Hip to be square? BlackBerry launches unorthodox passport-sized phone


Forget bent phones… how about square ones? Blackberry has launched its latest Passport device this week, as the phone maker looks to turn around its fortunes with an unconventional approach.

View the promo video for the Passport device here:


Announced at a global event Wednesday, simultaneously held in Toronto, Dubai, and London, the device is the size and shape of a typical closed US passport.

It’s equipped with a 4.5-inch, 1,440 × 1,440 pixel resolution touchscreen display. This offers a 453ppi pixel density, which is suitably sharp; but according to BlackBerry, it’s the widescreen effect that makes the Passport intriguing.

Apparently, ebook readers come closest to matching print content’s 62 character page width, but most thin smartphones only manage to offer half this amount. The Passport’s wide display can show 60 characters, making webpages and documents easier and more pleasing to read.

The touchscreen is joined by a touch-enabled keyboard. Gestures are key to its operation, with an up-swipe for selecting suggested words, a swipe down to bring up a virtual option list, which then corresponds to the physical keyboard, plus ease of selecting text on the screen.

The Passport comes to market as the phones of BlackBerry’s rivals converge on a single profile, with tall, rectangular screens and smooth corners. Users can type on the Passport’s keyboard to enter text, or swipe lightly across it to navigate through the phone.

BlackBerry recently concluded a three-year restructuring process, and it is now up to chief executive John Chen to prove that the company’s new devices and services are capable of generating sustainable new streams of revenue and returning it to profit.

At the Toronto event Chen brought out retired National Hockey League star Wayne Gretzky to talk up the Passport’s features. The device has a suggested introductory retail price of $599 (£367) in the United States.

BlackBerry said the new smartphone should be available in more than 30 countries by the end of the year. It will be carried by AT&T in the United States.

Passport users will be able to download apps from Amazon’s app store, previously only available for Android-based phones. BlackBerry announced the deal that cleared the way for its customers to access Amazon’s store in June.

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