BlackBerry has officially taken the wraps off its latest smartphone, the odd-looking Passport, which has a square screen. However, the Passport actually looks like the perfect business-oriented smartphone for professionals.
In BlackBerry’s words, the Passport is aimed at the “mobile professionals”, those who are “productivity driven and achievement focused”. It is a market that BlackBerry thinks is under-served today, which is technically true: many established professionals still rely on a BlackBerry. With the Passport, BlackBerry is breaking further away from rectangular conventions.
The BlackBerry Passport has a 4.5-inch square 1440 x 1440 display, pushing out a respectable 435ppi. The display is designed to be “near-optimal” for text reading, showing 60 characters per line (66 characters per line is the print standard). It is especially evident when going through word documents and spreadsheets.
On top of that, the Passport is the first BlackBerry device to be powered by the new 10.3 software update, the company’s most comprehensive update so far for the BlackBerry 10 platform. One of the main additions to the 10.3 update is BlackBerry Assistant, BlackBerry’s own “professional virtual assistant”. It allows more extensive integration with BlackBerry’s other system apps, and allows you to enter queries via voice and text, as well as being a universal search option for the entire phone.
As for the hardware, the Passport is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2GHz quad-core processor with 3GB of RAM, and 32GB internal storage. Round the back, there’s a brand new 13MP camera sensor with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). The battery is also touted as the “highest among top-selling smartphones today”. At 3450mAh, BlackBerry claims the Passport will last you an amazing 30 hours of usage.
On top of that, the Passport also packs a speaker that BlackBerry claims to be the best in any smartphone in the market. The latest technologies packed make it 18% and an astounding 350% louder than the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 respectively. Natural Sound Technology found in the speaker’s clarity also mean it has one of the best speakers found on any smartphone. Rounding up the hardware list is a stainless steel frame with rounded edges, a 9.3mm thick frame, and of course, a brand new BlackBerry keyboard.
The BlackBerry Passport packs not just a physical keyboard that BlackBerry is renowned for, but a touch-enabled physical keyboard. A world first, the new keyboard promises to be an innovative and intuitive input method that is potentially unrivalled on any smartphone input.
The Passport’s physical keyboard merges the features found on the full-touch BlackBerry 10 keyboard with the company’s physical one. The keyboard now offers the best physical typing experience on a mobile device, while also offering intuitive touch commands to make typing on the Passport the most efficient around. You can scroll up and down the screen just by swiping up or down on the keyboard instead, swipe left to delete a word while typing, and a double-tap brings up the text selector. It sounds rather bland with words, but in practice the new touch enabled physical keyboard is surprisingly intuitive and has the potential for a great typing experience.
As revealed some time back, the BlackBerry 10.3 update will also include the Amazon App Store pre-installed. Offering an extensive range of Android apps, which is capable of running on BlackBerry devices, it dramatically reduces the “app gap” factor that plagues the platform.
The BlackBerry Passport is now available immediately on BlackBerry’s official webstore for the US, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK markets. By the end of the year, the Passport will be available in more than 30 countries worldwide, including several more European countries, the Middle East, and Asian markets such as Indonesia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and yes, Malaysia. The company is due to hold a local launch event tomorrow, where the retail price is expected to be unveiled. In the US, the Passport is now retailing at $599 (about RM1950).
Stay tuned for more in our BlackBerry Passport coverage!