Observing device launches has always intrigued me. In my opinion, the method in which a carrier launches a device lends credence to their dedication to the device - short-term and long-term. Having been in the industry for years, I've seen well-managed launches (Palm Pre, iPhone 3GS), and poorly managed (iPhone 3G 2008) launches. In 90 percent of the scenarios, the failure has centered around a general lack of preparedness - be it a lack of marketing, inventory, purchasing fluidity, or all of the above.
The BlackBerry Tour has been on retail shelves for eight days, and in that short period of time, we've seen some interesting things. I certainly wasn't excluded from them; as many of you know, I'm using the Verizon BlackBerry Tour as one of my personal devices. I purchased mine on launch day, and the first one was plagued with a trackball issue out of the box. When scrolling from left to right, the trackball would lag, making for a frustrating experience. Within the hour, I had exchanged it for a different Tour, and have had no problems with the new phone. Chalk it up to the fact that Verizon had around 317,600 Tour's available at launch, but most can agree that Big Red's launch was relatively smooth.
The Sprint launch, on the other hand, was a bit different. Lending credence to the claim that Sprint's BlackBerry Tour debut was a "on paper only" launch intended to match Verizon's date, the device was backordered shortly after midnight on the 12th. In a strange twist of events, many customers that ordered the device in the first few minutes of launch were, in many cases, the last individuals to receive their device. In a rare move, Sprint even acknowledged the issue:
"We have experienced strong demand for the Blackberry Tour which has
placed your order, or a portion of your order, in backorder status.
While every attempt is made to fulfill orders first in and first out, a
system issue earlier in the week resulted in some orders being shipped
out of sequence. Our shipping commitment for the Tour remains 5 to 8
business days based on date of order..."
Needless to say, frustration erupted all over the internet. From shipping, to activation, to issues with build quality, reports were popping up everywhere. I haven't had any issues with my second unit, but reported problems have ranged from lag, to OS freezes, to loose battery doors; as this article was going to press, Crackberry's "Tour Problems?" thread was 37 pages long, with 552 posts. Admittedly, I was one of the individuals that, at first, thought a vast majority of the issues were people trying to find something to complain about. After all, the device is brand new, and bugs are to be expected out of anything fresh out of the factory. Or are they?
It's no secret that I am an avid fan of RIM and the BlackBerry product. So, when I see a 37 page problem thread, it concerns me. Are these meaningless problems, invented by users just to gripe, or are they legitimate complaints? Or both? Is it fair to look at the Tour as if it's the only device to ever have issues at launch? The Storm, Bold, and Curve 8900 - the latest RIM devices - have all had launch issues of their own. Moreover, what device doesn't have problems at launch? I'm not arguing that they should be accepted by any means, but find any flagship device - Pre, iPhone, Storm - and they've all had (or continue to have) quirks. At their core, they're all mini-computers, and as such, issues happen.
Furthermore, it's all part of a larger issue - how does it reflect upon Research In Motion and their devices? Let's face it, the average consumer isn't going to walk into a Sprint store, and when they can't get their Tour to activate properly, say "well darn, Ensemble isn't accepting the Tour's ESN/MEID for some reason. I'll try again later." No! They're going to blame Sprint, RIM, or both.
I say all of this out of a desire to hear from you. Let's have a conversation. Whether you purchased the Tour, or you didn't; whether you're having issues, or not - I want to hear from you. I want to get a sense of what everyone thinks about the whole ordeal - the launch, the bugs, the phone, the carrier support...everything. I plan to actively respond via my Twitter feed and the comments section below, because I want to see what you think. Let the discussion begin!