I’ve been playing around with the BlackBerry Tour 9630 on TELUS and I’ve put together my impressions, pics and some Bold and 8900 comparison points. This BlackBerry Tour is not a commercial unit, so while it’s running final code, it didn’t come with all the branded packaging – not that you would really care.
In general, this device is where the Curve 8900 meets the Bold. This is indicative of RIM’s latest device strategy of making hybrids to satisfy a gray area of customers, while working on the the more evolutionary devices which take longer to produce. This strategy is summed up as follows:
“You may not love every BlackBerry released by RIM, but rest assured there is a BlackBerry for everyone.”
Now let’s take a deeper look at this device.
The device came with OS 220.127.116.11 so I wish I could show you some new OS features but there is nothing new here. OS 4.7 is almost identical to the OS that comes with the BlackBerry Storm, except of course you’re browsing with a trackball. The build seems really solid and I haven’t had any white screens of death or crashes since I have been playing around with the device. I wish RIM would launch OS updates a little faster as customers are spending considerable amounts on these devices and they deserve an OS that can compete with the other smartphones on the market. I’m thinking BlackBerry devices will probably start shipping with OS 5 later this year. Hopefully we’ll see it on the BlackBerry Storm 2, with a similar port to trackball devices soon after.
The screen of the BlackBerry Tour is the same size as the BlackBerry Curve 8900 (480×360), with a Half-VGA resolution, as per the BlackBerry Bold. The colors look great on this device and it’s clear that RIM has made sure to satisfy the video and media needs of consumers with this device.
As the BlackBerry Tour 9630 is a hybrid of the Curve 8900 and the Bold, here are some points relative to each device:
The BlackBerry Tour Relative to the Curve 8900
One of the first things I noticed while handling the Tour is that the battery casing moves ever so slightly just like the 8900 does. On the device I’m using, the issue is less prevalent than with the 8900, but it still worries me that this will be exacerbated over time. Over the course of a year, this issue becomes much like Chinese Water Torture: almost unnoticeable at first but will drive you mad over time.
In terms of form factor, another small but noticeable difference is with the trackball. For some reason, RIM has decided to make the trackball on the Tour is a little more recessed. While this isn’t a big change, I personally like the trackball better on the 8900 as it makes for easier scrolling.
The battery on the Tour is the same battery that comes with the Storm and the Curve 8900. This leads me to believe that RIM has made a conscious effort to standardize the batteries on BlackBerry devices, which is huge for owning multiple devices and sharing battery life. Now, if you buy 5 BlackBerry batteries, you have extras for yourself and your fellow BlackBerry addicts.
While reviewing this device, I noticed that the speaker on the Tour is louder than the 8900. This isn’t so much an improvement, just different. I personally have never found the speakers on the 8900 to be quiet and they’re more than enough for listening to music (rarely without headphones) and conference calling.
The BlackBerry Tour Relative to the BlackBerry Bold 9000
The battery casing on the Bold was just incredible. With the ability to switch it out for leather backs and various colors, it would have been nice to see this on the Tour. While the battery casing isn’t bad, it’s sort of awkward to look at. You can look for yourself in the pics, but it’s something about the fact that the hinge is in the middle of the case makes for an awkward release. Compared to the Bold, it’s a little easier to remove, but I still want RIM to make the battery casing experience easier in general. The Storm casing was the apogee of awkward battery case removals.
The battery on the Tour is great considering it’s a CDMA device. Compared to the Bold, I found the battery life much better, which is strange considering the Bold’s battery is bigger and it’s a GSM phone. It could be for the simple fact that my Bold is older than the Tour, but I suspect there is more to it.
The speakers on the Tour 9630 are definitely less loud than the Bold. This was a little strange to me as speakers seem to be a consumer-centric feature, while the Bold was positioned as a more enterprise device than the Tour.
The keyboard on the Tour is borrowed from the Bold. It has the same ergonomic keys as the Bold except for the keyboard feels slightly more cramped than on the Bold. It’s an incredibly small difference but while typing on the Tour, the keys felt ever so slightly smaller than the Bold, yet drastically larger than the 8900. Personally, I like my keys to be more separated, and I would have liked a keyboard experience closer to that of the 8900. Given RIM’s device strategy, I know that device isn’t far away.
The first thing that hit me when I saw the official BlackBerry Tour specs was that it does not have WiFi. How can RIM still be releasing devices with no WiFi? It’s bothersome for the 8900 and a blessing on the Bold. If you were going to take the best from both worlds, it seems to me that you would definitely include it.
Other than WiFi, this BlackBerry offers a ton of incredible BlackBerry features for the Power User. Many users, not myself included, will love the Bold keypad, and the 8900 feel to the device makes it a very sexy device to have in your pocket.
This device fits nicely into the RIM product line and reflects their current market which is 50% consumer and 50% enterprise. The BlackBerry consumer will appreciate the 256MB of RAM and the 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera, while enterprise will appreciate the World Phone hardware and the Bold keyboard.
Relative to the other CDMA BlackBerry devices on the market, this is the finest BlackBerry to date. I’m still curious how the battery has managed to be so powerful, and if I were a TELUS subscriber, I would be upgrading immediately.
More Pics of the BlackBerry Tour 9630 from TELUS