BlackBerry Passport: the square smartphone with a keyboard

The square BlackBerry Passport is here – and the ailing smartphone firm is hoping the odd-looking handset will help it compete against Apple and Android.

The BlackBerry Passport has a square touchscreen display and a physical QWERTY keyboard, a major departure from the glass rectangle forms most smartphones take.

“The BlackBerry Passport was created to drive productivity and to break through the sea of rectangular-screen, all-touch devices,” said John Chen, BlackBerry’s CEO, in a statement.

It remains to be seen, however, if the BlackBerry Passport’s odd shape and inclusion of a keyboard is enough to overcome the company’s recent struggles or competition Apple, which is hoping to push iPhones to corporates via a recent deal with IBM.

BlackBerry Passport hardware and specs

A physical keyboard has long been a key element of the BlackBerry design, although the company temporarily ditched it for the Z10. The company said the Passport’s keyboard is four times as accurate as its own virtual keyboards, with users making 74% fewer errors on it. The keyboard is also touch sensitive, letting you swipe or flick to move the cursor, scroll through webpages and more.

The Passport has a 4.5in square screen with a 1,440 x 1,440 resolution (453ppi). It runs a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, has 3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera and 32GB of built-in storage.

BlackBerry Passport

BlackBerry is also promising 30 hours of “mixed use” between charges via the 3,450mAh battery – the Nexus 5, for comparison, has a 2,300mAh battery.

BlackBerry said the Passport was designed to fit in a pocket and to survive that experience – something Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus is having difficulty with, as users report the phablet is bending when kept in pockets. BlackBerry said the Passport is designed to be durable, with the display reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and the body toughened with stainless steel.

BlackBerry Passport software

In terms of software, the Passport runs BlackBerry 10.3, the latest OS from the handset maker, which is so far only available on the BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9983 smartphone.

The Passport features the BlackBerry Assistant, the company’s first digital assistant, which uses voice recognition similar to Siri and Google Now.

The Passport is also the first BlackBerry device to use BlackBerry Blend, a new messaging and content hub designed to give easier access to notifications, calendar entries and more. The system works with your BlackBerry, desktop PC and other mobile devices, including Android and Apple tablets. BlackBerry said it was working to bring support for “other tablets” soon.

For apps, users can download from BlackBerry World or get Android apps via the pre-loaded Amazon Appstore.

BlackBerry Passport availability and price

The BlackBerry Passport is available immediately globally, via Amazon and from BlackBerry’s own website. In the UK, the BlackBerry Passport will cost £529 SIM free.

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