October 14, 2008 in Business

Gadgets

 

Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, is taking on Apple Inc. with a touch-screen phone that puts a new twist on the technology.

RIM is known for its e-mail-oriented phones with large keypads. With the Storm, a new model announced last week, RIM is for the first time giving up the physical keypad in favor of a large screen, just like the one on Apple’s iPhone.

But RIM has listened to users who find the iPhone’s glass screen awkward to type on because its virtual buttons provide no tactile feedback. The Storm’s screen is backed by springs, and when pressed, it gives under the finger.

The long-rumored Storm will be available from Verizon Wireless in the United States and from Vodafone Group PLC overseas before the holidays, the companies said. No price has been announced.

In an unusual twist, the phone will work both on Verizon Wireless’ network and on Vodafone’s, even though they use incompatible technologies. Like a few other Verizon Wireless handsets before it, the Storm will be equipped with radios to handle both networks, making international roaming a possibility. The iPhone, carried by AT&T Inc. in the United States, already can roam internationally.

The addition of a touch-screen phone to the BlackBerry lineup, the mainstay of e-mail-addicted executives and managers, is a testament to the effect of the iPhone. RIM’s share of the U.S. smart-phone market has stayed above 50 percent, but the iPhone has clearly helped expand that market. The iPhone’s facility with Web browsing and movie playing are big reasons for its appeal. The Storm will initially lack an equivalent of Apple’s iTunes movie store, though shorter clips will be available through Verizon Wireless’ VCast service.

Verizon Wireless is the last of the four national U.S. brands to unveil a flagship touch-screen model. AT&T has the iPhone, Sprint Nextel Corp. sells the Samsung Instinct, and T-Mobile USA just announced the G1, the first phone to run Google Inc.’s software.

The Associated Press

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