We were lucky enough to get our hands on the Blackberry Passport, a full month or so before it is released to the public at its London launch in September. The device itself caused a stir when pictures of the handset began to circulate around the web, predominantly due to its large and square-ish nature. Many felt that this was Blackberry’s attempt to take a chunk of the “phablet” market and we think that they stand a good chance of doing just that.
Make no mistake, the Blackberry Passport is not likely to be an overnight success that catapults the struggling manufacturer back to the peak of the smartphone industry but we think that it will be relatively successful. Die-hard Blackberry fans will love the handset, while others will be drawn towards its quirky aesthetics and big, comfortable keyboard.
The keyboard itself is fantastic. It took a little bit of getting used to but after a few hours it began to feel completely natural. This was probably down to muscle memory rather than any sort of flaw with the handset. The only real issue we had with the keyboard during our brief time with the handset was the on screen punctuation. It just felt weird, going from a physical keyboard to one on the touchscreen, mid paragraph. Again, this is likely something that we would get used to though.
Blackberry has always maintained its unique selling point of secure messaging, which it is now offering away from its own platform in the form of apps on Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It was widely thought that this move would lead to people leaving Blackberry handsets behind, instead deciding to use other smartphones that are capable of much more and have a plentiful supply of applications of their respective stores. We’re not so sure of that after getting our hands on the passport.
If they can continue to come up with handsets like the Passport, it’s our belief that Blackberry will remain in a predominant position within the smartphone space for quite some time.
The Passport’s spec’s are relatively impressive. It supports 2G, 3G and 4G LTE, so streaming videos, downloading apps and email attachments are a piece of cake. The Passport also has a fully functional HTML5 browser, which is a great feature considering the direction that the web is moving in and the incredible things that developers are able to accomplish with it. This is also great for those that like the idea of playing games in their browser, without having to download apps and so forth.
Speaking of apps, one of the biggest points of contention after pictures of the passport hit the web was how well applications would be displayed on the screen. The 1:1 ratio display is almost unheard of in todays world of smartphones, so concerns were raised as to whether we would see letterboxing or similar. We can, once again, confirm that this won’t be an issue. It all just sort of… worked.
For those that play music on their phone or frequently use the loudspeaker during conference calls, you’ll be pleased to know that the handset can be clearly heard from the other side of our office and remains almost crystal clear during loudspeaker phone calls up until around 95%+. Once you get into this sort of range, things start to sound a bit tin-like. Still, even setting the volume to 80% is more than loud enough for your typical users needs.
Other than the fact that there is still an awful lot of stuff on the device that nobody is ever going to use*, there really isn’t an awful lot for us to criticize. The vast majority of the specs have already been released to the public.
The simple truth is that we cannot really offer any new insights into the handset because much of what we saw was already on the web. Now it just comes down to the opinions and personal preferences of the individual user. For us though, it’s an instant must have – and if you’re a Blackberry fan, it probably will be for you too.
* We don’t know what is actually going to be on the device when it ships – only what we saw on the device we had in our offices.