New BlackBerry Tour joins smartphone fray

Research In Motion unveils new high-end BlackBerry for Verizon and Sprint, aimed at international travelers.

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By David Goldman, staff writer

The new BlackBerry Tour will be available to Verizon and Sprint customers this summer.

NEW YORK ( -- The smartphone wars are heating up with recent launches of the Apple iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre, and Research In Motion is determined to stay in the game.

BlackBerry maker RIM announced Tuesday it would launch the new BlackBerry Tour for Verizon and Sprint customers this summer, aimed at international travelers.

The Tour allows users to transition between different mobile network standards as they travel outside of North America. Verizon and Sprint transmit their wireless service on a standard that essentially only exists in North America, so their customers need phones that work on multiple standards if they travel abroad.

Currently, the only BlackBerrys on the Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) and Sprint (S, Fortune 500) networks that let users move seamlessly between networks are the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, which is more than two-years old, and the poorly reviewed Storm for Verizon.

The Tour will give Verizon and Sprint an updated competitor to the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve 8900, which are only available in the United States through AT&T (T, Fortune 500) and T-Mobile. Both of those mobile networks use standard that is much more common across the globe, while Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) and Sprint (S, Fortune 500) offer CDMA service, which is limited primarily to North America.

"Many current [Verizon and Sprint] BlackBerry clients wanted a device like the Bold, which has a better operating system than the old global phone," said Ryan Reith, senior research analyst at IDC. "The Tour gives RIM the opportunity to market a phone to those customers."

Like BlackBerry's Bold and Curve models, the Tour includes GPS, a 3.2 megapixel camera and BlackBerry App World access.

RIM believes the phone will sell well to businesses, like the Bold, but will also be popular with consumers, like Curve. The company did not set an exact release date for the new phone.

"The new BlackBerry Tour will offer a compelling choice for the growing number of wireless customers looking to upgrade their existing cell phone to a smartphone," said Mike Lazaridis, co-chief executive of Research In Motion, in a statement.

Earlier this month, RIM competitors Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and Palm (PALM) unveiled the new iPhone and Pre smartphones. After the touch screen BlackBerry Storm received largely negative reviews in November, 2008, RIM is expected to unveil a touch screen BlackBerry with a physical keyboard, much like the Pre, in the coming months.

Shares of RIM (RIMM) were unchanged Tuesday. To top of page

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