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The Storm comes to Brazil. I am not thrilled.

The fact that I speak English (at least, I try) makes me very insensitive to certain issues that I only realized last week, when I read that the BlackBerry Storm would be officially released in Brazil. But I have a very good reason to be insensitive: I am not running a multi-million dollar company. What is RIM’s excuse? RIM should be very aware of these issues and have addressed them a long time ago.

The announcement says: “Be Prepared. Research In Motion and TIM’s (Brazilian carrier) weather forecast warns you of a storm of changes heading towards Brazil and hitting on March 10. More information coming soon.”

Be prepared, alright. I certainly expect a “storm,” but not a pretty one, and who can blame me for that? I read articles and BlackBerry forums quite often and I know that the Storm has been disappointing a lot of people. A lot. In fact, I know one huge BlackBerry fan who has had just about every single BlackBerry model in the last few years. Please excuse me while I consult him briefly on this matter.

Luciano: – Hello, Greg. Pray tell, isn’t it true that you loathe the Storm so much that you have plans to shoot yours with a firearm in your backyard – in Australia, where it is perfectly legal – and videotape the experience as soon as the novelty wears off for your beloved teenage daughter?

Greg Myers: – Yes, Luc. It certainly is.

Luciano: – Thank you, Greg.

Greg Myers: – No problem, mate.

OK. Back to the Storm and its many problems. That’s when most of you out there get to say “Oh, don’t worry, the latest firmware updates have solved many if not most of the problems.” OK, stop right there. What the hell is a “firmware update”? Go around on the streets with a clipboard and a smile and ask people if they know. Not everyone is prone to spend considerable time on the internets, you know that? And, for those who do, what is their experience like? Well, just see for yourself.

Here is exhibit A. That’s the Brazilian carrier Claro Web site. It requires Flash, so don’t bother trying to get in from your mobile. You’ll have to choose a state to get in. I live in the state of São Paulo, but it doesn’t really matter in the issue at hand. Just pick any one. Once you are in, have fun trying to find information about BlackBerry plans. You don’t speak Portuguese? No problem, just look for the word “BlackBerry”. Finding the devices is very easy, but can you find details on the plans? I can’t. Can you find details on how to download and install a firmware upgrade? Geez, I even had a giggling fit when I wrote this last question.

Here is exhibit B. That’s the Brazilian carrier Vivo Web site. It doesn’t require Flash for everything, but I doubt you can see much from your mobile. Same drill: click around as much as you can and try to find the damn “BlackBerry” name somewhere in that ridiculous maze of a site. Want some help? Here it is: the plans. Hey, do you see what I see? The iPhone is mentioned right there. Is anyone surprised? Information on the BlackBerry is hidden a little further, here. And this page offers some basic suport, but it’s generic to all cell phones, not just BlackBerry phones. And it certainly doesn’t mention firmware upgrades.

Exhibit C is more encouraging. Although there is no mention of “BlackBerry” on the front page or even on the “Data Plans” page, BlackBerry phones are easily found on the “Devices” page. It gets better: if you click around aimlessly for long enough, the corner of your eye might catch the word “Download” in a menu that shows up occasionally and leads you to this page inside the domain. This is good particularly because this is the carrier that is going to launch the Storm in Brazil shortly. But wait. First problem: the drop-down menu doesn’t offer any downloads for the Bold, their latest model. You think the Bold doesn’t need it? Wrong! I’ve seen people complain about the Bold in Brazilian forums. A firmware upgrade solved their woes, but those are people who hang around the internets, they actually have forum accounts. Other Bold owners with better things to do must be cursing their Bolds daily. Second problem: the latest firmware available for the 8300 Curve in this page is…

And the latest firmware available for the Pearl is Hey, 2007 called. It wants its firmware back! So which firmware versions for the Storm can we expect to find on this page when the unhappy Storm owners need one?

Now it’s time to introduce this very nice page. It features firmware download links for probably every carrier in the world that carries the BlackBerry. Nice page, really. But I am so involved with the BlackBerry that I actually write for BerryReview, sometimes articles as long as this one, and even I didn’t have that link at hand. I didn’t have it bookmarked, I had to google and check several search results to find that page. What chance does an “ordinary” BlackBerry user have?

So that page is there and features links to 5 Brazilian carriers. I am on Claro, so I choose it first, and this is how I am greeted:

RIM, what Junior High School dropout convinced you that we speak Spanish in Brazil?!! Or are you so hopelessly broke that you can’t afford a translator to give Brazilian consumers really adequate assistance? What have you been doing with all the money that millions of users worldwide give you every month?

I tried the other carriers and saw that some of them have 4.5 firmwares available, but not the latest. Storm owners are very likely to suffer with the world of pain that the Storm has been inflicting upon the innocent if that’s all the firmware they are expected to count on.

I certainly have rambled long enough, haven’t I? This is an assessment of what awaits any misguided Brazilian soul who ventures into buying the infamous BlackBerry Storm through a Brazilian carrier. Even if (big IF here) it lands here with the latest firmware, the latest firmware doesn’t solve all the problems yet, and the Storm is completely targeted at ordinary consumers who may not be prepared to or even interested in hunting firmware upgrades in the wild and going through the lengthy and scary process, and maybe wipe the device with JavaLoader.exe and start anew in case the upgrade fails (it happened to me once).

The Storm has the potential to sell a lot in Brazil because of the touch screen and that could be a disaster. The BlackBerry is not a popular brand in Brazil. There is no marketing effort in Brazil. Even in the carrier Web sites, the BlackBerry is buried under a lot of other things. The iPhone is not buried. No, it is flaunted with intent because everybody knows the iPhone, it has a lot of appeal. Even in forums populated by die-hard gadget fans, one’s fingers are more than enough to count the number of those who swear by the BlackBerry. Those who take the plunge are always pleased with the experience, but very few take that plunge. Brazilians don’t dislike the BlackBerry, they just don’t know it. So the Storm will be a lot of people’s first BlackBerry here and it could be a terrible first impression that may taint the brand’s reputation for years.

Maybe a portion of this whole scenario is the carriers’ fault, but no one is going to blame a carrier when their Storm phone is throwing the fits it has become famous for. Everyone is going to curse the BlackBerry brand, and rightly so. RIM should be overseeing all these issues, their name is on the line. You would think that a company with all that money and history would dedicate a lot more attention to detail and doing things right. Who is in charge of this? Is anyone watching the front door of the building? It’s the kind of thing that boggles my mind.

Please use the comment section below and let us know what this whole situation is like in your country. Feel free to comment on how you’re getting along with your Storm too.

9 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Luciano:
    Entertaining read. However, I don’t think the issue is a fair indictment of the Storm. Yes the Storm has its issues, hell I’m typing this on my Storm and boy is it a pain. BUT, having also used the “others”, in our world of accepting mediocrity the Storm is not awful. This REALLY has nothing to do with the Storm specifically, it is across the board on ALL current phones. Every BlackBerry smartphone released in the past year or so is massively deficient on the OS/firmware front. Pearl Flip, Bold, Javelin, Storm, Nextel Curve, on and on. Firmwares both released and leaked and are so buggy and in many cases have made phones LESS usable! It is really unfair to characterize this as a Storm problem.

    I think RIM recognized the threat of iPhone and HTC and gPhone and said “oh shxt” and rushed some underdeveloped hardware out the door with a bandaided OS on them. It is apparent to me looking in from outside that RIM hasn’t seen the problem yet and is still just patching holes in the dike rather then building a better one. OS 4.x needs to be kicked to the curb and the 5.x needs to be a complete and total paRadigm change for RIM. It is very hard to make a massive overhaul such as the BlackBerry OS needs but Nokia and Apple and Google and even Microsoft are moving at light speed compared to the snails pace of RIM OS development. If they want to compete, if they want to be relevant in the smartphone market of tomorrow, they can no longer rest on their corporate laurels and their dominance in mobile push email. Others can and will beat them at the email game and without that as their ace in he hole the rest of what BB OS does has already been surpassed by practically everyone else.

  2. Would anyone care to agree that the bold at&t release happens to be the only stable bold out there in comparison to other carriers? Was it worth the wait?

    • John S., I have to disagree…

      I’ve had a Bold on the Rogers Network in Canada since LONG before AT&T first launched the Bold and I’ve never had any problems whatsoever.

  3. What a lot of pointless diatribe.
    If you don’t like it , don’t buy it!
    I personally don’t like Ford cars but I won’t waste my time writing about it , I just buy another brand.
    Get a life.

    • hardly. there’s some good arguments in there. Maybe it’s not that balanced but it levels some good criticisms at RIMs strategy and the way it’s addressing it’s customer base both new customers and loyal. Yes it’s a recession but there’s some things RIM shouldn’t compromise on. I may still buy a Storm but I’ll probably advise my less tech savvy friends and family not to having read this. if you don’t like it, don’t read the article.

  4. I don’t know if this is a Storm bash, or a BlackBerry bash!
    Even .65 that was released with the Storm was not that bad.
    The reason there were so many people complaining about the Storm in the forums are for 2 main reasons from what I can tell.
    #1 Alot of people switched from the physical keyboards of other BlackBerries to this touchscreen. (Including Me) It was a hard learning curve! Blackberry users were so used to how fast they were able to do things on their former devices, that using a touchscreen was hard to get used to. Very frustrating. — But after the long learning curve and the introduction of more 3rd party apps , it is just as capable. I still have my Curve 8330 that sits in my drawer. I love my Storm MUCH more than I could ever love my Curve again. Never thought I would say that in the beginning. (learning curve) :)

    #2 ALOT of brand new Blackberry users picked up the device.
    Many people came from “dumb” phones to the world of Blackberry.
    The Blackberry is NOT a simple phone like an iphone!!
    It is a technical phone that is much more capable than any iphone or a “regular” cell phone.
    Blackberry usrs NEED to be able to install 3rd party applications, updates, have a PC at home. The blackberry and the use of a personal computer go hand in hand.
    There are many Storm users who just switched to a Storm because the iphone was not offered on their carrier, and they thought a Storm was like an iphone. Wrong! It is not. It is a Blackberry!!

    3rd party apps have been coming out now like crazy! The Storm has only been out for 3 1/2 months. It just keeps getting better, and better.
    If your the type who does not want to “have to” download updates and applications for your “phone”, then you don’t need a Blackberry period!
    Go get a razr or an iphone, or something simple, and stop complaining that the blackberry is not up to your standards.

    Yea, it seemed that there were alot of people complaining about the Storm. What percentage of the people that loudly complained vs. people who had the Storm that didn’t?
    My point is that just because a certain percentage of people complained very loudly, it doesn’t reflect everybody.
    Sorry if I’m ranting, but if you don’t like the Storm, don’t buy the Storm.

  5. @DavidB, I think you almost have a point. All BlackBerry models benefit from the occasional firmware upgrade, right, but the Storm is an extreme case. I’ve never seen a phone receive so many complaints from the user base. That makes the Storm an extraordinary case that warrants an extraordinary level of concern.

    @Ted and James, thanks for the input. Now that you know the way, don’t be a stranger. :-)

    @grayzweb: You advocate the use of a supposedly more complex device that requires a firmware upgrade once in a while, and that such practice is OK. You missed one important point, though: you speak English! So do I, and that’s why I describe myself as “insensitive” in the article. I know my way to BerryReview, to BBForums and many other places, and I can understand every piece of official and unofficial information that is shared on the internets. But what is made of people who don’t speak English? The Brazilian carriers don’t give any information at all about it, most people are not even familiar with the concept of upgrading firmware. One carrier provides a link hidden deep somewhere, and the destination is written entirely in English. Few people will find the link, and most who do will not be able to use it.

    Besides, frankly, the idea that being more complex and high maintenance is OK is utter rubbish. No one but you supports that notion, not even the phone hardware companies (e.g. RIM) themselves.

    In fact, there is an underlying issue here that has been screaming inside my head for a while: RIM has been taking too much of a sideways, “underground” approach to the way they dispense these firmware upgrades to us instead of being aboveboard and actually useful. This is the true root of all these problems.

  6. Omg what rubish, who cares what country RIM sells they BlackBerries. They are ONLY two things in my life that will be touchable,” MY WIFE” and she is nodding her head …lol and my GPS. I will NEVER own the storm! This is my 2 cents.

  7. Luciano –
    What firmware version and languages put out are dictated by the carrier. RIM is more the happy to provide newer version and languages. The carrier determines what they want and how it is put out the public. You are going after the wrong entity here.
    Additionally you’re not recognizing that the Storm has a tremendous amount of attention behind it and the flip side is that issues get amplified. All BlackBerry® devices come with their own issues. When you put a massive marketing campaign behind a device things get put under the microscope more often.

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