Hands-on with the BlackBerry CurBold (aka Tour) from Verizon

Hands-on with the BlackBerry CurBold (aka Tour) from Verizon

Summary: I took a look at both the BlackBerry Bold and Curve 8900 and thought each were excellent devices at the time. The new RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 takes the best of both of these and provides Verizon Wireless and Sprint customers with an outstanding BlackBerry smartphone that is tough to beat when it comes to forward facing QWERTY devices.

SHARE:

I took a look at both the BlackBerry Bold and Curve 8900 and thought each were excellent devices at the time. The new RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 takes the best of both of these and provides Verizon Wireless and Sprint customers with an outstanding BlackBerry smartphone that is tough to beat when it comes to forward facing QWERTY devices. Check out my image gallery for a few photos of the BlackBerry Tour along with some thoughts on the device below.


Image Gallery:

A walk around the RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 from Verizon Wireless.
Image Gallery:BB Tour keyboard Image Gallery: Tour 9630 in hand

The Tour 9630 is the best QWERTY BlackBerry on Verizon and is available now with a camera and without a camera for $199.99 after $70 online discount and with a 2-year contract. The Verizon Wireless Tour comes with VZ Navigator, Visual Voice Mail, and V CAST Music.

Sprint has the BlackBerry Tour 9630 available for $199.99 too after a $200 instant savings and $100 mail-in rebate, with a new line or eligible upgrade. The Sprint version supports NFL Mobile Live, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, and Sprint TV and has some very attractive Everything plans. I can't find anything about Sprint Navigation on the Sprint site and would think this would have been provided.

In the box

The retail packaging is fairly typical for a BlackBerry device with a USB cable, wired stereo headset, travel wall charger, and retail promotional materials and guides. There is also a very nice leather holster that has a belt clip on it, but this inclusion may vary by carrier.

Out of the box first impressions

When I first pulled the BlackBerry Tour out of the box, I was immediately impressed with the solid feel and very comfortable size of it in my hand. CDMA BlackBerry users who have had the 8830 will appreciate the styling and specifications of the BB Tour. After tapping away a bit on the keyboard I discovered it was actually a very functional one that feels similar to the Bold, but in a narrower form factor similar to the Curve 8900. I like the new back cover design as well. Turning it on shows the OS is almost the same as the Curve 8900 with the only real addition being Verizon's included functions, like Visual Voice Mail, VZ Navigator, and V CAST Music, which I will talk about a bit more below.

Specifications

The specifications for the RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 include:

  • Dual-band CDMA/EVDO Rev A: 800/1900 MHz
  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE:1900/1800/900/850 MHz
  • Single-band UMTS/HSPA: 2100 MHz
  • BlackBerry OS 4.7
  • 512 MHz processor
  • 256MB ROM
  • microSD card slot with SDHC support
  • QWERTY keyboard and trackball
  • Integrated GPS/A-GPS receiver
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
  • 2.44 inch 480x360 pixels 65k colors display
  • 3.2 megapixel camera with flash light and auto focus
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1400 mAh battery

    Dimensions:
  • Weight: 4.58 ounces
  • Length: 4.4 inches
  • Width: 2.4 inches
  • Thickness: 0.6 inches

As you can see from the specs list, one major missing component is an integrated WiFi radio. As a person who gets poor Verizon and Sprint coverage at my house I would want WiFi on my device to use it when the network coverage is inadequate and understand that most future devices will include WiFi by default. If you live in an area with good coverage, then the high speed wireless data networks should be just fine for you.

A walk around the hardware

Like the Curve 8900, the BB Tour has the same best BlackBerry display available with a resolution of 480x360 pixels and when you turn on the device that is the first thing you see on the front. Below the display is the excellent QWERTY keyboard. Up until now I thought the Bold had the best QWERTY keyboard on a forward-facing QWERTY device, but I now think the Tour beats it by having the same style and design while making it just a bit narrower so you don't have to reach as much and the device fits better in your hands. I will be using the Tour as the standard for BlackBerry devices in my upcoming King of the QWERTYs series.

You will also find the headset speaker, indicator light, hardware buttons and trackball, and small Verizon logo on the front.

Along the top we find the now standard key lock and mute areas to the right and left of the plastic that rolls up over the top from the front. I find these areas quite easy to use and like them very much.

There is a mic opening on the bottom, but that is all.

The left side has the mono speaker (for speakerphone calls) and a convenience key that you can assign to perform different functions.

The right side is pretty busy with the 3.5mm headset jack, volume rocker, 2nd convenience key, and microUSB port. I like seeing the microUSB port for syncing and charging and hope it continues to roll out as a standard on smartphones.

The back is different than other BlackBerry devices I have tried out in that the latch is set up from the bottom a bit and the mechanism works a bit easier. It is quick and easy to remove and replace, while still having a very nice fitup. However, I have been reading on the forums that this offset latch results in the cover becoming loose quite easily and the latch should be made stronger than it is.

Experiences and some first thoughts

The keyboard and form factor of the BB Tour are just about perfect with a super functional keyboard in a size that is easily pocketable. While it is slightly larger and heavier than the new Curve 8900, the keyboard is improved enough to make that increase worth it IMHO. I don't know how much more RIM can tweak the forward facing QWERTY device to optimize it for size and functionality so it will be interesting to see future device. I am not sure the upcoming optical trackball/controller will be an improvement over the current trackball that I enjoy using.

I never spent much time with VZ Navigator before and enjoyed using it with its quick access to movies & events and local search. GPS fixes were obtained quickly and the software was very functional. The V CAST Music service is powered by Rhapsody and is a nice alternative to Slacker and Pandora. However, V CAST is a subscription service too so be aware it will cost you. I haven't yet gotten the password for the evaluation Tour so I cannot try out their Visual Voicemail feature.

BlackBerry App World is included and fully supported. I was able to fly around the store with the 528 MHz processor on the Tour too and haven't seen any lagging on the device at all.

I think the lack of WiFi may impact business travelers a bit, but with the 2100 MHz 3G support for countries outside North America it may be a trade-off they are willing to make. The rest of the device is just about perfect for a BlackBerry smartphone and I think it will be a real winner. Now, we just need to get this onto GSM carriers, right?

Pricing and availability

As I stated earlier, both Sprint and Verizon Wireless now have the BlackBerry Tour available for purchase so you can go to the stores and check it out yourself too.

This article is a first impressions article of the device and if you want even more in-depth coverage then I recommend checking out the CrackBerry.com review that has a few parts to explore.

Topics: Telcos, Hardware, Mobility, BlackBerry, Verizon

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

5 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Wifi is built in.

    And future software patches are planned.
    Species8472
  • RE: Hands-on with the BlackBerry CurBold (aka Tour) from Verizon

    Of course Wi-Fi is built in... Verizon's inclination to cripple features rather than make them available to users is leading me to switch carriers.
    jas5
  • Cripple features probably not, but it had to many problems

    to be released now with Wi-Fi enabled. When and if they fix it a patch will be released
    Species8472
  • RE: Hands-on with the BlackBerry CurBold (aka Tour) from Verizon

    For those of you who don?t know what Slacker is it is basically an Internet radio provider which allows custom streams to be listened to on your handset, computer or Slacker Portable device, it is available free of charge however supported by advertising and there is limited functionality, however if you are a paying customer there are no ads and a lot more functionality.

    http://www.pupuweb.com/blog/slacker-radio-icon-on-verizon-blackberry-storms/
    cheinyeanlim
  • RE: Hands-on with the BlackBerry CurBold (aka Tour) from Verizon

    Have they fixed the A2DP implementation so that you can listen to your video's through your bluetooth headset? Thats my biggest annoyance with the 8830 and if I knew that was fixed it would be a serious consideration/justification for my upgrading next time my contract comes due.
    (you can do it with the storm, but not the curve or the 8830, dunno about the bold). I keep downloading new OS updates in the vain hope they will get it right.
    amigoid