Is the BlackBerry Tour Worth the Hype?
What it is: The latest and greatest CDMA BlackBerry device -- in other words, it runs on Sprint and Verizon Wireless's networks -- and quite possibly the best BlackBerry ever.
Why it's different: It seems as though it's been an eternity since a new QWERTY-keyboard-equipped BlackBerry has hit the market for CDMA customers. While our BlackBerry-toting GSM brethren with T-Mobile or AT&T plans have had later and more evolved devices (with larger, brighter, crisper screens, and more spacious keyboards), the rest of us have been stuck with older models (or annoying touchscreen Storms) on Verizon Wireless and Sprint for months. The Tour is the first next-generation BlackBerry for Verizon and Sprint customers that brings the hardware into the year 2009. It sports a better and more full-featured browser than its predecessors, the Curve 8330 and 8830 World Edition, a higher resolution camera (3-megapixels), and a faster processor.
What we like: The size and feel of the BlackBerry Tour is near perfection. Coming in at .6-inches thick, it isn't the slimmest smartphone on the market, but the 2.4-inch width adds to the solidity of the device. It isn't as wide or as tall as its GSM counterpart -- the BlackBerry Bold -- but it feels great in your hand. The screen is incredibly vibrant and crisp, and text looks clear and lively on it. We also love the keyboard, which is both mushy and tactile at the same time. It's not as gummy as the keyboard on the Bold nor as hard as the keyboard on the Curve -- it's just the right balance between the two, making for smooth typing of text messages and e-mails. We also like the rubberized feel all around, and think it'll stand up to more abuse than if it were just hard plastic. Another bonus: This is a world phone, so that even if you're on a CDMA carrier in the US, you can use the Tour while traveling overseas. If you're lucky (or willing to pony up the cash), you can even get a carrier unlock, which will let you use it with SIM cards purchased in other countries when you get there.
What we don't like: For a flagship device, the Tour is disappointingly lacking in Wi-Fi capability. It seems to have every other type of connectivity -- Bluetooth, GPS, CDMA, world GSM -- but Wi-Fi is noticeably absent. Verizon and Sprint have made commitments to add Wi-Fi to future BlackBerry devices, but for the time being, youll have to make do with 3G mobile broadband (not so great if you want to download a lot while, say, roaming at high rates in another country). There's also a fairly large bezel around the screen, which leads to a hefty amount of dead space that we feel could have been used towards providing a larger screen. The battery life also isn't stellar, but it should be able to get most people through the day (provided they don't surf the Web or talk on a Bluetooth-enabled device non-stop).
Is it worth the hype? If you're a BlackBerry diehard stuck with Verizon or Sprint, absolutely. There's no doubt that the Tour is the best CDMA BlackBerry to date, and it smashes every older model with a physical keyboard to pieces in terms of specifications. We'll bet that there are a lot of Bold users eying the Tour for its smaller form factor and slightly more subtle aesthetic, and many who will actually switch. It isn't the cheapest device snag, but it's comparable to the iPhone and Bold on AT&T, and we're sure that some resellers will offer additional rebates or price cuts for new customers. Either way, the Tour packs quite a punch and we wouldn't have any problems recommending it to even the biggest BlackBerry junkie.
What it costs / where to get it: $199.99 with a two-year Verizon or Sprint agreement (includes a 2-gigabyte (GB) microSD card with Verizon, 1-GB from Sprint). You can buy the BlackBerry Tour here.