* Update: Well there you have it. A quick 5,500+ votes later, and the trend is clear... the claim of the BlackBerry Tour return rate approaching 50% jives with what the community is reporting. Some 26% of Tour owners returned their device once, while another 15% have returned their unit multiple times. Another 26% have had issues with the trackball, but kept the device. That leaves only 33% of respondent Tour owners having a trouble-free experience thus far. Ouch. Better get the Tour 2 out quick and give Tour 1 owners a cheap upgrade price. *
Issues with the BlackBerry trackball are not a new thing. There's a reason replacement trackballs are the number one seller in our accessory store and why in another recent trackball poll we ran here in the blogs that 47% of respondents voted that they have had to replace their trackball at some point in time. I've said it before and I'll say it again... sticky balls happen.
Where there's a real problem, however, is when issues with the trackball pop up on a newly-purchased smartphone and not one that has been used and abused, and the internet is worked up tonight over this being the case with the BlackBerry Tour. Gerard Hallaren, Director of Research at Townhall Investment Research, put into a research note that "RIM is having a big trackball problem", especially on the Tour and that "return rates have been climbing toward 50%" and that "Verizon is angry about this recurring trackball problem." David Eller, also for Townhall research, said that nearly 50% of Tours being sold on Sprint are being returned. Apparently he also said -- get this -- that while the trackball problem is the primary reason for the returns, some customers are complaining about the sensitivity of the touch screen. Wow, that's awesome... the BlackBerry Tour has a touch screen and all this time I had no idea!
I don't doubt that there have been/are issues with the trackball on the Tour. However, I've used about six different Tours now from various carriers (Verizon, Telus, Bell, and a few pre-release, non-branded versions) and haven't had an issue yet. Watching the BlackBerry Tour forum since the day the device has been released, we know others haven't been so lucky with many people reporting issues and taking the device back. It also seems that newer hardware has been better. Is the return statistic as high as the one actually being reported? I'm not sure, so I figured a Tour owner poll on the blogs wouldn't hurt to see if the stats reported by the analysts are on par or not with our user community. We do know that the trackball is being phased out in favor of the trackpad, and that the BlackBerry codenamed essex (think "Tour 2" with trackpad, WiFi, and apparently/potentially an improved camera and orientation sensor?!) may be coming along sooner than might typically be expected, so perhaps the stat is that high. If you own a Tour, cast your vote above and let's see those results. And Tour owner or not, feel free to sound off in the comments! via Barrons & PCWorld