The BlackBerry Storm showed why you should never turn a touchscreen into a button

The BlackBerry Storm showed why you should never turn a touchscreen into a button

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In 2007, the iPhone ushered successful an epoch of touchscreen gadgets that caused astir buttons to vanish from our phones forever. But determination was 1 little infinitesimal successful the gray, transitory haze betwixt buttons and touchscreens that an improbable institution tried to fuse the 2 together. BlackBerry divided the quality by boldly asking, “What if a touchscreen was also a hardware button?”

Thus was calved the BlackBerry Storm, a instrumentality whose full touchscreen doubled arsenic a pressable button. The Storm was 1 of the archetypal (and last) attempts to bridge the bequest world of carnal keyboards and the modern satellite of touchscreens. But to recognize the beingness of the BlackBerry Storm and its bizarre clicking screen, we archetypal request to spell backmost and recognize BlackBerry astatine the tallness of its powerfulness — and wherefore it wanted to support buttons alive.

To BlackBerry, buttons were the full constituent of its products. When you representation a BlackBerry telephone successful your head, you’re not seeing an interchangeable slab. You’re seeing a afloat QWERTY keyboard that spans the little 3rd of a phone, with impossibly tiny keys that are someway cleanable to benignant on. A BlackBerry without the ubiquitous, clicky keyboard for firing disconnected BBM messages and emails was hardly a BlackBerry astatine all. Even the company’s logo evokes the chiclet keys that built its brand.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

But adjacent the astir beloved buttons can’t bushed backmost the inexorable waves of progress: touchscreens were the future, and BlackBerry had to leap connected board. As Steve Jobs commented successful his now-famous 2007 iPhone introduction, phones similar the BlackBerry oregon Palm Treo “all person these keyboards that are determination whether you request them oregon not to beryllium there, and they each person these power buttons that are fixed successful plastic.” And arsenic such, they’re incapable to accommodate to circumstantial applications oregon idiosyncratic interfaces. It was an reflection that would precede the announcement of the touchscreen-only iPhone and the opening of the extremity for hardware buttons connected phones.

BlackBerry got the message. And so, successful 2008, the institution made the Storm, its archetypal touchscreen phone. At the time, the instrumentality had a 3.25-inch screen, overmuch larger than its then-typical 2.5-inch screens. And it didn’t person a carnal keyboard.

Instead, the Storm had a unsocial “SurePress” display: alternatively than keyboard buttons, the entire display was a gigantic fastener that could beryllium clicked down similar a trackpad. On an iPhone, you simply tapped distant astatine a virtual keyboard with nary existent denotation that you were pressing anything. On the BlackBerry Storm, you physically had to “press” each cardinal to type, implicit with an ultra-satisfying “click” sound, acknowledgment to the mechanical power underneath.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

It was a large idea, successful theory. In practice, the Storm was unspeakable to benignant on. (There’s a crushed we usage tons of small keys to benignant alternatively than 1 elephantine button.) The immense surface connected the Storm was dilatory and had to afloat little and rise earlier you could property different key. The lightning-fast typing that BlackBerry powerfulness users had grown utilized to slowed to a glacial gait — typing retired 1 missive astatine a time.

The institution would effort to tweak the look connected the Storm2 a twelvemonth later, replacing the azygous mechanical power with four piezoelectric switches astatine the corners of the show (making it imaginable to “press” aggregate keys astatine once). It besides added a full-size QWERTY keyboard successful vertical predisposition (where the archetypal lone offered a unusual two-letter-per-key option). But adjacent then, the SurePress exertion wasn’t bully capable to replicate the feeling of typing connected 1 of BlackBerry’s mean keyboards.

BlackBerry tried to connection customers the champion of some worlds erstwhile it made the Storm; instead, it managed to harness the worst qualities of some carnal hardware and touchscreen typing. It resulted successful a laggy, dilatory acquisition that wasn’t peculiarly enjoyable oregon casual to benignant on. The carnal elements were louder and much fatiguing for users than a accepted QWERTY keyboard, without immoderate of the tactile benefits of aggregate hardware keys. The added friction from the carnal power detracted from immoderate large benefits of a touchscreen for typing, too.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

It’s nary wonderment that BlackBerry would wantonness its SurePress exertion soon afterward: successful 2010, its consequent flagship, the BlackBerry Torch, would connection a show that was the aforesaid size arsenic the Storm but with a accepted BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard.

BlackBerry would bounce betwixt afloat touchscreen devices and its acquainted hardware keyboard for years aft the Storm (even offering some successful galore cases). But the institution ne'er tried to physique a tactile touchscreen again.

Because portion buttons tin beryllium a bully mode to usage a telephone — and touchscreens tin beryllium a bully mode to usage a telephone — a monolithic touchscreen-button hybrid turned retired to beryllium a unspeakable idea.

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