by Al Sacco

RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 (Verizon, Sprint): How to Tell if the Tour’s for You

Jul 13, 20095 mins
Computers and PeripheralsConsumer ElectronicsData Center

The BlackBerry Tour 9630, RIM's newest BlackBerry, is now available in the United States. But with so many smartphone options--Pre, iPhone, myTouch 3G, etc.--it can be difficult to determine which device is best for you. Here's a breakdown of the BlackBerry Tour to help inform your buying decision.

Research In Motion (RIM) has released its latest addition to the BlackBerry family: the BlackBerry Tour 9630 from Verizon Wireless and Sprint. Though the Tour’s nothing revolutionary, it’s sure to put countless smiles on the faces of CDMA-BlackBerry users across North America. Here’s how to tell if the new BlackBerry Tour should be your next smartphone.

images of both Verizon Wireless and Sprint BlackBerry Tour 9630
Verizon Wireless and Sprint BlackBerry Tour 9630 (via CrackBerry )

First off, the most important factor of all: Do you live, work or spend most of your time in a “good” Sprint or Verizon wireless coverage zone? After all, no device on the planet is going to get the job done without sufficient wireless coverage–especially with no Wi-Fi, but I’ll get to that shortly.

The best way to determine if you reside or work in an area with strong Sprint or Verizon coverage is to speak with a friend, colleague, neighbor, etc., who uses Sprint or Verizon on a daily basis. Get general impressions of each carrier’s coverage in your areas. Then check out the appropriate online coverage maps. (Verizon here and Sprint here.) And visit a Sprint or Verizon store to speak with company representatives. In other words, do a bit of research.

If you find that Sprint or Verizon coverage isn’t up to snuff where you roam most often, you’ll probably want to avoid the Tour–at least for now.

Next, the device itself and some quick technical specifications from RIM:

  • 528-MHz next-generation processor

  • Dual-band CDMA/EV-DO Rev A (800/1900MHz); World Phone, Quad-Band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz); UMTS/HSPA (2100MHz)
  • Built-in GPS
  • High-resolution (HVGA+ / 480×360), light-sensing display
  • Enhanced Web browser
  • DataViz Documents To Go
  • Advanced multimedia player with support for streaming video
  • Support for BlackBerry Media Sync (iTunes playlist sync)
  • BlackBerry OS v4.7
  • Expandable memory slot for up to 16GB of storage
  • 3.2 MP camera with auto focus, digital zoom, flash, image stabilization and video recording
  • Support for the renowned messaging capabilities of the BlackBerry platform, including push e-mail, popular instant messaging applications and premium phone features

The features that really catch my eye here are the processor speed; the device’s support for a wide array of wireless networks, both GSM and CDMA; the new BlackBerry software, OS v4.7; and the 3.2 megapixel, auto-focus camera.

None of these features are really unique to the Tour; in fact, both the Sprint- and Verizon-branded versions of RIM’s 8830 are “World Phones,” meaning they work on both CDMA and GSM networks, as does Verizon’s Storm 9530 device. The Storm also runs on a 528MHz-processor and has a similar version of BlackBerry OS 4.7 meant for touch-screen devices. And most of RIM’s latest handhelds, from the Storm on (Curve 8900, Tour, etc.), have 3.2 megapixel cameras with auto-focus.

The Tour is basically a BlackBerry Curve 8900-size and 8900-style device with a Bold 9000-like keyboard.

But the Tour is special in that it’s the first “new” CDMA BlackBerry–besides the Storm, Curve 8350i and Pearl Flip 8230–to hit the United States in more than a year. Many Verizon and Sprint users have been patiently awaiting the next new, full QWERTY CDMA device while their friends and colleagues on GSM carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T ran around with shiny new Curve 8900s and BlackBerry Bold devices. Now CDMA subscribers can have their days in the sun–at least until the Onyx drops.

Though the BlackBerry Bold sports a faster, 624-Mhz processor, the Tour’s 528-MHz processor combined with the new BlackBerry OS v4.7 build make it one of the smoothest running BlackBerrys on the block. (Think: Speed with minimal process lag-time.)

The Tour’s 3.2 megapixel camera’s also impressive, and though I haven’t spent any time with it specifically, I’m very familiar with the BlackBerry Curve 8900’s identical camera. And its image-quality and auto-focus make it one of the best mobile phone shooters I’ve used.

However, there’s one gaping whole in the Tour’s total package: Wi-Fi. The Tour 9630 does NOT have Wi-Fi. In fact, it’s one of only a few new BlackBerrys that lacks the functionality, along with Pearl 8230, another Verizon device. Verizon is notorious for offering full-featured devices without Wi-Fi and the Tour is no exception. I’ve mostly come to expect this from Verizon–shame on you, Big Red–but I’m not sure of Sprint’s excuse.

In this day and age, Wi-Fi should be available on all high-end devices, especially a BlackBerry smartphone. This lack of Wi-Fi support is a deal-breaker for me personally, and I refuse to even consider a Verizon or Sprint device without it.

I live and work in an area with decent Verizon and Sprint coverage. However, as soon as I enter my office building or sit down in my second-floor living room at home, I lose almost all Verizon/Sprint wireless signal. AT&T and T-Mobile have better coverage in my area, but these networks are also weak inside the office or in my condo. However, all of my AT&T and T-Mobile devices have Wi-Fi, so this is less of an issue.

The Tour’s also reasonably priced at $199.99 with a new, two-year Verizon/Sprint contract. That’s the same price as the Palm Pre, which is also on Sprint, as well as the 16GB iPhone 3GS on AT&T. As far as service-plan-fees, Sprint tends to offers more competitive prices, but you should investigate individual plans on your own.

If you’re looking for a cheaper BlackBerry options on Verizon or Sprint, the Curve 8330 and Pearl 8230 (Verizon only) could fit the bill. Both devices can be had for $100 or less.

Bottom line: The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is without question the best option for BlackBerry users on Sprint or Verizon–at least if you want a top-of-the-line device with a physical keyboard. It’s also reasonably priced at $200 with a new wireless service commitment. The Tour lacks Wi-Fi, which is a major downside, but if Wi-Fi’s not a necessity, you really can’t go wrong with RIM’s latest BlackBerry.


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