Editors' note: The ratings have been adjusted since the original publish date to reflect newer devices that have entered the market.
Long awaited, the RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 has finally arrived in town, and it's putting on quite a show. As the replacement to the RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, the Tour offers 3G world roaming capabilities and brings a number of improvements in all three departments of design, features, and performance. While we're disappointed by the lack of Wi-Fi and other minor annoyances, the pros far outweigh the cons. It's one of the strongest smartphone offerings from Verizon Wireless, and its business customers will be well-served by this device. The RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 will be available from the carrier starting July 12, for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $70 mail-in rebate.
The RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 looks like the lovechild of the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 and the RIM BlackBerry Bold, inheriting some of the best traits of the two smartphones. In terms of size, the Tour is more similar to the Curve 8900, though slightly bigger and heavier at 4.4 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and 4.5 ounces. (The Curve comes in at 4.2 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 3.8 ounces.) Still, the device is much more pocketable than the Bold and the BlackBerry 8830. Plus, the extra weight gives the phone a satisfyingly solid feel, and the back of the phone also features a partial soft-touch finish for extra durability.
The Tour features the same screen as the Curve 8900. It measures 2.4-inches diagonally and shows 65,536 colors at a 480x360-pixel resolution. Images and text look crisp and vibrant, and and colors pop off the screen.
Like the Curve and Bold, the Tour features an updated user interface that's fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. Several of the menu icons look similar, so they can be hard to distinguish at a glance, but overall the user interface is very straightforward and easy to navigate. You can rearrange the icons and organize them in folders, and as always, you can customize the home screen with background images and themes.
Below the display, you'll find the Talk and End keys, a menu shortcut, a back button, and a trackball navigator. Pressing the Alt and menu key will bring up an application switcher where you can toggle between tasks, but we found it more convenient to assign the switcher to one of the convenience keys located on the left and right sides of the phone. To program these buttons, simply go to Options > Screen/Keyboard and scroll down to the left and right convenience fields to assign an app or task to the controls.
For text entry, the Tour offers a 35-key QWERTY keyboard that is reminiscent of the one found on the Bold, which is a good thing. Obviously with the Tour's more compact frame, the keyboard isn't quite as roomy as the Bold's but still features good-size buttons. To prevent them from feeling too flat, the rectangular keys have a slight ridge and a white backlight makes the letters and numbers (highlighted in red) easy to see in darker environments. We were quite happy using the Tour's keyboard. Plus, the keyboard just had a more high-quality feel compared with the Curve's where the buttons felt a little plasticky. Our only minor complaint is that the outside keys are a little difficult to press, since the downward slope of the buttons make them a bit flat against the edge of the phone.
Other features of the BlackBerry Tour's design include lock and mute buttons on top of the device. In addition to the aforementioned convenience key, there's a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Micro-USB port on the right. Finally, the camera and flash are located on back, while behind the battery cover, you'll find the SIM card and microSD expansion slots.
Verizon packages the RIM BlackBerry Tour with a load of accessories, including a travel charger, three international adapters, a USB cable, a stereo headset, a 2GB microSD card, a SIM card, a swivel holster, a Global Support Kit, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
As the replacement to the RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, the RIM BlackBerry Tour offers dual-mode functionality (supporting dual-band CDMA and quad-band GSM networks) for world roaming capabilities and ships with a SIM card. With this capability, the phone switches automatically between CDMA and GSM networks to offer seamless international roaming--all while keeping the same phone number. In addition to voice coverage, the BlackBerry Tour supports the 2100MHz UMTS/HSDPA band, so you can get 3G support overseas, while working on Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A network domestically. In all, you'll get voice coverage in 220 countries and data coverage (e-mail and Internet) in 175 countries. Be sure to check the international roaming rates for voice calls and text messages before you head off on your trip: Verizon's rates can get pretty pricey in some areas, ranging from 69 cents up to $4.99 per minute. You can find the carrier's international plans here.
Other phone features include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. The Tour also supports Visual Voice Mail, but be aware that this service costs an additional $2.99 per month. The phone book is only limited by the available memory with room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can attach a contact photo, group ID, or a custom ringtone.