BlackBerry today unveiled its square-screened Passport smartphone after months of leaks running up to its official unveiling.
Just a couple of days ago, company CEO John Chen confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that it was due to arrive imminently and would cost $599, making it cheaper than some of its rival flagship handsets in the US.
Aside from its unusual square appearance created by a 4.5-inch (1440 x 1440 resolution) display, key hardware specs include a condensed version of BlackBerry’s signature Qwerty keyboard, a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 3GB RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. It’ll also support microSD cards up to 64GB. On the rear, there’s a 13-megapixel snapper, complimented by a 2-megapixel sensor for video chats and selfies on the front.
Under-the-bonnet, the phone is one of the first to arrive running the BlackBerry 10.3, which brings new features like a productivity-focused BlackBerry assistant, a new app called BlackBerry Blend and Amazon’s App Store, among a number of other visual and functional changes.
Mix and Blend
The Blend app allows users to more easily manage files and communications between a BlackBerry smartphone and Windows, iOS, Mac and Android-based devices, BlackBerry said. So, for example, all your BBM and SMS messages will be delivered from your phone into a hub available from your computer or tablet. It’ll also allow you to save files to your smartphone directly from a different device.
Naturally, as a company with a base of professional users, security is also pretty important when it comes to transferring files and accessing data. To that end, BlackBerry has also included an easy way for IT admins to ensure that Blend parameters match their own security guidelines.
While BlackBerry has struggled to adapt to changing market conditions in recent years, it’s encouraging to see it still trying out new designs and introducing new core OS features that could help it stand out from the crowd – whether or not it works in the long run, it’s arguably better than producing yet another forgettable slab of metal and plastic.
Say what you like about BlackBerry, but you can’t say this Passport looks like all the rest of the phones on the market. Whether or not the market will care (beyond BlackBerry’s loyal fan base) is a different question.
The company said that the Passport is “now available through local carriers around the world” and online at ShopBlackBerry.com and Amazon.com. The device will be available in more than 30 countries in total through BlackBerry’s portal and is priced at $599 in the US, $699 in Canada, £529 in the UK and €649 in Europe.