pearl was extremely helpful!

ace says:
Jan 8, 2009 - 06:01:42

This looks like a nice site. Just found it googling “Ascii importer address book
“. I am trying to send a text file to my father’s Storm for contacts. In the Desktop Manager, I found the mapping page and deleted the arrows that didn’t match my fields in my access query. I put the access query in the same order as the DM then exported at text. I just gave it a name and put in on my desktop. When I did the DM sync setup I browsed to the file on the desktop and it loaded in a light grey color. After ten tries, It keeps coming up with the same 186 deletions occured bla bla bal. And we get nothing. Sounds like I am supposed to use a special file name or tell DM a name but don’t know how to. Thanks for any assistance.

ace

Jan 8, 2009 - 09:01:32

ace,
I’m not sure if I followed all your details, but it sounds like you were doing basically the right things. Let me suggest something slightly different. First, export your dad’s Storm’s Address Book to an ASCII (comma separated value, CSV) file. It’s actually good if it has at least one good contact in it so you can see not only the headings but the format required under each heading. For example, phone numbers must be formatted as general numbers with no hyphens, commas, decimal points, etc. Open that exported CSV file in Excel and examine it closely to understand the headings and cell formats under the headings.

Next, open the text file of desired contacts in a separate Excel file. I’m assuming it’s in CSV or similar format that Excel approves of. Now, copy and paste from one file to the other until you’ve moved all the contacts into the file with good headings. Do any reformatting and clean-up that’s necessary. Save that resulting file in CSV (which is one kind of text file) format. The name of the file isn’t that important, but keep it simple like “Contacts.csv”.

Now, try to import that file using Desktop Manager into your dad’s Storm. If you kept all the headings intact and got all the cells formatted correctly, it should import perfectly.

I hope that helps. It’s easier to show than describe in writing.
Kelly

P.S.–If all else fails, you can email me the text file if you’re willing to trust me with that data. I should be able to fix it. I can’t do this for everybody, but I can do it for one or two.

Joseph Adler says:
Jan 30, 2009 - 10:01:14

Macon is not the 2nd largest city in Georgia. It is the 6th. Reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_(U.S._state)#Ten_largest_cities

Jan 30, 2009 - 01:01:32

Joseph,
You’re right–I was wrong. I’m not even sure where I got that statistic, but I fixed my article accordingly. Thanks for your feedback.
Kelly

Jenine says:
Feb 24, 2009 - 10:02:19

Thanks for mentioning the unlock button on the top of the screen. I just got my phone and accidentally locked it and was freaking out.

Feb 24, 2009 - 10:02:57

Jenine,
Glad you found my story and it helped.
Kelly

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