BlackBerry Tour combines Bold and Curve features – without the WiFi

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is now available in Canada on both the Bell Mobility and Telus networks and offers the BlackBerry faithful with CDMA carriers a next-generation upgrade option.

The latest smartphone offering from Research In Motion (RIM) should now be available in retail locations across the country as well as online, according to sources at Telus and Bell. The Tour is marketed as a handheld device for the world traveller – said to be compatible with the networks in over 200 countries – and features a QWERTY keyboard on the front of the device.

BlackBerry Tour on Telus and Bell networks

The feature list reveals nothing that hasn’t been offered in a BlackBerry before, but a hybrid of the form factors of the Curve 8900 and the Bold with the processor speed and network compatibility offered by the Storm. It’s a big upgrade opportunity for many BlackBerry users, says Kevin Restivo, a senior analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada.

“It’s a kind of form factor mash-up and you’ll see more of that from RIM in the future,” he says. “They are flanking their competitors by creating a wide variety of devices that do a lot of different things.”

You could call the Tour the “Goldilocks” of BlackBerrys. It is slightly smaller and lighter than the Bold, but slightly bigger and heavier than the Curve 8900. To be exact, it is 112 mm long, 62 mm wide and 14.2 mm deep and weighs 130 g.

Its battery life offers five hours talk time – a little bit more than the Bold, but a little bit less than the Curve. The screen is equal to the Curve in resolution and size.

“You’ve giving the vast majority of wireless subscribers in Canada the opportunity to buy what’s been popular on the Rogers network,” Restivo says.

But there is one glaring omission from the Tour – no Wi-Fi capability. Both Bell and Telus are yet to offer a BlackBerry that offers the feature, which is found on both the Curve 8900 and the Bold.

It’s up to the manufacturer to decide what features to include in its device, says Judy Mellett, director of subscriber products for Telus.

“We really look to the manufacturer to decide design specifications,” she says. “There is an extra radio in there to operate on both networks, and that may be a part of it.”

The Tour will run on both HSPA/UMTS EVDO and quad-band EDGE networks. With Telus and Bell preparing a HSPA network for launch in Canada next year, it is possible the Tour will be the first device ready to support that network, Restivo says.

“You can take advantage of that shiny new network when it gets lit up,” he says. “There will presumably some faster speeds.”

 But Mellett says this is not the case. Current subscribers to the CDMA network will continue to receive service from that network.

“It’s not a function of this device to operate automatically on our new HSPA network,” she says. “This device is set to run CDMA in North America.”

The Tour should be a popular device that many business users choose to adopt, Restivo says. Considering that more than half of Canadian wireless subscribers are with Bell and Telus, this is the upgrade choice that many will make.

“Things that we regularly see in our research as being most important to users is covered off here,” he says. “It does combine the best of two relatively popular products for RIM.”

Bell Mobility pitches the Tour as a device that will help workers on the road. It supports the latest BlackBerry 4.7 OS with Documents To Go, meaning Microsoft Office files can be viewed and edited on the device. It also comes with App World installed, RIM’s over-the-air application storefront.

“The Tour is a top-tier device, especially for globetrotting professionals,” says Jacqueline Michelis, a spokesperson with Bell Mobility.

The Tour has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and image stabilization, as well as video-recording and geo-tagging. It supports MMS messaging. It has 257 MB of internal flash memory and supports a microSD memory expansion up to 16 GB.

It can be tethered to a laptop as a 3G modem. It also supports Bluetooth stereo devices.

Telus is offering the Tour for $230 on a three-year contract and $600 without a contract.

Bell’s price is $250 on a three-year contract and $700 with no contract.

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