Hands-on with the BlackBerry Tour

I’ve been using a BlackBerry Tour, Research In Motion’s answer to the BlackBerry Bold for Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other CDMA carriers. They a similar handsets, with some small but important differences. Personally, I prefer the Bold, which I have been using as my primary handheld for a while, but I can think of four main reasons to chose a Tour instead:

  • You have smaller hands and prefer the narrower design.The Tour is just a bit bigger than a Curve.
  • You really don’t like AT&T (or Rogers, if you are in Canada.)
  • You’d rather pay $200, after rebates and signing up for a two-year contract, than $300.
  • You really hate Wi-Fi.

The last point is the Tour's single biggest drawback. I suspect that pressure from Verizon, which still seems to hope that Wi-Fi is a passing fad that will soon disappear, kept Wi-Fi out of the Tour, as it did with the touchscreen Storm. (FierceWireless has reported that Sprint is making Wi-Fi a requirement in all future smartphones and plans to bring out a Wi-Fi-equipped Tour ion 2010.) With any sort of decent Internet connection behind it, Wi-Fi is much faster than the Verizon and Sprint 3G networks. This is especially true deep inside buildings, where 3G coverage is often poor. And the Bold, like most up-to-date Wi-Fi smartphones, can switch seamlessly between 3G and Wi-Fi.

Style is a highly personal matter, but here too I give points to the Bold. In particular, I prefer the Bold's pebbled fake leather back to the Tour's slick and finger-print prone slick and shiny plastic. Also, the battery cover on my evaluation unit, admittedly an early model, did not fit quite right and felt like it wasn't quite closed even though it was. I found the tour's keyboard wasn't quite as good as the Bold's; a slightly smaller keyboard is the price you pay for the narrower design.

Still, the Tour is a solid and capable addition to the BlackBerry lineup, especially for those who want the latest features but don't like the Storm's touchscreen and virtual keyboard. Like the Storm and the 8830 Global (which the Tour will probably replace), the Tour is a dual-technology phone, so if you sign up for an international plan, it will work on GSM/UMTS systems outside of North America. And in the best BlackBerry tradition, the battery just goes on and on.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.