The company is poised to launch the BlackBerry Tour Sunday, and the high-end device is expected to appeal to enterprise users as well as casual consumers. While it does have a robust processor, 3G connection speed, strong mobile e-mail capabilities, and Bluetooth, some mobile professionals may miss the lack of Wi-Fi in the phone's initial iteration.
The Tour is a dual-mode device, meaning it can use Sprint's CDMA network in the United States, as well as GSM networks abroad. Like any BlackBerry, it plays well with corporate e-mail and calendar infrastructure, as well as Web-based services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and others. The handset will cost $199 with a new two-year contract, and Verizon Wireless will also be releasing the device for its network at the same price.
Sprint did not set a date for when its smartphone suppliers have to include Wi-Fi, but an executive indicated that the carrier is planning to release a version of the Tour with Wi-Fi in 2010.
"Sprint is embracing Wi-Fi in all its major devices going forward," Jeff Clemow, Sprint's director of business marketing, told Fierce Wireless.
Sprint does have multiple smartphones with integrated Wi-Fi including the Palm Pre, and the Touch Diamond, but its BlackBerry smartphones lag behind some of the competition in this category. AT&T's BlackBerry Bold and T-Mobile's BlackBerry Curve 8900 both have integrated Wi-Fi, but Verizon's BlackBerry devices lack this capability.
The move shows the growing importance of providing smartphone users a way to stay connected. Although Verizon and Sprint have robust EV-DO 3G networks, these cannot provide full coverage, particularly indoors.
Additionally, Wi-Fi advocates would argue that being able to connect to hotspots would ease congestion on 3G networks while maintaining carrier revenue because most smartphone buyers are required to sign up for mobile broadband packages.
AT&T has invested heavily in its Wi-Fi infrastructure, and it gives its iPhone and BlackBerry users free access to hotspots at Four Seasons, McDonald's, and other public venues.
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