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New BlackBerry Storm 2 smartphone extends Verizon's reach

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The Storm 2. Well, we're not going to give BlackBerry any points for creativity. But the new smartphone, which will be powered by Verizon Wireless, could cut deep into a market dominated by Apple's iPhone.

According to a release from Verizon and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, the Storm 2 "evolves the BlackBerry touchscreen platform with hundreds of hardware and software enhancements" and extends the "communications capabilities customers have come to expect from their BlackBerry smartphones."

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Translation: There are some cool features here. Chief among them is a tricked-out suspension system called "SurePress," which gives the touchscreen the same clickability as a traditional keypad. And the phone itself gets an aesthetic revamp – see photo at right – from some new chrome accents to a stainless steel backplate. Verizon Wireless says the Storm 2 can make calls in more than 220 countries, and access data in 185.

You know, in case you've got a really busy itinerary.

The BlackBerry Storm 2 will be available on Wednesday. Factor in all the rebates, discounts, and a two-year contract, and the price tag comes in at just under $180.

Meanwhile, owners of the original Storm will get a free update to the new 5.0 BlackBerry OS, which Research in Motion says will improve usability and include "visual enhancements such as inertial scrolling, spin boxes that make it easier to set dates and times, gradient shading on buttons, and more use of animation."

Aside from the Storm2, Verizon has also been busily touting a new smartphone called the Droid. According to early reports, the Droid, which is manufactured by Motorola, will include a full QWERTY keyboard, a 5-megapixel digital camera, an interchangeable battery, and a 854×480 touchscreen.

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