While some of the most important mobile phone manufacturers are trying to technologically advance with each device they are throwing on the market, Research in Motion seems to slack big time. Furthermore, it has become well-known that BlackBerries are no low-budget devices, as the company has a pretty narrow market niche, now mostly interested in the email services these smartphones provide.
BlackBerry Tour 9630 is no exception to this and, as a consequence, doesn't come up with anything new, with one tiny exception. As it has been targeted at the North American market, the gadget can be used on two network standards: CDMA and GSM. PureMobile has been kind enough to lend us a brand new BlackBerry Tour 9630, so we can share our thoughts about it.
Launched in July 2009, BlackBerry Tour 9630 was made available on the market the same month. RIM fans can buy the smartphone for around US$350, unlocked and without any plan, but a fee will be required if use on CDMA network is needed.
When it comes to design, BlackBerry smartphones are not surprising at all. I knew how the phone would look like before even opening the sales package. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not a cool-looking phone, but I have yet to see a BlackBerry that doesn't feature the same old "pie" form factor. In the light of those stated above, I would say that for BlackBerry users, there's nothing new compared with some of the latest devices launched by the company. Blackberry Tour 9630 is a standard business phone, stylish, discreet, compact and shiny. Even though it misses the leather-like plastic on the back, I was content with the feel of the gadget when kept in hand.
The phone is surrounded by a silvery metallic stripe for protection against drops. It is all shiny on the back thanks to the plastic used, which, surprisingly, doesn't catche fingerprints. The front part is mostly occupied by the 2.4-inch display and the usual full QWERTY keyboard. Between them, the regular set of keys can be noticed: Accept and Reject calls keys, Menu key and Back key.
The small trackball used for navigation has been included and works really well with most of the applications. The keyboard layout is almost the same as the other recent models. The exception comes from the fact that each key has been "cut" so it will be easier to be pressed, thus giving more responsiveness overall. Moreover, it seems they have been split into two vertically, so the keys on the left part have a small pin to the right, while those on the right part have their pin on the left side. Below the keyboard, you will notice a brand logo depending on what device you have bought: Sprint or Verizon. Above the display, there are an in-call loudspeaker and a small ambient light sensor.
On the right side of the smartphone, there are a 3.5mm audio jack port, a dual volume key, a dedicated camera key and small microUSB port. The left side of the handset has a voice dial command key and a small loudspeaker. On top, there are two almost invisible keys placed on the left and right edges and can be used to lock the device or set it to silent profile. The 3.2-megapixel camera on the back doesn't look to be protected and features a flash LED for night pictures. The microSD slot has been placed under the metallic back cover near the SIM and doesn't imply pulling out the battery.
BlackBerry Tour 9630 measures 112 x 62 x 14.2 mm and weighs 130g (including battery). If you already have the 8900 Curve, you will find this one very similar in terms of design. Overall, the former has a decent solid built and looks pretty stylish for a business phone. Still, those looking for something new from RIM will be disappointed.
Display and Camera
BlackBerry Tour 9630 has a TFT 2.4-inch display, supporting 65k colors and a half-VGA 480x360 pixel resolution. Pretty unusual for a BlackBerry smartphone, but in a positive way, this time. The medium-sized screen does its job very well. Thanks to its different resolution, it is wide enough to provide an immersive Web browsing experience. The quality of the images on the screen is high-standard, with excellent brightness, vivid colors and very good contrast. Also, the screen is perfectly visible in strong sunlight, which has become quite a common thing for the latest smartphones from RIM. Overall, the quality image is pretty high for a BlackBerry business device.
The 3.2-megapixel camera has little protection against scratches, but it includes the autofocus ability, geo-tagging and also an LED flash above. This will enable users to take night pictures, but to really get something that can be tagged as "picture," you will need to be very close to the subject.
Otherwise, the camera interface is rather standard with settings such as: Color Effect, Geo-tagging and Picture Quality. BlackBerry Tour 9630 also includes a dedicated camera button; unfortunately, it was placed in the middle of the right side. This will make shooting a little bit harder, unless you start using the trackball as main shutter.
The maximum resolution for pictures is 2,048x1,536 pixels, while movies can be recorded using a resolution of 480x352 pixels. In terms of performance, Tour 9630 does decent pictures, which won't disappoint a businessman. Even if it's not the best 3-megapixel camera, let's not forget it has been attached to a business smartphone, which doesn't need this feature to be at high standards. The time it takes for the camera to process a picture has been improved and you will be able to take shots pretty fast. Anyway, take a look at the samples below to get a better idea of what 9630's camera can do.
Menu and Software
BlackBerry Tour 9630 runs the BlackBerry 4.7.1 operating system, platform 4.1.0. Nothing new happening to the main menu and graphical user interface: users will get the same eye-candy menus, but that only applies to the surface. As you go deeper and deeper into the menus, you'll find the same boring "black&white" sub-menus, which are also a small issue for Windows Mobile.
The colors of the icons you'll find in the main menu are softly lit in contrast with the dark background, and make a very good impression on the user. The usual Office package, called Documents To Go, developed by DataViz, has been included. Unfortunately, as you can see from the screenshots, you can read or edit Word docs, Excel docs, and PowerPoint presentations, but will have to pay if you want to make new documents.
The phonebook can store an unlimited number of contacts, as long as your available memory allows it. Each contact can be filled with multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, birthday and anniversary information, a picture and a slot for both work and home addresses.
There are also some games that you can play when you're bored: BrickBreaker, WordMole, Texas Hold'em King 2, Sudoku, Klondike. Other applications included are: MemoPad, Tasks, Calculator, Voice Notes Recorder, Voice Dialing, Password Keeper. Of course, there's always the possibility to add more pieces of software, BlackBerry or Java compatible.
Even though the phone can be considered as mid-budget, expect 3G and HSDPA. Users will be able to benefit from EDGE and GPRS class 10 connectivity, but also 7.2Mbps HSDPA and 2Mbps HSUPA. Unfortunately, the thing that hurts most is the lack of Wi-Fi connectivity to reduce Internet browsing or data transfer costs. Although the integrated browser is decent enough, you can easily change it for the MiniOpera browser, which is perfectly compatible.
In terms of messaging, Tour 9630 features the standard BlackBerry package. Should you either want multiple emails or instant messaging, this smartphone has it all. Unfortunately, you will be limited to BlackBerry Internet Service email accounts on the 9630. It only features one instant messaging service – the usual BlackBerry Messenger. Furthermore, to fully integrate the BlackBerry into a company's system, the installation of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is required. Synchronizing the smartphone with the PC can be made very easily with the Blackberry Desktop Manager. The transfer is very fast, should you either be syncing emails and messages or simply filling your gadget with music files.
If that is still not enough for you, then note that Tour 9630 features a built-in GPS receiver with A-GPS support and BlackBerry Maps. The GPS module works perfectly and completes the technical features of a smartphone that has all the BB fans wanted included in a single device.
Blackberry Tour 9630 is a quad-band GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900), which features GPRS and EDGE, but also HSDPA 2100. As I have already stated in the beginning, it can also be used on CDMA/EVDO Rev A 800/1900 networks, once you pay about 20 USD to receive the activation code. Of course, you won't be able to operate both networks at the same time, but you will be able to switch between them anytime you need. Other connectivity options include the Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP and the microUSB for PC synchronization (including charging). I recommend using the dedicated charger found in the sales package, as charging through the USB cable will take more than 2 hours. The call quality is quite good, but cannot be compared with Bold's. The GSM signal is very good over the respective network.
Processor and Memory
BlackBerry Tour 9630 is powered by a single Qualcomm MSM7600 524MHz CPU, which makes it one of the fastest BlackBerries up to date. Overall, it is indeed a snappy device, even if I noticed some hiccups when running more applications. While Bold's CPU is a little bit faster, the difference is barely noticeable, as the technology behind Qualcomm's chipset is quite different from the one used by Bold, which is XScale.
The smartphone embeds 120 MB user free internal storage memory and 256 MB Flash memory, which makes data processing a bit faster. Storage space can be expanded up to 8GB through the hot-swappable microSD slot card.
There's not much to talk about the multimedia, just that it bears the same conservative and business-like look, which is quite understandable as we’re talking about a business smartphone. The built-in music player supports album art features, but lacks any Equalizers. It also supports MP3/WMA/AAC+ music files, which can be sorted by Artist, Albums and Genre. Users will be able to make their own playlists within seconds.
Furthermore, the quality of the sound was rather mediocre, especially when using your own headphones. Thanks to the 3.5mm port, you can now change the included headphones, which are not that bad, but seem too big for my ears. One drawback that I noticed was the placing of the 3.5mm jack port on the right side, which will make it almost impossible to carry in the pocket with the headphones inserted.
The music player can be minimized to the background and listening to music through the stereo Bluetooth feature is also possible. The external speaker is loud enough and pretty clear, but the lack of an Equalizer makes the music sound pretty much the same, regardless of the song played. Overall, multimedia features are not out of the ordinary even for a business phone.
The 1400 mAh Li-Ion battery has an officially stated life expectancy of 336 hours in standby, and of about 5 hours in talk-time mode. Our test unit made it for about 2 days at medium use. Heavy users will need daily charging or 5 charges per week. The autonomy is a little bit on the low side, especially for a business phone like BlackBerry that uses lots of services.
I consider Blackberry Tour 9630 a good smartphone, better than many other BlackBerry phones. It looks good, seems solid enough and is fast performance-wise. Lack of Wi-Fi and low battery autonomy might be the only downsides of the device, but the use of CDMA network could counterbalance these.
Dual-network compatibility and the possibility to use the gadget as a modem in EVDO CDMA are some of its positive aspects. Tour 9630 can also be highlighted for its stylish design, excellent display and QWERTY keyboard. BlackBerry fans will also be delighted to employ RIM's messaging services to their fullest using this device.
I think the lack of Wi-Fi connectivity is one of the biggest disappointments regarding the phone's features. When we thought that Wi-Fi would become standard for BlackBerry smartphones, RIM seems to have another idea and missed this feature for Tour 9630. Also, the low autonomy of the 1400 mAh battery is another negative aspect of the device.Sales Package
BlackBerry Tour 9630 smartphone
Standard battery 1400 mAh Li-Ion
BlackBerry 3.5mm Stereo Headset
AC Travel charger
microUSB data cable
Sync software CD-ROM.