Whenever I travel I always take my laptop, and thanks to a Verizon USB wireless modem I can stay connected pretty much anywhere, although twice a year when I am in Chicago getting any signal is a challenge. While I am not such a dinosaur that I don’t have a cell phone, I had resisted the Blackberry temptation, at least right up until my cell phone found itself being left in the pocket of a pair of jeans that was then washed. Not surprisingly, that was the end of the useful life for my Motorola Krzr, which had been extremely dependable. So I decided it was time to at least consider a Blackberry, and when I went to Verizon I quickly gravitated to the Blackberry Tour, which is a handsome phone that allegedly offers a lot of functionality. The key being the word “allegedly.” I have since learned from several others that the problems I was experiencing with the Blackberry Tour are not unique, and indeed have been experienced by many. I realize this post is off topic, but attorneys and other professionals who largely make up the IPWatchdog Blog audience have to make up the overwhelming percentage of Blackberry customers, so I thought I would share my experiences, which were not at all good.
The first Blackberry Tour I obtained looked great, but just did not work very well at all. To be perfectly honest, I can’t even offer an opinion regarding the features of this first model because it was completely unusable. The trackball simply would not work, and it started having troubles just days after I acquired it and progressively got worse for the three weeks or so that I have the phone. The trackball would take many revolutions to even move one space, and eventually it got to the point where no number of revolutions would allow the cursor to move up and down.
It does not seem that I am the only one who have had difficulties with an inferior trackball. If you search Google using the phrase “blackberry tour trackball” you will find numerous articles and consumer complaints regarding the trackball just not working. For example, the blackberry forum has many consumers complaining exactly about this very issue dating back to July 2009. According to TownHall Investment Research as many at 50% of the Blackberry Tour units have been returned due to trackball issues. Both Sprint and Verizon dispute this claim, and instead say that the percentage of returns is consistent with other new products launched, and that RIM is known for quality, but based on my own experience, the experience of other customers I spoke with who were also at the Verizon Wireless store returning the Blackberry Tour and the legions of complaints easily available online, it seems that TownHall Investment Research is closer to being correct than Sprint, Verizon or RIM, all of whom have a vested interest in the Blackberry Tour not being a lemon. Interestingly, Sprint and Verizon will not confirm the return percentage, how interesting!
After returning my first Blackberry Tour, I got another, still not aware of the mountains of evidence that suggest the Blackberry Tour is the cell phone version of the Edsle. This second unit was not any better than the first, but for different reasons. The trackball never seemed to work as one would expect it should, but it seemed to work better than any of the other features of the phone. This second unit simply suffered from terrible reception, dropped calls constantly and callers would call and go straight to voice mail even when I was not on the phone and had what appeared to be a strong signal. On top of that, the pictures it took had a yellowish-green tint, which made every picture approximate the color scheme of a Van Gogh painting. Powering down and powering up the phone would take an extraordinarily long time. Downloaded applications never worked correctly, and then the last straw was the screen going blank and freezing on me, not allowing me to power it down. In short, this version of the Blackberry Tour was completely unusable as anything other than perhaps a paper weight.
I was starting to wonder why anyone liked owning a Blackberry, because my experience was anything but stellar. Nevertheless, when I returned this second Blackberry Tour I was not yet ready to give up completely, although I refused to accept another Blackberry Tour, which seems to be what many are finding to be the appropriate option. The Verizon Wireless sales representative in the store was a real pain, and kept wanting to try and fix the phone for me or show me how to use it. This went on, and on and on. It would seem that he couldn’t understand simple English — “I don’t want a Blackberry Tour because they are junk!” Finally, the manager agreed to take the Blackberry Tour back and exchange it for a Blackberry Curve. So far so good with the curve, and I am starting to understand why folks like a functioning Blackberry. They are quite handy when they work. I am now getting phone calls again, not dropping the calls and the trackball seems fine (knock on wood).
For a very long time people have stayed away from buying the first version of many high-tech gadgets, and that seems to be the appropriate way to deal with the enormously problematic Blackberry Tour. My advice would be to stay away from the Tour, at least until Research In Motion gets its act together and there is another version or two of the Tour that has worked out its many peculiarities.