Last year, RIM launched a touchscreen BlackBerry smartphone that fell short of being the iPhone beater it hoped (see our original BlackBerry Storm review). At 158g, it was too heavy, seemed rather too large and we weren’t convinced by the way the touchscreen itself sat within the handset’s base and physically shifted with our every touch.

We could see what RIM was trying to do – namely create a touchscreen handset that gave something back in response – but the need to press hard to enter every character made text and web address entry slow going.

For the BlackBerry Storm 2 the unresponsive screen has been rethought with new sensor pads underneath the transmissive touchpad that recognise nuances of touch and that also offer a degree of affirmative feedback to the user.

Typing on the quad-band, Wi-Fi, 3G handset’s touchscreen keyboard is therefore a little faster, while RIM has also improved the predictive typing. You still can’t type terribly fast on it, but the same is true of all the touchscreen phones we’ve tried.

Onscreen icons are large enough to easily and accurately select and you need only gently place your finger on an item for it to glow back at you in affirmation that it recognises your touch. Navigation therefore feels faster and is a more pleasing experience.

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The new BlackBerry Storm 2 model is slimmer and lighter than the original Storm smartphone too, while the sole hardware keys are now tucked beneath the glass fascia. Hardware buttons around the edges, meanwhile, are encased in rubber, rather than being ridged silver metal. You therefore feel where the camera button is or the one to lower the volume. This subtle change doesn’t make much odds to the Storm’s usability.

What does, though, is the new focus on intelligent communication – RIM has learnt a lesson from Palm and is talking up the usefulness of being able to see who and from which applications incoming messages and conversation threads originate, be that phone, email, instant message, Facebook and so on. Solid business communication and connections have always been the BlackBerry’s core strength, matched only by the Palm.

The web browser remains a little off the superlative execution of the iPhone, but the BlackBerry Storm 2 serves up the real web with acceptably fast page load times and the ability to jump immediately into a full-page view of a story and straight back out again.

BlackBerry Storm 2 in pictures

The excellent bright, QVGA screen makes viewing photos and video on the BlackBerry Storm 2's 3.8in screen a joy and with both iTunes support and a searchable media player and photos you can immediately save, rename or send on to a friend or upload, it doesn’t disappoint on the entertainment front.

We found taking photos on the Palm Pre easier, to be honest, due to the physical shape of the handset, but the BlackBerry Storm 2 is no better or worse for taking snaps than the iPhone and has the advantage of a zoom and a flash.

The BlackBerry Storm 2, of course, comes with the BlackBerry App World download store – something that launched a couple of months after the first Storm model launched. Accessible from an icon on the main screen, it’s not as well populated as Apple’s App Store, but has a useful selection of free and paid-for productivity tools for the incessantly in touch and some fun timewasters for the rest of us. Several hundred apps are offered.

NEXT: our original review of the BlackBerry Storm 2, from the US >>