The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is one of the newest CDMA offerings available now for Sprint and Verizon -- and what a great offering it is.
The Tour boasts mobile broadband, GPS, a 3.2 megapixel camera, a 1 GB expandable microSD card, usable keyboard, and SIM card for international usage. All this is rolled up into a light package that fits nicely in your pocket and is reasonably priced at $200.
DESIGN & BUILD
Research in Motion has hit its groove in good design with its most recent BlackBerry offerings.
Overall, the Tour is comparable in size and weight to the BlackBerry Curve. Unlike other RIM models such as the Bold or Storm, this will sit comfortably in your pocket or purse. Specifically, it's 4.4 in. by 2.4 in. by 0.6 in. (112 mm x 62 mm x 14.2 mm), and its weight is 4.6 oz. (130 g).
The 9630 boasts a rich screen with impressive contrast and sharpness. The physical size of the screen is smaller than the Storm and Bold, but about on par with the Curve. However the resolution is higher (HVGA -- 480 x 360 pixels) which produces a sharper, clearer, crisper image on the device. If you're considering switching to the Tour from a Curve the experience will be much richer. However, if you're coming from a larger-screen phone it'll take some time to get used to the downsize.
After un-boxing the phone I immediately noticed an alarming annoyance with the display. When I pressed any buttons on the top row, the bottom left corner of the screen would ripple the same way an LCD monitor would if after being pressed. I asked a local carrier about this, who informed me that even the BlackBerry representative was aware of this but it was "normal." This probably will not cause long-term screen damage but for me it is a considerable "peace of mind" concern.
Keyboard, Buttons, & Trackball
The Tour has rubbery keys that are easy to type quickly and accurately on, which suites messaging -- long considered BlackBerry's strong suite. Many BlackBerrys such as the 8900 Curve have keyboards with plastic keys that have spaces between them that are more difficult to type on. The Tour has the easier to use rubber keys, though they are a little smaller than the Bold or 8800's keys.
Another improvement is that the keys that double as numeric keys (diagonally W-C) have their numeric counterpart in red, which provides a good contrast for new users looking at the phone wondering how to dial. The top row of keys (Talk, Menu, Return, End/Power) are sized proportionately to the rest of the phone. These keys were too large on the Bold, too rectangular on the Storm, but appear to be just right this time around on the Tour.
On the top side of the device there is a rocker button that has a lock/unlock on the left, and a button to go into power-saving standby mode on the right. Unlike the right and left convenience keys, these top rocker keys are not customizable.
Unlike some other models, the trackball does not light up, but stays a dark black. It is easy to roll, you can configure its sensitivity, and it feels more raised than some other BlackBerrys.
Overall, the Tour is good looking and stylish, however, there are a few things that irk me. The standard-headphone jack on the right hand side is immediately above the volume keys. If your headphones have an L-shaped connector, your access to the top key can be obstructed.
Also, the micro-USB charger is about three-quarters down the right hand side of the device. This will prove difficult to type or talk on the phone while it is charging. This has been a complaint of mine for other BlackBerrys, but unlike some others, the Tour's battery life isn't terrible, so this scenario probably won't happen often.
I would have liked to see the volume keys a little bit lower.
Finally, the back cover needs to be removed in order to access the microSD card. Average users probably will not change their card as often as I do so this likely won't be a problem, but it would be nice to see some side-access to the card.
The back panel covers nearly all of the back of the device. The release mechanism for this cover is flush within the cover's face near the bottom for easy access as compared to others models such as the Bold.
This panel looks sharp, with midnight blue finishing, and it does a good job of covering the entire back side of the device. Not being made out of metal (read: Storm) means that this will stay at a comfortable temperature even in heat or extreme cold!
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