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BlackBerry Passport deep-dive review: Qwerty meets quirky

Matt Hamblen | Sept. 29, 2014
Qwerty fans will welcome the unit's keyboard, quad-core processor, big battery and voice assistant, but its square shape and hefty weight may give others pause.

Bloomberg Professional seems to be a particularly useful app for financial professionals. Due in late October, it will allow all kinds of searches for financial information. During one demonstration, a user was able to find the top banks by revenue in Canada with a simple voice command, with the list popping up quickly on the display.

Other apps are coming for a variety of uses including a medical imaging technology app from Claron Technology, which allows viewing of detailed medical images on the high-resolution Passport display.

Bottom line
While BlackBerry has a number of great improvements in the Passport, I'm not sure how much they matter. Yes, it is nice to have a fast processor, a clear display and long battery life, but the added width of the square display means very little to me. Various rectangular phones I've tried show me all I need to see while on websites or typing emails. I'm not one to regularly compose or edit Excel spreadsheets, so the added width to do that is also meaningless to me. Admittedly, I'm not the target user of this device.

I'm also pretty sure that anybody under age 35 is not going to care a whit about Passport's qwerty keyboard, including the ability to swipe with the physical keys. Getting all this questionable technological capability inside a heavy-to-the-feel smartphone doesn't seem like an effective way to grow BlackBerry or expand its future beyond its existing user base.

BlackBerry does deserve credit for trying new things and for working cross-platform with its BlackBerry Enterprise Server functions. Kudos go also to the 10.3 OS's BlackBerry Blend sharing technology and for Assistant. That very capable -- possibly superior -- voice-controlled digital assistant tool could help BlackBerry shine, especially when used in conjunction with its professional-grade BBM messaging service. That applies to coming BlackBerry devices as well.

When trying to describe the Passport, the persistent word that jumps out is quirky. As I was holding the Passport while waiting in a line recently, people asked me what it was. I couldn't tell if they were impressed by it or just perplexed. Me? I'm perplexed.


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