BlackBerry Tour 9630: Is This the Phone for You

Research In Motion (RIM) has released its latest addition to the BlackBerry family: the BlackBerry Tour 9630 from Verizon Wireless and Sprint. Though the Tour's nothing revolutionary, it's sure to put countless smiles on the faces of CDMA-BlackBerry users across North America. Here's how to tell if the new BlackBerry Tour should be your next smartphone.

First off, the most important factor of all: Do you live, work or spend most of your time in a "good" Sprint or Verizon wireless coverage zone? After all, no device on the planet is going to get the job done without sufficient wireless coverage--especially with no Wi-Fi, but I'll get to that shortly.

The best way to determine if you reside or work in an area with strong Sprint or Verizon coverage is to speak with a friend, colleague, neighbor, etc., who uses Sprint or Verizon on a daily basis. Get general impressions of each carrier's coverage in your areas. Then check out the appropriate online coverage maps. (Verizon here and Sprint here.) And visit a Sprint or Verizon store to speak with company representatives. In other words, do a bit of research.

If you find that Sprint or Verizon coverage isn't up to snuff where you roam most often, you'll probably want to avoid the Tour--at least for now.

Next, the device itself and some quick technical specifications from RIM:

* 528-MHz next-generation processor

* Dual-band CDMA/EV-DO Rev A (800/1900MHz); World Phone, Quad-Band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz); UMTS/HSPA (2100MHz)

* Built-in GPS

* High-resolution (HVGA+ / 480x360), light-sensing display

* Enhanced Web browser

* DataViz Documents To Go

* Advanced multimedia player with support for streaming video

* Support for BlackBerry Media Sync (iTunes playlist sync)

* BlackBerry OS v4.7

* Expandable memory slot for up to 16GB of storage

* 3.2 MP camera with auto focus, digital zoom, flash, image stabilization and video recording

* Support for the renowned messaging capabilities of the BlackBerry platform, including push e-mail, popular instant messaging applications and premium phone features

The features that really catch my eye here are the processor speed; the device's support for a wide array of wireless networks, both GSM and CDMA; the new BlackBerry software, OS v4.7; and the 3.2 megapixel, auto-focus camera.

None of these features are really unique to the Tour; in fact, both the Sprint- and Verizon-branded versions of RIM's 8830 are "World Phones," meaning they work on both CDMA and GSM networks, as does Verizon's Storm 9530 device. The Storm also runs on a 528MHz-processor and has a similar version of BlackBerry OS 4.7 meant for touch-screen devices. And most of RIM's latest handhelds, from the Storm on (Curve 8900, Tour, etc.), have 3.2 megapixel cameras with auto-focus.

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