BlackBerry launches square-screen Passport with dual-control keyboard
The time has come for the company to deliver, for an eventual return to profitability, and many are hoping that its unconventional smartphone will be just the tool for the job. The device, which is the size and shape of a closed passport, was shown off at simultaneous events which took place in Toronto, London and Dubai. The release was part of a broader turnaround strategy led by CEO John Chen, according to BlackBerry’s chief operating officer Marty Beard.
“You’re going to see us be very focused,” Beard said. “Potentially, in the past we got a little too broad a little too aggressively. Our target segment is more enterprise-focused. It’s the power professional. It’s someone who wants to be productive.”
“Those users tend to be in regulated industries like banking or healthcare or government. We know those segments really well – in a way it’s getting back to the BlackBerry roots,” added Beard. The Canadian company hopes to not only appeal to existing BlackBerry owners, but also attract new users. Sales of the its handsets have been in decline since it started its three-year restructuring process, which was recently concluded, so now it needs some positivity.
The handset sports a 4.5-inch 453ppi in-cell IPS LCD Touch Display, with its square-ish shape said to make it easier for users to edit and view documents, even though it does affect the suitability for viewing videos. Under the hood, it is powered by a 2.2GHz Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU with 3GB RAM, 32GB Flash and micro USB support. Additionally, there is a 13MP rear facing camera and a 2MP front snapper, both with image and video stabilisation and HF video recording functionality.
Touch sensitive & physical dual-control keyboard
Whist BlackBerry’s trait of a physical keyboard is still incorporated, the buttons are touch-sensitive, which will allows gesture-based shortcuts for navigating through the device. “In some cases it takes a while to learn it, because even if you’re familiar with a BlackBerry it’s a little bit different because it’s that combination of physical plus virtual,” acknowledged Beard when asked about the new gesture controls. “So there may be that learning curve in the beginning, but it’s well worth it, and once people learn it they are flying.”
The Passport will come loaded with the company’s new BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.3, which will include new features such as access to Amazon’s Appstore, BlackBerry Blend, which allows a Wi-Fi connected PC or tablet to control tasks on the handset, and BlackBerry Assistant, the company’s own voice assistant. A huge 3,450mAh battery is also included, promising up to 25 hours of mixed use.
The BlackBerry Passport will be on sale from today in Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US, priced at an ‘introductory rate’ of $599 (£529). The company says that the phone should be available in more than 30 countries by the end of 2014