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Small crowd waits for BlackBerry Tour; most like it better than touch-screen devices

One user said excitement about the Tour is diminished by growing monthly carrier fees

July 13, 2009 01:37 PM ET

Computerworld - Fifteen people waited outside a suburban Boston Verizon Wireless store for up to two hours early Sunday morning to buy a new BlackBerry Tour smartphone.

Several of those waiting for the 10 a.m. opening of the Natick, Mass., store said the Tour model is attractive because it has a physical QWERTY keyboard and is made by a well-known company -- Research In Motion Ltd.

The Tour, considered by many to be a slight upgrade from RIM's BlackBerry Curve or the Bold models, went on sale for $200 with a two-year agreement from Verizon or Sprint Nextel Corp. and a rebate.

At the Verizon Wireless store, Al Ferrer proudly showed his new Tour side-by-side with an older BlackBerry Bold, which he uses with AT&T's network. "The Tour is a little smaller, see?" he said. "It's little. Cute, eh?"

Ferrer, a nuclear and mechanical engineer, qualifies as a power user of smartphones, and he demonstrated that he is familiar with many of them. A Wellesley, Mass., resident, he regularly travels all over the globe for work, and he considers making calls and monitoring e-mail on his smartphone "critical" to his day-to-day chores.

The heavy number-crunching and PowerPoint and Excel tasks he must do are almost all handled on a Dell laptop, which Ferrer said he still needs on longer trips. But he is looking to reduce the number of handheld devices he has to carry.

Ferrer's Tour will replace an older Motorola Razr. He will keep his Bold smartphone, which uses the AT&T network, to make sure he doesn't miss out on a call or a data connection. "With both, I'm pretty sure not to miss anything," he said.

Ferrer and his son, Andrew Ferrer, who also purchased a new Tour yesterday, smirked at the idea of buying a BlackBerry Storm or Apple Inc. iPhone, which have touch screens. "A touch-screen phone is a nice idea, but they haven't perfected it," Al Ferrer said. "I have small hands and big fingers, and it's hard to use it for typing."

Andrew Ferrer, an attorney, added, "Getting a physical keyboard was critical for me."

Both men also own iPod Touch devices, but they said that they don't like how the Apple device responds to their touch.

Several other customers agreed with the Ferrers' sentiment about touch screens.

Lacey Cumming, a student at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., was one of the first to arrive at the store to make sure she could get a new Tour to replace her Curve. She said she had tried a Storm for two weeks and returned it.

"I didn't like the Storm," Cumming said. "It was too slow and didn't react to my touch well." Cumming, 19, said that she has had eight different phones in her lifetime, but she still relies on an HP laptop required by her school for most of her intense browsing and school chores. The Tour will be a convenient way to text friends and do casual browsing, she added.

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