Thursday, 16 October 2014


Canadian manufacturer BlackBerry looks to bring its no-nonsense smartphone approach in a form factor that is...unusual, to say the least. It's a company that's no stranger lately to being in the red for quarters on end and the Passport is yet another attempt by BlackBerry to regain its identity (and market share) in a cutthroat industry that's dominated by Android.
Even from a distance, it's apparent that the Passport is a device that's different for a reason. First, the company failed to market a "traditional" smartphone with the otherwise solid BlackBerry Z30. The BlackBerry Q5 QWERTY messenger wasn't any more successful as a return to the bread-and-butter. Now, the Passport hopes to strike gold with a formula that's the best of both worlds while being bound to neither.

 The Passport certainly carries a spec sheet to put performance buffs at ease. With a Quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 801 chip and 3GB of RAM, it's easily the most robust BlackBerry smartphone to date. The 4.5-inch square display is also of an impressive 1440 x 1440px, which results in an excellent 453ppi. Here's what else it brings to the table

Key features

  • 4.5" 16M-color IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen of 1440 x 1440px
  • Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400, 3GB RAM, Adreno 330
  • 13 megapixel auto-focus camera with face detection and Time Shift, HDR, LED flash, 2MP front facing camera
  • FullHD (1080p) video recording at 60fps; 720p recording with front-facing camera
  • 32GB storage, microSD card slot up to 128GB; built-in Dropbox and Box integration
  • Unique touch-enabled 3-row QWERTY keyboard with hardware keys
  • Stereo speakers
  • Ability to side-load and run Android-compatible apps
  • BlackBerry 10.3 OS (sideloading select Android apps possible)
  • BBM with video chat and screen sharing
  • 3,450mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • Awkward design, in which an otherwise compact touchscreen takes some really large hands to use single-handedly and typing is certainly a two-hand job
  • No 2160p video recording (for such an expensive device)
  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • Three-row QWERTY has no numpad, multi-language support potentially problematic
From its odd form factor to BlackBerry OS 10's business ethos, the Passport is undoubtedly targeted at professionals. With BBOS 10 iterations prior to version 10.3, BlackBerry tried desperately to catch up to Android and iOS. After ultimately failing to match the competition, the latest BBOS 10.3 update has refocused the OS towards doing what the company does best: business.
Its capable office suite along with the rich and secure email and messaging capabilities make it a very compelling offer in a corporate scenario. By playing to its strengths, BlackBerry is giving you a reason to consider it above Android.

But the Passport certainly doesn't come without its share of drawbacks. The odd form factor takes a lot of getting used to, particularly if you're coming from a conventional smartphone. Up next we'll take a closer look at the design, controls, and handling of the BlackBerry Passport.

Unique retail package

The retail package of the BlackBerry Passport is as unique as the device itself. It features a user manual that looks like an actual passport, a region-specific A/C adapter, microUSB cable, and a quality headset with extra earbuds

Design, build quality and handling

The Passport is designed around a sturdy metal frame that the company is not making a big deal of, but it really should. It adds a fair amount of heft to the device, but also makes it feel of higher quality. The rounded frame ends complement the rounded edges of the rear panel and the front glass. The square corners give it that signature passport-like look.
The back panel is made out of polycarbonate that is pleasantly matted to resist smudges. It feels good to the touch as well, although it does tend to attract a fair amount of dust - likely not a problem if you're sporting the white color option. There's an ever-so-slight camera bump (0.3mm to be exact), that could potentially get scuffed after prolonged usage.
The QWERTY keys themselves have good resistance when pressed, and are also backlit for easier typing in the dark.
The entire keypad itself is touch enabled, meaning that you can perform scroll and swipe actions just by dragging your fingers across the keys without actually pressing them.

 The high quality build certainly makes handling the Passport more pleasurable, but its wide footprint makes it far from easy to live with. The large screen does not let your thumb reach all the way across, and the same goes for the keyboard. One-handed operation will really only go as far as basic at-a-glance usage. For everything else - typing, browsing, and most applications - you'll need to use two hands.

Using two hands goes without saying in the messenger form factor, but if you're coming from a more compact touchscreen device it'll take some getting used to.
Below the display lies the Passport's key feature - the QWERTY keyboard. Each button is pleasantly shaped and provides ample resistance when pressed and tactile feedback.
As we mentioned earlier, the entire keypad is touch-enabled and has gesture support - you just need to run your fingers across the buttons without pressing them. The gestures come in handy for managing word suggestions, as well as for scrolling webpages and menus.
You'll notice that there are no special keys/symbols beyond space, delete, and enter. Numbers, punctuation, and special characters appear at the bottom edge of the screen when needed. Check out the messaging and text input chapter for more information.

The Passport's right side features a three-piece volume rocker (play/pause button in the middle), while the left side is bare. The edges composed of a metal frame, while the buttons themselves are plastic

The top of the device is where you'll find the power/lock button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a small crevice for removing a portion of the back panel.

The bottom of the Passport houses the microUSB port and microphone pinhole, flanked by two speakers.

Flipping the device over, you'll spot the 13MP camera lens and single LED flash on a small camera hump. The centrally-placed BlackBerry logo has a carved-out look that contributes to the premium aesthetic.


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