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Is it enough to save the company?

After months of teasing the device, trickling out specs, and finally announcing its price, BlackBerry has officially announced the flagship Passport smartphone. Is this the device that will finally get BlackBerry noticed in a sea of flagship smartphones that include the Samsung Galaxy S5/Galaxy Note 4, LG G3, HTC One (M8), and Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus?
 
For starters, let revisit the specs of the Passport:
  • 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Processor with 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of internal storage
  • microSD slot (supports up to 128GB)
  • 4.5”, 1440x1440 display
  • Gorilla Glass 3
  • 13MP rear camera with OIS, 5-element f/2.0 lens, and LLED flash
  • 2MP front-facing camera
  • LTE connectivity
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • 3450 mAh battery (non-removable) which promises up to 23 hours of talk time

[Image Source: The Verge]
 
The device itself measures 3.55” x 5.03” and is 0.36” thick. It weighs 6.1 ounces and manages to cram in a capacitive touch QWERTY keyboard beneath its 4.5” square display.
 
As for how the device stacks up in the real world, we’ve gathered some quotes from The Wall Street Journal, The Verge, CrackBerry, and The Globe and Mail — all of which have reviewed BlackBerry’s newcomer into the cutthroat smartphone market.
 
On the physical QWERTY keyboard:
 
The dominant feature here is the capacitive keyboard, which embeds some new gesture/touch controls in the plastic keys. For instance, you can swipe from right to left to delete a word, or you can swipe up and down on the keys to scroll through a long document or Web page…
 
I’d call it a mixed success as there is a learning curve to get the right amount of pressure to activate swiping intentionally. One benefit is that you can select text on screen without blocking it with your fat fingers, but the accuracy was a little loose, making copying and pasting more awkward than it needs to be. The Globe and Mail
 
[Image Source: The Verge]
 
But the bigger problem: It doesn't feel like a BlackBerry keyboard. Sure, there are the reliable well-spaced frets and angled keys, but the all-important shift, number and punctuation keys aren't there, physically—they pop up on the screen. It's harder to get used to than it may sound. I liken it to coming home to find your living room is now your bedroom and your bedroom is your bathroom. — The Wall Street Journal
 
On the quirky 4.5” display:
 
It also has the added bonus of holding up pretty darn well in direct sunlight and unlike the BlackBerry Z30, which had its display brightness abilities limited, that's seemingly not an issue on the BlackBerry Passport. If you want to crank the display up so that it looks like a shining star when you wake at night and swipe it on, you can do that. I don't recommend it of course, but who am I to tell what you to do and what not to do. To each their own, let there be light! — CrackBerry
 
 
BlackBerry designed this display for reading and you can see a lot of stuff on it. It’s a very purpose-built screen for doing business-y things like reviewing spreadsheets and slide presentations. But that makes it not very good at many of the other things that we use our smartphones for today. It’s much easier to navigate a spreadsheet or browse a webpage with the Passport, but reading my Twitter feed requires a lot of scrolling, and videos have annoying black bars eating up half of the display above and below the content. — The Verge
 
On the 3450 mAh battery and overall battery life:
 
The BlackBerry Passport includes a massive 3450mAh battery and while there are arguments to be had about whether or not they should have stuck with a removable battery, I don't personally think it's that big of a deal. In my testing, the BlackBerry Passport survived a full day in any use case and while some nights when usage was heavy I HAD to charge it, there were also nights when usage wasn't as heavy and if I forgot to charge it there was more than enough juice to get me up and running in the morning and into the afternoon. — CrackBerry
 
On the plus side, it packs a 3,450 mAh battery (bigger than the power pack than the Galaxy Note 3 phablet). On the negative side, it’s not removable so you can’t carry a spare. BlackBerry claims 36 hours of battery life, and while that’s probably achievable on standby mode, I found it more like 18-plus hours of moderate and occasional use. By the way that is still excellent, this isn’t a phone you need to charge before dinner. — The Globe and Mail
 
Unlike BlackBerry smartphones of old, the Passport’s integrated battery isn’t removable. But it’s huge (big phones beget big batteries) and it had no trouble lasting a full day for me. Many times, I could get well into day two without having to plug it in. That's great: it's hard to get any work done if your iPhone is begging for a charge at 3PM. – The Verge
 
Overall conclusions:
 
The bulky, awkward design and the unfamiliar keyboard make it hard to justify finding space for it in a pocket or bag.
 
I just don't need such a thing as a long-lasting, email-centric "work" phone anymore. — The Wall Street Journal
 
When reviewing a new device I apply a very simple test suggested by my techie chums: Do I want to keep using this thing? As in, when the review period is over will I keep going? The answer surprised me in this case: If I can ever fully re-acclimatize to the physical keyboard and BB10, I just might make this my primary work phone. I don’t mind the size, it lets me work on text and Web just fine, and I don’t always care if I can’t get the latest iPhone-first social media app. — The Globe and Mail
 
I do a lot of work on my phone. It’s second only to my laptop when it comes to getting my job done. The BlackBerry Passport should be the right phone for me: it was designed from the ground up to get work done.
 
But despite getting a number of things right, like awesome battery life and a solid construction, the Passport got in the way of getting work done more than it helped. Nobody would really argue that iOS is a super productive platform, but my iPhone offers the tools I need to get my job done, and the Passport does not. BlackBerry admits that many of its Power Pro users are still likely to carry two phones, even with the Passport. But if I can get my job done with just one device, why bother carrying two? — The Verge
 
Not enough people know BlackBerry 10 even exists, let alone the fact that's a great operating system. If their first experience on BlackBerry 10 is the BlackBerry Passport, I feel that's a good thing because even though it looks a little odd, it's a pretty complete package when all things are considered. — CrackBerry
 

BlackBerry definitely has its work cut out for it if it wants to become relevant in the smartphone game. We’re not so sure that the Passport is the answer to improve its 0.5 percent (and sinking) share in the global smartphone market. Perhaps the upcoming Classic well help to slightly improve its fortunes, but from where we’re sitting, we’re not so sure that enough people – beyond the BlackBerry faithful will take notice.





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