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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.)

I appreciate the size of the Passport's display, which lets you see more of a Web page and utilize more screen real estate when working on presentations or documents. It can be awkward, though, especially when typing out long messages — or writing stories like the one you're reading.

BlackBerry Passport Buggy Software Mars Experience

My biggest complaint about the BlackBerry Passport: The overall software experience is buggy and seemingly unfinished. (My device runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.0.675.) Apps crash somewhat frequently, and many are momentarily unresponsive when I return to them from other apps. I have occasional problems switching camera modes. The BlackBerry Browser hangs and crashes when I try to adjust certain settings. These are just a few examples.

The level of "bugginess" in the software is surprising. It brings back memories of past BlackBerry device launches plagued with software issues. In this day and age, I frankly expect more.

The Passport is the first BlackBerry device that comes preloaded with the Amazon App Store for Android. There's still an official BlackBerry app store called BlackBerry World, which is for native BlackBerry apps developed in the past and for corporate apps. The Amazon App Store, with more than 200,000 Android apps, is for consumer apps. I think. I'm still not sure. It's confusing — and the two store experiences feel different.

The Passport runs Android apps. All of the apps in the Amazon store are supposed to work on the Passport — but some don't, or at least don't work well. For example, I had to reboot my Passport a number of times to get Amazon's own Kindle, Instant Video and Music apps to work. You often have to zoom in or resize apps to make them look right on the Passport, too, since they were designed for different displays.

The Amazon App Store gives BlackBerry users access to more apps, but the overall app experience is disjointed and poor compared to other leading mobile platforms.

BlackBerry Passport Is One More Device To Add To Your Collection

BlackBerry was clear during my Passport demonstration that the device is meant for a very specific type of user: Someone who likely already carries two (or more) phones, a tablet (or two), a PC, a wearable and maybe even a few more devices, and who prioritizes productivity over anything else. That's the word that came up more than any other during my meeting with BlackBerry: Productivity.

The Passport is a business device, and it excels in many related areas. But it also falls short in some of the others, which means you'll probably need another phone if you want the best possible overall smartphone experience.

 

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