There’s a chance that the Passport could be one of BlackBerry’s most successful handsets in years, there’s also a chance that it could be a colossal failure, because its biggest strength is also its greatest potential weakness- it’s just so different. So before you make your mind up about it, here’s what you need to know.
Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first, the BlackBerry Passport is surprisingly square. BlackBerry hasn’t announced the exact dimensions of the device but it looks shorter and wider than most smartphones. However it should still fit in most pockets. The screen itself is 4.5 inches with a resolution of 1440 x 1440 for a pixel density of 453 pixels per inch, so it’s impressively high resolution.
Being square gives it a unique look too, this really couldn’t be confused with any other phone. But that’s not why it’s square. The real reason is twofold. Firstly it’s the ideal dimensions to read books, view documents and browse the web.
Secondly, because while it’s a touchscreen device there’s also a physical keyboard under the display and by having a square screen there’s no need to switch between portrait and landscape orientations, which would always be a problem with a keyboard, as one orientation would make it near impossible to use.
Speaking of that keyboard, it’s a little unusual in that there are no numbers or alternative functions, just letters, a space bar, a delete key and an enter button. For everything else you can use the touchscreen which displays any other character that you might want to enter at any given time.
By splitting it up this way it keeps the screen less cluttered while ensuring that you can always see every likely input, rather than having to cycle through different keyboard screens to find the symbol you want. It’s not easy to use one-handed but for two handed typing it should work well.
The keyboard is also touch sensitive, meaning for example that you can flick up on it to select a word when a prediction appears.
The BlackBerry Passport might be an oddity, but it’s a high end oddity. There’s a quad-core Snapdragon processor and 3GB of RAM under the hood so this is a serious workhorse.
With 32GB of built in storage and a microSD card slot to further expand that by up to 64GB there’s plenty of space to play with too and it supports Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. Its large 3450 mAh battery should ensure it keeps on going well beyond a day too.
The BlackBerry Passport has a premium design as well. So far it’s been revealed in two colours, white and black. Both versions have a metal frame and solid build, but the black version has a soft-touch back while the white has been described as offering a porcelain feel and the colour has apparently been tuned for each individual part and material to create an overall colour harmony.
In both cases all the surfaces, front and back, are designed to be soft and comfortable to hold while still offering grip and it’s yet another design decision that should help the Passport stand out from the crowd.
Little is known about the camera yet and this is unlikely to be a compact-killer, but early impressions suggest it can take detailed photos while it’s been reported that the front-facing snapper comes in at 3 megapixels and is great for BBM video conferencing.
If it wasn’t clear already, the BlackBerry Passport is very much designed with business users in mind. Its design is premium, but smart rather than showy, its square screen is great for viewing documents and web pages but not so much for games and videos, its physical keyboard suggests a device designed for emailing and it runs BlackBerry 10.1, which while slicker than previous versions of the OS is still business focused.
All of which is fine as there’s a huge market for that and that’s what BlackBerry has always done best. If users can get on board with the square form factor and go in expecting a business phone then the BlackBerry Passport could be a real winner.
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