BlackBerry Tour Is a Solid Device, but It Makes a Frustrating Trade-off - Page 2

The Tour's 480-by-360-pixel half VGA display is certainly on the small side by today's standards, but the screen is bright and clear. Because of the small screen, users undoubtedly will find themselves needing to do a lot of scrolling with the trackball when working with long e-mails, Websites or documents.

The 3.2-megapixel camera can easily be switched between still and video modes from the Camera application menu. The camera also features a flash, zoom controls via the trackball, image stabilization and auto-focus. The camera application makes it easy to choose whether photos are stored by default on the on-board or add-on storage.

The Tour comes with 256MB of internal flash memory, as well as a microSDHC slot that can be found underneath the back cover (and comes prepopulated with a 2GB card).

On the software side of things, the Tour comes with BlackBerry device software Navigation around the device is pretty much the same as we've seen since the Bold was introduced last year-with links to six applications on the bottom of the home screen and all other applications findable via the menu key.

The Tour includes the typically good e-mail, calendaring and contact experience common to recent BlackBerry devices. As with the other BlackBerrys, however, the Web browsing experience is not nearly as good when compared with competing devices with larger screens and capacitive touch-screens-like the Apple iPhone, Palm Pre or the Android-based G1 with Google. It also appears that RIM has already scrapped the lame zoom tools that came with the Bold, forgoing the cursor-based zoom controls for a menu-driven control.

The Tour supports SMS and MMS for text or multimedia messaging. Via a separate but included instant messaging application, users can connect to AIM, Yahoo, GoogleTalk or WindowsLive messaging systems.

The Tour I tested also came with a few Verizon-specific applications (or links to download them), including VZ Navigator, for turn-by-turn directions using the on-board GPS chip, and a Verizon Visual Voicemail application.

BlackBerry AppWorld is preinstalled on the Tour, allowing those with a Paypal account to select from an inventory of about 1,000 free or for-pay third-party applications.

In tests, I was easily able to slide the Tour into my BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 for Exchange implementation, allowing me to quickly activate the user to the phone, then provision the device with security policies and the appropriate Exchange connectivity. As expected, I could also remotely wipe the device from the BES administration interface.

Corporate buyers in particular should be aware that a new version of the BlackBerry Device Software (5.0) is in the pipeline, likely for release later this year. The new update promises a host of new features to BES 5.0 customers-including secured remote access to Windows file shares, improved e-mail folder manipulation and e-mail flagging compatible with Microsoft Outlook. While RIM promises free firmware updates to BlackBerry customers via its Website, users or mobile administrators will be able to download the code for their device only once their carrier has approved the use of that version on their network-and there is no guarantee when that will happen for each specific BlackBerry device.

Senior Analyst Andrew Garciacan be reached at