early on Thursday finally committed to a final release date and price for its version of the BlackBerry Storm. Initially announced over a month ago, the first touchscreen phone from RIM will be available on November 21st through the carrier and is conspicuously priced at the same $200 contract price as Apple’s from rival AT&T after factoring in a $50 rebate. The cost difference is effectively a trade-off as the device drops the 8GB of storage and full multi-touch display in favor of a 3.2-megapixel camera with video capture, a dual-format CDMA and GSM radio, microSDHC storage and a touchscreen that “clicks” to produce physical feedback. The equal pricing points to heavy subsidies on the BlackBerry, which is a closer match to the iPhone in hardware and so carries the same risk of softening earnings by pushing Verizon to absorb much of the up-front pricing in exchange for more lucrative customers, which will need to subscribe to a data plan alongside voice and thus pay their provider more each month.
Verizon is claimed by some sources to have deliberately forced out Wi-Fi from the Storm and may have done so to prevent subscribers from using a voice-only or low-end data plan to skirt around the company’s 3G network. It also goes without the iPhone’s tri-band 3G in what’s believed a move to prevent customers from porting the Storm over to AT&T.