Blackberry Passport

In the recent years, BlackBerry Limited, or just BlackBerry have had their share of competitive battle. But theirs is a battle for survival, competing against the likes of the Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhones and the iOS. In Quarter 3 of 2014, BlackBerry accounted for 0.5 % of the Smarpthone market. This compared to Android, who occupy 84.4 %, and Apple’s iOS which accounts for 11.7 %. Clearly Android is dominating the market. This is the circumstance or rather reality in which BlackBerry find themselves in. Their latest CEO, John Chen has been pretty active following the retrenchment of BlackBerry staff in the last two years. Under his healm, enter the BlackBerry Passport.

Officially the BlackBerry passport was released to the world in September 2014. A few week’s back I was at Sandton at a CellPhone store, when I first saw the Passport being advertised. My first impression was instantly positive. Given BlackBerry’s history from the time BBM craze hit South Africa till recent times where majority of people are opting for Android, I looked at the phone and the first thing that impressed me was the innovative design.

Last year I ended the year with a review of the high end smartphones that where currently available in South Africa at the time. Something interesting that came out of that, was that many of the top smartphone have similar traits externally and internally. For example, the Slate form factor, the Android operating System, the Qualcomm processor, the IPS LCD. Not that these things are bad , they are defiantly a good thing. The issue here is that what you have, is most probably very similar to what the next guy has.

So when I saw the Blackberry Passport, part of me was very impressed. I thought here we have Blackberry, who are not doing that great at the moment but then they drop a bomb of innovation and brought the new to consumers indicating they have game.

The Blackberry Passport is a large device, measuring in at 128 mm in Height, and 90.3 mm in Width. Depth wise the smartphone is 9.3 mm thick. This makes the Blackberry fall into the category of “Phablet”. The dimensions give it the appearance or rather outline of real life passport. In addition to the form factor being unique, you also have a 4.5 inch square display with a resolution of 1440 * 1440 pixels. BlackBerry have noted that the increased “Width” of the display, means for the user better web browsing and improved overall reading. At 453 pixels per inch, you can expect a top notch viewing experience. The frame covering the Passport is made of metal, with and the back of the device is protected by a polycarbonate cover.

Below the square sized display, we have a traditional QWERTY keyboard. It might be a bit unorthodox for a “smartphone” these days to have a keypad like a “feature” phone of the past, but I do not see it this way. When I see a QWERTY keyboard on a smartphone, I only about think about how fast I will be able to type on it. For me it spell’s “productivity”. BlackBerry have up’ed +1 what we think as a conventional keypad. They keypad, is touch-enabled meaning you can navigate the passport through the keypad alone. For example to move left or right whilst reading a web page, all you do now is slide you fingers across the keypad. As per BlackBerry, “Only BlackBerry can take a perfectly crafted keyboard and make it better.”

My personal opinion is that Nokia / Microsoft have set the benchmark in photo taking field for smartphones with their partnership with Carl Zeiss producing some really hardcore devices such as the Nokia Lumia which packs a 41 Megapixel camera. BlackBerry have always been playing catch up in this regard. Looking at the Passport, we find a 13 Megapixel Rear Camera with a resoluion of 4128 * 3096 pixels, with Auto-Focus, LED Flash and found at the Front, is 2 Megapixel Camera which can record video at 720 pixels which beats a cost-cutting VGA camera. The camera does not represent the benchmark, neither does it represent the bottom feeder or last in race type of competitor, rather it put’s the BlackBerry Passport kind of in the middle, which means we can rate it at medium.

More importantly than the camera, is the processor running the whole show on the BlackBerry Passport. Here we find a Quad-Core 2.26 GHz, Qualcomm SnapDragon 801 processor. The processor, being highly efficient has a pretty slim chance of experiencing lag (opening a 200 Megabyte PDF) due to 3GB of RAM and the optimized operating system but I you will have to find this truth out for yourself.

So far, everything about the BlackBerry Passport is pointing to device made with strong emphasis on being productive and efficient, it really does seem like phone tailored for the working class person who would interact with email, documents PDFs, calls amongst other things. Now, BlackBerry have made the battery on the Passport non-removable. I normally criticise this point, as Apple have kept their iPhone with non-removable batteries since inception of range in 2007.
Powering the Passport is 3450 mAh battery which equals plenty of juice. This is quite a notable feature, and something I am sure many people will be impressed by when using the phone. In addition to the battery being physically capable, the operating system(BlackBerry 10 OS) running on the Passport has been optimized for for power consumption , resulting in 30 Hours of battery Life.

The OS, has been beefed up since it was originally released in 2013. The reality of this Operating is two-fold. Firstly, yes It is smaller than both Android and iOS in terms of how many applications are available for the platform. Secondly, no it is not inferior in functionality or usability. BlackBerry have made two application stores available for devices running the BlackBerry 10 OS, namely the standard “BlackBerry World” from which productivity applications are available, and the “Amazon AppStore” from which users will be able to download Android Apps such as Mine craft to their BlackBerry Passport’s.

I liked the BlackBerry Passport from the start, and after reviewing it I like it even more. The unique form factor, the high end physically specifications such as Quad Core processor, 3GB RAM, the quality of the build just make this device very appealing. As a cherry on top, BlackBerry have made it possible to download Android apps on the passport defiantly a win win situation.

Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3450 mAh battery
Camera Rear: 13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, LED Flash
Video: 1080 pixels @ 60 Frames per second
Front: 2 MP, Video Recording at 720 pixels
Connect Bluetooth: v4.0, A2DP
GPS: A-GPS, GlonGlass
Near-Filed Communication
Radio: FM Radio with RDS
Usb: microUSB v2.0
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA
CPU Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait
Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8974AA Snapdragon 801
GPU Adreno 330
Display 4.5 inch, IPS LCD with 16 million Colors
1440 x 1440 pixels @ 452 pixels per inch, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Multitouch Display (Up To 10 Finers)
Form Factor Square
Manufacturer BlackBerry
Memory Internal Storage: 32 GB
Memory Card: up to 128 GB
Operating System Blackberry OS 10.3
Size Width: 128. mm
Height: 90.3 mm
Depth: 9.3 mm
Weight: 196 g
Support Keyboard: QWERTY
Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email, IM, BBM 6
Sensors: Accelerometer, GyroScope, Proximity, Compass