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The 411: Touch-screen durability

Every two weeks, CNET editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories in The 411.

Welcome to the 411, my Q&A column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of queries about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might be wondering about the same things, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.

Hi Nicole, I'm thinking of upgrading my mobile phone in the near future. I've been a BlackBerry user for the past couple of years, and I've really given this thing a beating. I have dropped it more times than I can count, sometimes at a great enough velocity to send the battery cover flying well past the rest of the phone. What I am wondering is, how durable are today's touch-screen phones? I've heard that the Pre is particularly fragile. Are the OLED devices any better or worse? Would you recommend someone like me sticking with a non-touch device, since once you crack a touch screen, you are left with an expensive paperweight? -- Jay, via e-mail.

If you abuse your phone that much, I would say touch-screen phones are probably not the best for you. Touch-screen phones usually have a glass surface as the display, which, of course, is particularly susceptible to cracking. You might consider a durable case of some kind to prevent everyday nicks and scratches, though. There are also many manufacturers that make scratch-resistant screen overlays, like the Zagg invisible shields, for example. But if you're truly concerned, then yes, perhaps a more durable phone is in order. You can check out phones like the Sonim XP3 Quest or the Casio Exilim C721, both of which are rugged enough to withstand the elements. Check out our reviews of other durable phones, too, if you want more options.

The HTC Touch Pro 2's keyboard is very roomy
The HTC Touch Pro 2's keyboard is very roomy. Josh Miller/CNET

I am due for an upgrade in October and was seriously considering a BlackBerry Tour on Verizon Wireless. The only thing is that I have big hands and while some people might laugh it makes for an uncomfortable experience on those BlackBerry devices. My question is this: Does RIM have any plans on coming out with a BlackBerry device that has bigger keys? Or am I doomed to never be able to use a BlackBerry device at all? -- Stu, via e-mail

RIM has been pretty consistent with the size and shape of its BlackBerry handhelds, so I don't think RIM will enhance the size of its keyboards any time soon. You might want to consider another smartphone if you prefer larger keyboards. The HTC Snap, Samsung Jack, and Nokia E71x offer slightly larger keys, but the roomiest one by far is the keyboard on the HTC Touch Pro 2.

Kindly advise me on which is the better choice between the Blackberry Bold and the Blackberry Tour. I am gonna be using the phone mostly in USA (with AT&T), but I also want to use it when I am overseas. I think the answer would be the Blackberry Bold, since it is offered by AT&T, but if the Tour can be used overseas on a GSM-based carrier then can't I use it with AT&T once I get it unlocked? (The only reason I would want Tour over Bold is price.) Will be awaiting the reply impatiently. -- Harshil, via e-mail

As you know, the BlackBerry Tour is locked to either Sprint or Verizon Wireless (depending on which carrier you go with) when you're in the United States. Sprint and Verizon have agreements with various GSM partners around the world, so you can use the GSM network abroad, but when you're in the U.S., you'll have to use either Sprint or Verizon Wireless. You are right, though: there are ways for you to unlock the Tour so you can use it locally, but it can be tricky. (You can try asking the carrier if it'll do it for you, or you can try seeking out third-party assistance.) And you might not gain access to certain data services. Since you're already with AT&T, the Bold might be a lot easier for you to use.