The long-awaited BlackBerry Tour has arrived, and to much deserved fanfare.
The Tour is the CDMA version of the Bold, successfully building on the strengths of prior models, and features a number of improvements and enhancements. This is a world-capable phone with a built-in SIM card.
Lets run through some of the specs to show just how much of a punch the BlackBerry 9630 packs.
The 2.4” screen is glorious. With a 480 x 360 pixel resolution (as compared to the Curve, which had a 320 x 240 resolution), images are extremely crisp, colors are true, well differentiated, and text is easy to read.
Prior models had to play funny with color, since the resolution simply was not high enough to provide true-to-life colors, presenting instead a kind of color gray scale. This display provides vivid colors from a large pallet that can reproduce over 65K colors, and virtually eliminates any bleeding at the edges. The Tour’s display is one of the best available on any phone currently on the market.
The Tour is powered by a 528 MHz Qualcomm powerhouse processor aided by 256MB of onboard, dedicated RAM. Like the Tour’s display, the processor is one of the fastest, most powerful on the market.
What this means to the user is that response times are much quicker. Whether you are loading an application or browsing the web, you will be pleased to find the device very responsive. Also, where some BlackBerry models have suffered from freezing and lag, the Tour does not. Loading the BlackBerry App Store, for example, takes only a few seconds, whereas with both the Curve and the Storm it took considerably longer.
HTML Web Browsing:
The moment you pull up a web page you’ll notice that the Tour provides a far richer internet experience. This is because you can now view pages as they were meant to be seen, rather than a watered-down, “mobile version”. Navigating a web page is easy with the Tour, because you simply scroll up and down, and left and right, zooming in on whatever you want to read. I also found interacting with web pages jitter-free. A real pleasure.
The Tour measures in at 2.4” x 0.6” X 4.4” inches and weighs 4.6 ounces. It feels extremely comfortable in the hand, not too big or small, and one is immediately impressed with the quality build materials. Nothing cheap to be found on this device.
The now legendary full QWERTY keypad is near perfection. While it’s true there are no spaces between the keys, the ingenious manner in which RIM blends subtle frets between the rows of keys, combined with the heavily-contoured/sculpted keys themselves makes typing a true joy. The firm, sure response the keys provide when touched adds an additional level of confidence and pleasure when typing.
The microSD card slot is located under the battery. Some folks make a stink about this, but the fact is, most people rarely interact with the memory card once it’s installed, so why not keep it out of the way?
The left spine contains a convenience key and external speaker, and the right spine houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, volume buttons, a second convenience key and the charging port. This charging port is a new, micro design, and you’ll want to be careful when placing the cable as there is a small, thin wafer just inside the port that could chip and break if you shove the cable in too quickly.
Features and Enhancements:
The Tour boasts an excellent 3.2 megapixel camera that includes flash, image stabilization and auto focus, moving the whole “camera thing” from an afterthought to a true, well-designed, meaningful feature that users will love. The clock has been enhanced too, allowing you to select between analog, digital, flip and LCD digital. There is also a stopwatch and timer.
With the launch of the Tour comes the launch of BlackBerry Messenger 5.0, also included, which is an enhanced messaging service that lays the groundwork for an upcoming social networking service.
Another nice touch to the Tour is that they’ve added a volume icon on the display, set at the top by the battery strength indicator. Scrolling to the icon makes adjusting the volume simple. And speaking of volume, the external speakers are excellent. Much louder than prior models. This makes phones calls on speakerphone as well as music more enjoyable.
Talk time is rated at five hours, and standby time is up to 14 days, both an increase over prior models. Keep in mind that these ratings are very subjective and depend entirely on how you use your phone.
RIM has cleaned up the display by adding an Application folder which stores all the apps you’ve downloaded, such as Viigo and Ubertwitter. Instead of every app being on display, requiring a lot of scrolling, now all you have to do is click the folder and select the application you want.
What’s in the Box:
While what you receive in the box may differ from carrier to carrier, I can at least tell you what I received when I purchased my Tour from Verizon. It came with various international adapters, a nice leather case, a 2G microSD card, home charger, headphones, and a well written manual filled with tips and shortcuts.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of BlackBerry and recently sold my Curve and bought a Tour. I am immensely pleased with how it feels, looks, functions, etc. This really is the new flagship device for BlackBerry and if you have been curious about the Tour you’ll love what you’ll find. If you have been considering upgrading to a smartphone, I highly recommend the BlackBerry Tour 9630.