This is what BlackBerry’s latest flagship looks like. Unveiled today globally, it’s called “The Passport” and is priced at $599 without contract.
BlackBerry Ltd’s unconventional square-screened smartphone, the Passport, earned mixed reviews at its launch on Wednesday as the company’s turnaround push moved into a critical phase in which it must prove its handsets are still desirable. BlackBerry showed off the new device at events in Toronto, London and Dubai.
Every other smartphone is rectangular so this choice seems odd. BlackBerry’s findings suggest that this format is better suited to real work. Documents, schematics, spreadsheets, diagrams, x-rays and so on will be easier to see, with lesser scrolling and zooming.
The launch of the Blackberry Passport also brings BlackBerry fans an all new physical QWERTY keyboard, which the company is hyping today as “touch-enabled”. Users can type to enter text, or swipe lightly across the slimmed-down keyboard to navigate. And using a new system called BlackBerry Blend, they can respond to messages and access information stored on their phones from tablets and computers.
The touch-enabled keyboard allows you to brush your fingers over the QWERTY keyboard and scroll through information on screen. This is perfect when managing the list of messages in the BlackBerry Hub, or when browsing a website (pro tip: turn your Passport sideways for smoother swiping when you’re in hard-core content consumption mode). You get a full wide view of content and can scroll through without obstructing the screen.
BlackBerry also says that the BlackBerry 10.3 software update debuting on the Passport will be coming to all BlackBerry 10 devices.
BlackBerry today announced that its Passport smartphone will be coming to AT&T. The operator is not saying how much the Passport will cost or when exactly it will be available, but BlackBerry expects the phone to cost about $249 on contract.