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Review: Verizon Blackberry Tour

phonesWith my recent contract expiration, Verizon entitled me to a discount on a new phone.  Since Windows Mobile 6.1 was continually locking up my Samsung i760, I decided it was time to finally move off the Windows Mobile platform.  Had Verizon introduced an iPhone, that would have been my phone of choice, but I decided to take the Blackberry plunge to their “latest and greatest,” the Tour.

Having prolonged usage of the Samsung i760 and the Apple iPhone 3G, I am familiar with them and their usage and compare and contrast them as I use my new phone.

Trackball The first item of note with a Blackberry is its trackball, a feature I am less than pleased with.  Attempted to scroll becomes an arduous task as the ball sticks as you attempt to scroll around and often does not move thru the menus in the way I want.  Often scrolling through the applications on the home screen, I find my cursor jumping to the sound control above them.

Screen While the Tour’s screen is nice and bright, it lacks a touch screen.  When attempting to scroll through menus, I want to jump straight to the item of my choice, but have to move clunky through the interface to get where I want to go.  If there was a simpler way to move through the menus than the trackball, it might become less of an issue.

Applications Without a doubt, the iPhone wins this category with its robust application store, selection and interface, but the Blackberry selection is adequate for using on a phone.  I didn’t play many games on the i760, so that wasn’t an issue for me, but the three apps that I centered on were Flickr, Facebook and Ubertwitter.  Ubertwitter was a good Twitter client and serves its purpose well.  The Flickr app would not successfully login to the Flickr website and as such, makes the application a complete failure for me.  The Facebook app worked poorly and ultimately the mobile website was deemed more useful, but I did like how it synced my contact list with the Facebook website to add details and pictures to my contact list for when I make and receive calls.

Quitting Applications When done with an application, it’s important to reclaim the memory for battery longevity and to use with other applications.  While the iPhone only allows one application to be active at a time, Windows Mobile would leave an application running if you clicked the close X in the upper right hand corner.  Windows Mobile also had a Memory Manager that would allow you to End Application and cause the program to stop running.  Clicking Close in the Tour’s menu doesn’t always seem to exit the application and I can’t seem to find a way to properly exit them.

Battery Life The iPhone is notorious for its need to be charged almost hourly, the Tour sides with the i760 in its ability to go a day or two without charging, depending on usage.  I have had days where it looks like I just took the phone off the charger and others where the Tour’s battery has been severely run down.  As someone who charges their phone every night, the battery life suits my needs perfectly.

Camera While the i760 and iPhone have mediocre cameras at about 1 megapixel each, the Tour has a 3.2 Megapixel camera and built in LED flash that takes crystal clear pictures and video.  A big improvement over the other two phones, and it captures those moments where I would regret not having a good camera with me.

Media Player I almost never listened to music with the i760 because it required a headphone adapter and never sounded that great, and the iPhone is an iPod with a phone built in.  Having limited usage of the music and video features of the Tour so far, due to carrying an iPod in addition to the phone, I cannot give it a fair assessment, but the little I did sounded decent, and with the Pandora streaming music app and the lack of a need for a headphone adapter, I can see myself making use of the music on occasion.

Email My main email account is with Gmail, so my requirement is a phone that syncs well with Google’s email service.  Both the iPhone and i760 make use of Gmail’s IMAP service, but the Tour uses Blackberry’s push technology to deliver email.  The instantaneous receiving of email instead of the checking every predetermined amount of time is nice, I don’t like how the emails don’t get marked properly between the server and phone.  The phone can mark an email as read or deleted, but if I read it on the computer, the phone remains unaware of it.

Keyboard I am not someone with overly large fingers, but the Tour’s keyboard keys are very small and hard to use compared to the other two phones. The iPhone’s on-screen keyboard does require a learning curve to use and can’t be touch typed, but serves its purpose.  The i760, on the other hand, has a keyboard that slides out from underneath the phone to give big comfortable keys that are easy to use.  It’s also notable that the Tour’s backlighting on the keys has gone out while I have been typing in a room that was fairly dark, making it even harder to use at that time.

Phone Of course the main reason to carry any of these devices at all is to be used as a phone.  The Tour has a nice, rich sound and gets a signal most places I go, making it ideal to use as an oral communications device.  It also paired easily with my bluetooth headset to talk on the phone while driving.  The only problem with the phone is the need to use the chicklet keyboard keys to dial a phone number, which often leads to mistyped numbers.

The Blackberry Tour is an adequate phone to lead my foray into the world of Blackberry phones, but the scroll wheel and tiny keyboard make me rethink the viability of long term usage with this phone.  If Verizon had an iPhone, it would be my phone of choice, but since they do not, I’m contemplating Verizon’s policy to exchange a phone within 30 days.

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