updated 03:10 pm EDT, Mon October 12, 2009
Storm 2 at Vodafone first, then Verizon
The BlackBerry Storm 2 should finally appear this week and represent RIM's best hope for challenging the iPhone, leaks claim today. British newspaper The Guardian states as a matter of fact that the touchscreen BlackBerry is due to launch this week first through Vodafone as the 9520 and that it will be priced with a plan inexpensive enough to lure iPhone users, as it will only need a £30 ($47) monthly plan to use versus £34 ($54) for Apple's handsets.
Verizon's model, the 9550, is rumored to be showing up significantly later and, according to a Phone Arena insider, won't involve training until November 7th. Since training is normally held a week or two before the actual release, this puts an actual ship date on the 14th or 21st of next month. The month-long delay is suspected of being a reaction to the flawed launch of the original Storm last year, where bug-laden software damaged the reputation of the phone until it was patched two weeks later.
The Storm 2 is expected to be a subtle but in many ways major improvement that addresses obvious criticisms; in particular, it replaces the often-criticized mechanical click-down touchscreen with a piezoelectric system that generates physical response but which may still allow basic multi-touch and speed up typing. It will also add Wi-Fi, a feature that had been stripped out when Verizon hoped to push customers towards using its paid services over 3G.
Verizon has had a muted commentary on the Storm since launch. Although eager to report selling a million units weeks after release, it has since remained silent and has instead been heavily discounting the phone to as little as $50 on a contract months ahead of the Storm 2's release.
A video of the near-final phone (seen below) has also been posted this weekend.