BlackBerry Tour 9630 Review - part II

BlackBerry 9630 Review Part II
By Kevin Michaluk on 2 Apr 2009 12:00 pm EDT
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...

A Preview of OS 4.7.1 on the BlackBerry Tour & More Initial Impressions...

** Be Sure to Read Part I - BlackBerry Tour Hardware Review & Comparison **

* Update - It looks like the BlackBerry 9630 might just have an official name to be branded under... the BlackBerry Tour 9630! *

Surprising to us, our little spur-of-the-moment April Fool's joke yesterday caught more than a few readers out in initially believing it as true (don't worry, it happens to the best of us!). So to get back any CrackBerry love that may have been lost for aggrevations caused, we figured the timing was right to follow up our initial BlackBerry 9630 Hands-On Hardware Review with a second look, now that we've had a chance to get some up and running usage time on the 9630 and its version 4.7.1 operating system. If you're one of the many BlackBerry users out there waiting for the "Niagara" to hit a CDMA carrier near you, you'll want to check this out!

* Disclaimer: Like all of our pre-release reviews, please note that as of yet this is still a non-commercially available device which means things could change by the time it comes to market. *

Read on For Photos, Video and User Impressions of the BlackBerry 9630 >>

 


A Note About the Pre-Release Device Review

In the case of the 9630 unit reviewed here, the hardware really appears to be quite solid. Compared to other pre-release BlackBerry reviews I have conducted, this unit in particular has the appearance/feel of being commercial grade (ie. not a prototype, but full-out production line quality). 

In the case of the operating system, this review is based on the 9630 running OS application version 4.7.1.15. By all accounts this app version is very early-stage, which is apparent in using the device. Some of the screens (ex. phone app, camera app) still need to be dressed with proper skins and there are some weird glitches that will of course be ironed out (ex. dialing a contact using speed dial seems to turn on speakerphone without the device knowing it's on - you can't turn it off!). RIM never stops the ongoing development of their device operating systems even once a model begins selling, so it's safe to say the 9630 will be a smooth operator when it becomes available for purchase and will only continue to get better from there. Even with this early software and running the unit on GSM (Rogers) the 9630 has been quite stable with just a couple of random reboots here and there.

BlackBerry Tour Hardware Review Recap and Comparisons

In case you missed Part I of our Tour review, you'll definitely want to check it out before reading any further. In it I line the BlackBerry Tour 9630 up against its siblings and offer up a whack load of images and initial hardware impressions and provide an overview of what the 9630 is all about. For your viewing pleasure and back by popular demand, I've re-included the hands-on hardware video below which shows of the device to the musical stylings of Al Green :-)

BlackBerry Tour Initial Usage Impressions & OS 4.7.1 Preview

It's one thing to bring you a hands-on hardware review of a device that's not powered up but it's a whole other (and much better) thing to relay some thoughts and opinions and screen captures and video after having some real hands-on usage. 

The Tour's hardware itself had me impressed. Actually putting it to use pretty much has me tickled pink (or is it tickled black...berry?). The keyboard is awesome, the display is looking good, and the form factor is a good fit - both in the hand and to carry around for everyday use.

The 9630's version 4.7.1 device software is also interesting. Just like the 9630's hardware is a blend of BlackBerry Bold, Curve 8900 and Storm, the 9630's operating system gives off the impression of being a hybrid of 4.6 found on the Bold and 8900 and 4.7 found on the Storm. The 9630 obviously is not a touch screen device, though many of the underpinnings of the Storm's 4.7 OS are there, while the native Precision Zen theme is straight out of 4.6. It also appears there's even some all new stuff included in 4.7.1 - unless my memory is really bad, I don't recall ever seeing Memory Statistics as a menu option within the Media Player before. The short video below takes a quick look at the 9630 and some of 4.7.1's features.

It should be noted too that 4.7.1 on the 9630 looks pretty much identical to what I have glimpsed so far in terms of OS 5.0 on the Bold and Curve 8900. So if you read through this and wish your current BlackBerry's OS looked more like 4.7.1, don't worry... it likely will sooner than later. In fact, depending on when the 9630 gets released, I wouldn't be surprised to see it labeled with OS 5.0 instead of 4.7.1. I'm sure we'll see some Bold / Curve 8900 5.0 screencaps emerge soon that will show that 4.7.1 and 5.0 on these latest generation BlackBerry models are basically one and the same.

App Version 4.7.1 Observations

For the most part, the operating system experience on the BlackBerry 9630 is no different than that of the Bold or Curve 8900, but there are definitely a few 4.7 benefits that make this the sweetest trackball BlackBerry OS yet.

OS 4.7.1.15
Earlier versions of the OS said "Niagara" on the About screen. BlackBerry 9630 it is?!!

Menu Key Application Switcher - I'm one of those BlackBerry users who traditionally keeps the left side convenience key set to the Application Switcher. Though the BlackBerry OS is a multi-tasker, unless you do this and actually use the Application Switcher you almost don't notice that the device is even multi-tasking (running apps in the background) since you're always exiting to the homescreen to re-enter apps. One of my favorite features of the BlackBerry Storm is that you can activate the Application Switcher by holding down the main BlackBerry menu key. This awesome and intuitive function (multiple dots to the BlackBerry logo... multiple apps running... makes sense to me!) has made it's way onto the 9630. The best news for BlackBerry users of course is that this same feature has also made its way onto the latest versions of the 4.6 OS for the Bold and 8900 as well (unofficial/leaked versions) so hopefully we'll soon see all trackball BlackBerry smartphones updated to include this.

Application Switcher
Hold down on the Menu key to activate the Application Switcher

Trackball Gestures - If you check out the OS video above, you'll note that when viewing photos within the media app you can now scroll left and right to go to your next and previous photos. Definitely nicer than hitting N and P.

Profiles Menu - When you go to your profiles icon in OS 4.5 or 4.6 and scroll down, you're met with the Advanced option at the bottom, which doesn't really mean all that much unless you click it and do some exploring. With OS 4.7 you're met with Set Ring Tones/Alerts, Set Contact Alerts and Custom Profiles which definitely make it more clear on what you can do and how to get there. Definitely a welcome addition to trackball BlackBerry Smartphones.

Profiles
Instead of just having Advanced, OS 4.7 makes editing Profiles a little more clear

Storm Menus - Another area where the  Tour's OS really seems Storm-like is on menus and submenus, where the OS features 4.7's bubbly option boxes. The visual appearance is enough to make you want to start tapping on the screen, but don't do it - this is still a trackball BlackBerry. I'm still waiting for the day that RIM greatly overhauls/simplifies their Options menu to be more consumer friendly (and to change the icon from Options to something other than a Wrench... a Wrench is for Tools, not Options).

Storm-Like Menus
Don't you just want to tap those drop downs with your finger??

Memory - Memory is a bit of a hardware/software thing, so we'll cover it here. In our last review we said that the guts of the 9630 are basically that of the Storm. And that's true in the case of the processor and radio. One area that's different though is MEMORY. While the Bold and the Storm have 128 megs of device memory (for OS, apps, emails, browser cache to reside), the BlackBerry 9630 takes after the Curve 8900 and offers double the memory. Instead of having 30 - 45 megs of free space for apps like the Storm has by default, the 9630 has roughly 130 megs free. More memory is always better! 

While the 9630 has double the app memory of the Storm, it does not have the 1 gig of built-in device memory for ringtones, movies, etc. No big deal though...that's what memory cards are for.

BlackBerry 9630 Memory
Like the Curve 8900, the BlackBerry 9630 gets a bump up in application memory

 

Memory Statistics - I could be wrong (don't shoot me if I am!), but I **think** this is new to OS 4.7.1. Within the Media application, when you hit the menu key there is now an option for Memory Statistics that allows you to view your device and media card memory along with the allocation of those resources. Bold and Curve 8900 owners should see this on their device with the future release of OS 5.0. Maybe this is the precursor to a full-out device memory manager coming our way in a future OS??!

Memory Stats

Memory Stats

Memory Stats
BlackBerry Media Memory Statistics

All in all, OS 4.7.1 on the BlackBerry 9630 should make for a solid BlackBerry experience. If you're currently a BlackBerry owner on a CDMA carrier using a Curve 8330 or 8830, moving up to the 9630 will be a delight. And if you're a Storm owner on Verizon, Telus or Bell and think you want to move away from a touch BlackBerry but still be a CrackBerry Addict, the transition to a 9630 will be an easy one for you.

More BlackBerry Tour 9630 Hardware Impressions

In our first-look review I reported back with a quite a few observations on the 9630's hardware, but now that I've spent a little more time actually using the device I figured an update on a few items are in order.

Keyboard / Form Factor - I realllly like typing on the 9630's keyboard. It's not quite as roomy as the Bold's keyboard, nor does it have the 'clackiness' that I love of the Curve's keyboard, but thanks to the Bold-influenced key design it's easy to type on accurately and the tighter package means you don't have to move your fingers as far to get the job done, which helps in the both the speed and endurance departments.

Speed

Like the 8900, the physical space allotted for the trackball and navigation/phone buttons above the keyboard is less than the Bold, so you need to pay a little more attention to where you're tapping. I wouldn't think of this as a problem, but it's for sure a trade off of having a smaller form factor.

Between the Curve 8900, 9630 and Bold 9000, it kind of reminds of ordering popcorn at the theatre and choosing between Small, Medium and Large (that's Tall, Grande and Venti for the Starbucks crowd). In a perfect world, it would actually be nice if RIM made a GSM-only 9600 version of this device and they'd also offer a CDMA version of the Curve and 9000-ish form factor, so regardless of your carrier you could pick the trackball full-qwerty device that suits your hands best.

Display - Like all of these latest generation BlackBerry smartphones (exception BlackBerry Pearl Flip), the display on 9630 is top notch. I'm sure there's a lot of software coding behind the scenes that also affects the image you actually see on the screen, and am sure there is still some tweaking going on in that department. If you watch the video above, you'll note the video camera picks up the screen refresh lines on the 9630 (which never seems to happen to me on any other BlackBerry). I also noticed that compared to the 8900 when playing the same John Mayer preloaded sample video that the video quality seemed a bit better on the 9630. However, when scrolling through the preloaded sample photos the colors on my 8900 were a bit more vibrant and crisp. Suffice to say, I'm sure RIM will be tweaking all of this up to balance out picture quality and power consumption and everything else, and you can expect the 9630 you buy will have a pleasing screen. That all said, I do wish there was a way for RIM to get the edge of display closer to the edge of the device. I love the quarter inch of extra width the Bold's display offers, and wish the 8900 and 9630 could offer that without having to make the device any wider.

Displays Compared
Displays Compared: BlackBerry 9630 on the left, Curve 8900 on the right

 

Backlighting - Ok, now this one is a bit weird to touch on, but I'm going there anyway. One of the gripes I hear about the 8900 fairly often (and I gripe about this myself) is the poor back lighting on the green/red Send/End keys. For some reason they fade dark towards the edges. I wasn't sure on the 8900 if this was by design or more of a hardware fault, but after seeing the 9630's awesome backlighting am leaning towards fault on part of the 8900. Either that, or to maximize battery life RIM turned down the brightness come commercial release. I'll be curious to see just how bright the 9630's backlighting is when it hits the market... hopefully as bright as it is now!

Backlighting Comparison
In the dark: Curve 8900, BlackBerry 9630, Bold 9000

Everything Else - Seems pretty darn good! Voice quality is excellent, speakers loud and clear, the camera and video player seem to work well from my initial usage. I'm sure as the OS makes it's move up from 4.7.1.15 to whatever it ultimately gets released with, all of these things will get better as things get tweaked out.

BlackBerry Tour - Can't Come Soon Enough!

The BlackBerry 9630 will be a welcome addition to the BlackBerry Smartphone line up. Honestly, IMO this device can't be announced soon enough or become available for sale soon enough. CDMA users need a next-generation full qwerty BlackBerry. The good news is, it's worth waiting for. Hopefully this review will help make the wait just a little bit easier.

Related Articles

Topics: Device Reviews

Reader comments

BlackBerry Tour 9630 Review - part II

70 Comments

Kevin, thank you very much for posting this. It further fuels my desire to put my hands all over this device. In the immortal words of Liz Lemon "I want to go to there"

Cheers!
Nan

thanks for the review kevin! i was wondering if that gap at the top of the screen is really that big and if you think RIM will address that issue before the 9630 is released. thanks!

Man this phone is so nice, great review guys. I have heard rumors of it coming to the great white north as early as late may. I hope thats true

Damn, how do you guys justify buying a new blackberry everytime a cool one comes out? That gets expensive

Kevin, does the screen seem as hard and glassy as the Storm? How about the trackball, is it larger and maybe smoother than an 8330 trackball? I'm thinking of going from Storm to 9630 (mostly just for a change) but I don't want a plastic screen like my previous Curve or a pesky and temperamental trackball like the 8330.

no -- this did NOT make waiting for this phone to be released any easier. MUST HAVE NOWWWW.

thanks for the review, greatly appreciate it =)

Excellent job Kev, i truly depend on you for real life reviews and opinions avoiding all the thick tech talk. I am well aware that the chances of this going to VZW are greater than it coming to Sprint, but one can be hopefull right? Let's hope the stars aline and SPRINT pick's this up, i really don't care who gets it first just as long i don't wait for Q1 2010 for sprint to offer it.

Thanks again KEV!!

i belive rogers is gsm based so no, the 9630 is a cdma phone, you can unlock it and use it on rogers though if you want. Andto date there hasnt been a cdma blackberry with wifi, all the wifi blackberries are gsm based

Wow, must be expensive... How about you throw some money in my direction... or stop hoarding phones and probably neglecting your family.

Hmmm---Is the poor keyboard backlighting on the 8900 something that could be addressed though the OS version changes or is it purely hardware related and can't be addressed on the current crop of 8900's? I would think the lighting hardware must be pretty much the same on the Bold, 9630 and the 8900.

I like the in depth review. I have the Storm Now and like it a lot. However I miss a physical keyboard. I have a NE/2 on VZW that can be used to get the 9630. I will consider it and rotate between my Storm and 9630.

I don't suppose anyone has heard any half way legit info lately as to when this will hit Verizon have they? (if in fact this will be Verizon's baby)

"Don't you just want to tap those drop downs with your finger??"

I like that subtle hint to the surepress screen on the Niagra. Can't wait to see if it's better than the Storm's.

Sure it's not.... That's why the edge of the screen looks like the surepress screen of the Storm and not the non-touch screens of the Bold or Curve.

Well if you read the review, it seems pretty obvious to me. It's not a touch screen.

"The visual appearance is enough to make you want to start tapping on the screen, but don't do it - this is still a trackball BlackBerry."

As to: "And the fact that Kevin isn't saying, "No, it's definitely not a touch screen, I have used the phone" isn't any indication to you?"

From the review:
"The 9630 obviously is not a touch screen device, though many of the underpinnings of the Storm's 4.7 OS are there, while the native Precision Zen theme is straight out of 4.6. "

it is def a touch screen the icons in the keyboard menu look just like the storm menu the screen has the gaps in it and other tell tale hints that its going to be a half half bb

I am holding off on getting a blackberry till this comes out. I am on verizon and have a dumb phone right now. I hate palm as their palm pilots left a bad taste in my mouth (had both an m105 and a zire21, hated them both). I have been wanting to get a smart phone but verizon cannot seem to get the htc products right and I personally hate windows mobile. Last night I downloaded the system simulator from rim for the new curve (on rogers) and it was great. The browser left alot to be desired so I installed bolt on it and it was much much better. I want a new phone now, but will be waiting for this one to come out. I am out of contract in may so I am really hoping for the may release though I highly doubt it. Hope it isnt as late as august though.

This phone is a world phone, which means it has a SIM card slot also. It's also a tri band(I believe). So it can run on CDMA and also GSM's EDGE.

I am very impressed with the 9630 so far. Very sexy and very unique. Breaking up with my 8330 won't be very hard at all when this little beauty is released. Thanks for keeping us posted Kevin.

I really just want Verizon to even acknowledge they are getting this and MAYBE when. I doubt this device will even be seen at CTIA. Sucks, Im up for an upgrade, got the Storm and love it, BUT I miss the keyboard. I will end up buying this device and evaluating it myself, if not a I'll return it, no big deal. But the anxiety is what is killing me.

Wow, with so many people in economic crisis. You have a phone that you love and something like the release of a new phone that has a keyboard in a few months is killing you with anxiety? Your life must be going really well if something like this i what will kill you with anxiety. LOL!

Yea so I think I'll go back to the Pearl, sell my storm, and wait for this.... and then BUY it the day it comes out, Which really couldn't be any soon enough. I loved my storm in the beginning but as I sit and wait for an official update to the OS. I am growing impatient!!!

Go to Options > Status > Database Sizes

It's not quite as user-friendly or streamlined as the new 4.7 version of Memory Statistics, but I think it does the job. At least in 4.7 it will easier to access.

I think it's useful information and I'm glad RIM is adding it.

Why are the videos not working for me? I really want to see this. Tried mac, linux, windows. All were with firefox. Could that be the issue?

looks like its gonna be a near-perfect 'berry. tried to step up to the storm, but (for obvious reasons and the fact that i like an actual keypad) just couldn't do it. my curve has been good to me, but i have the bills put back for this dear sweet machine. So, like my title says......

Gee thanks, Kevin . . . . now I'm even MORE anxious for this baby to come out!

BTW, didn't the last review have 4.7.1.10? Now you have .15. Where did you get the OS update from for an unreleased phone?

I'm with Cellular South and have CDMA phones. I'm holding out for this new BlackBerry. I still have the Pearl and my daughter has the World but we are dying for either a new Curve or this phone! Any idea if or when we will get ANY new BlackBerry? We are dying here!!

Will Kevin be making one of his famous Crackberry review videos other than the ones here? I like the ones where he talks about the device in the video like the one for the previous devices. Let me know if anyone has heard

I may have missed this, but does anyone know if the 9630 will have threaded text messaging? Thanks for all the great information Kevin!

hey wassup everybody
new blackberry user, i will be making the switch from windows mobile to the sprint tour, my first blackberry device

I hear from a friend of mine that is a Sprint tech that the Tour will be released on or about Sept. 14 and Verizon's version will soon follow, big V can't let sprint get all the profit share ;). The price point, hold your wallets $5-699.99 OUCH!

Ok this is a great review but kevin! you left out the blackberry maps and gps. Why is this? As i'm a curve 8330 owner and the gps just sucks. I hope this isn't the case with the Tour.

I live in france part of the year and have a french SIM card. Will I be able to insert that SIM in the Verizon BB Tour and use the phone in France? Please advise.

I've been a Blackberry 8830 (Sprint) user since it's been released, yesterday I got my upgrade to the Tour (07/21/09) and it's all that it has been reviewed and more. It's much nicer in person. I wish I had pre-ordered and would have gotten it a week earlier, but I got it! Now... to show it off :-)

-Waldo

So far I'm satisfied.. Although I had a lot of trouble trying to get "the one"
I received it as a replacement on my previous company phone 8800 World Ed... Since, it's a company phone, they sent me with a no camera version(since 8800 doesn't have a camera as well..) so I asked to have it replaced.. 2days later, I finally received one with camera but has a trouble with its trackball(doesn't scroll to the right.. Sheeesh what the hell my excitement was down again.) Sent it back and finally after a long wait, I then received the right one!!
I love it. Way better than 8800.. Fast browser since it's a 3g. Works best with Jawbone bluetooth prime. Design is way too slick and professionally looking.. Videos are sooo damn clear.. Sound is ok for a cellphone.. GPS is a monster!! Using google maps it can pinpoint my actual location.. I mean actual!! Scary though.. Sheeesh..
So, far I'm very satisfied.. It has been 4days already from the date of receipt til this post.

Could someone so kindly tell me the name of the background music, I really love ut and want to download it in my player.
Thanks.

I finally decided to upgrade to a "smartphone" because I missed my old PDA. I only hope that T-mobile will let me send this thing back because it is such a step backwards from my 5 year old Clie`. Not sure who wrote this PDA interface, but it seems like RIM would be able to improve on somthing that has been out for 5 years. I should have gone with the Palm Pre.

I'm totally disappointed in this purchase.