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Hands on with the new Blackberry Passport smartphone

Al Sacco | Sept. 25, 2014
BlackBerry has officially announced pricing and availability details for its new Passport smartphone, which was previously unveiled and detailed through a variety of blog posts on the company's Inside BlackBerry blog. (Specific pricing and availability information can be found at the end of this post.)

BlackBerry has officially announced pricing and availability details for its new Passport smartphone, which was previously unveiled and detailed through a variety of blog posts on the company's Inside BlackBerry blog. (Specific pricing and availability information can be found at the end of this post.)

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Passport before the announcement. The device is unlike any smartphone I've seen before. It's big. It's square. It has actual buttons — a lot of them. It's kind of awkward. It's definitely not for everybody.

That's all OK; the Passport is one of the most interesting and unique devices the company has ever made.

Before getting into specifics, I want to specify that this story isn't a full-on Passport review or evaluation. As I sit on a flight from Boston to San Francisco, writing this post on my Passport, I've been using the device for less than a week, not nearly enough time to provide a complete evaluation of the hardware, software and all of the Passport's various features.

Instead, this story is meant to tell you some things (good and bad) that you didn't know about the device and to fill you in on what the Passport is and who might be its ideal user.

What You'll Love About The BlackBerry Passport 

BlackBerry Passport Physical, Err, Touch...Physical/Touch Keyboard is Best of Both Worlds

The most unique thing about the BlackBerry Passport is its keyboard, which is both traditional/physical BlackBerry keypad and touch keyboard. It's composed of three sets of physical buttons and up to four additional rows of on-screen touch keys. The physical buttons themselves are touch enabled so you can use a number of gestures for navigation and faster typing. (Check out the video below to see the keyboard in action.)

When I reviewed the BlackBerry Z10 in January 2013, I fell in love with its on-screen keyboard and associated predictive text system. It was completely unique, and it worked well. However, it's still a touch keypad, which can't match a physical keypad for rapid typing, at least not the way I type. As soon as the BlackBerry Q10 was available to me, the first BlackBerry 10 device with a "real," physical keypad, I relegated the Z10 to The Land of Misfit Tech Toys (a.k.a., my dusty bottom desk drawer), where it has quietly resided ever since.

The Passport's combination of touch-enabled physical buttons and on-screen keys is refreshing in a world of cookie-cutter mobile keyboards. Most importantly, it can help you get more work done on your smartphone. The thought of typing out this post on my new iPhone 6 quite literally gives me chills. The job wasn't exactly enjoyable on the Passport, but it was better than whipping out my 15-inch laptop to write on the plane in my cramped economy seat.

 

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