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Is the storm over for the Storm?

An operating system upgrade that makes major improvements to the troubled BlackBerry Storm has been released, making the smartphone smoother to operate and use.
Image: BlackBerry Storm
The BlackBerry Storm should be smoother now in terms of response time and fewer bugs with a major update to the smartphone's operating system.Research In Motion

A major operating system upgrade that makes badly needed improvements to the troubled BlackBerry Storm has been released, making the smartphone much smoother to operate and to use.

Research In Motion's first all-touchscreen smartphone, considered to be one of the leading iPhone competitors of the year, now behaves more responsively and quickly with an operating system upgrade from OS to OS, made available by Verizon Wireless, the phone's exclusive carrier in the United States.

The wireless carrier called the Storm its "fastest-selling device to date," with many waiting in line to buy it when it went on sale Nov. 21, a phenomenon previously seen only with Apple's iPhone.

However, despite the enthusiasm for the device and its strong sales, many BlackBerry enthusiasts and newcomers to the land of "CrackBerry" were disappointed with the Storm and its buggy software, three touchscreen keyboards and out-of-whack accelerometer, a motion sensor that didn't seem to sense motion very well in terms of shifting the screen from landscape to portrait mode.

The accelerometer now seems to behave as it should. Clicking on Web links on the phone's screen also seems to be faster and smoother, as does the camera shutter on the device.

The keyboards will remain a matter of personal taste, with those who are used to Research In Motion's excellent physical keyboards finding it jarring to use the touchscreen keyboards, which still leave room for errors and frustration.

One Storm user I've been e-mailing with sent this message from her Storm yesterday when I asked her how she liked it: "I'm learnrng a little bit by bit. Ill let u ko more later qhw. I am ag a normal kwyboafd."

Deciphering hieroglyphics is not what most smartphone users want with their devices, which offer Web and e-mail service.

Storm users should find the upgrade available to them on the phone with an icon that shows up in first place on the screen and says "Wireless upgrade." I was using the Storm for awhile last night when the icon showed up, close to midnight ET.

There is no charge for the upgrade — as there shouldn't be. However, Verizon Wireless does say that network charges may apply for the airtime minutes needed to do the upgrade. It can take up to two hours, the company says, although it took me about 15 minutes to go through the download set-up steps, then a half-hour for the actual download.

During the time the phone is being upgraded, you will be unable to use it at all, even for an emergency call. So you may want to consider using the "schedule" feature Verizon Wireless offers to do it at a time of your choosing, when you absolutely don't need to use the phone, see e-mail or Web surf.

Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda B. Raney said that customers were notified starting last week about the "availability of the upgrade to their BlackBerry Storms. They have the option of going to our Web site or they can check for upgrades on their Storms and download the upgrade over the air. Customers can upgrade their Storm at their leisure."

The upgrade can also be done by connecting the phone to a PC and going to RIM's Web site.

My advice: Do it as soon as possible.

The fixes appear to be for both the phone's software, as well as firmware (software that affects a device's hardware).

The Storm costs $199.99 after committing to a two-year contract with Verizon Wireless and mailing in a $50 rebate.

Both RIM and Verizon Wireless have said little about the Storm's initial problems since its release, which has been dismaying. Silence has not been golden in this case.

"Having used many other Research In Motion devices, I can't remember a device being released with so many bugs," said Allen Nogee, In-Stat Research's principal analyst for wireless technology and infrastructure, last week.

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