BlackBerry’s been trailing its unique, square–shaped Passport smartphone since June.
But today we’ve got the first inkling of when it’ll hit shelves, after a leaked roadmap showed it will be given a proper unveiling by the end of September.
The phone certainly looks different. It’s got the physical keyboard that BlackBerry still reckons is a winner, albeit in a radically redesigned, slimline form compared to older models.
Its full HD, 1,440 x 1,440 display is like nothing else on the market. And BB10 is actually pretty nifty, despite lacking the same developer support as the likes of iOS and Android.
The company has been talking the device up too.
In a series of official ‘living with’ blog posts, it’s been showing off the Passport’s real world uses, from that smart, touch-sensitive keyboard that’s apparently a boon for firing off accurate emails, to BlackBerry Assistant, AKA the company’s attempt at taking on Siri.
That’s all well and good. The Passport actually looks pretty cool. But then so did the Z10, Q5 and countless other devices.
That’s not really the issue.
BlackBerry’s problems go back years and it’s hard to see it turning a corner, even if its financial results showed it heading back into the black earlier this summer.
There’s a good reason for this. BlackBerry phones simply aren’t selling.
eMarketer research, revealed in The Guardian last week, showed the company’s UK market share was now less than Windows Phone.
It will have 2.4 million users on these shores by the end of 2014, compared to 2.7 million Windows Phone owners.
By way of comparison, 3.6 million people owned BlackBerry devices at the end of 2013 according to the same study.
This is a huge issue for BlackBerry. Android and iPhone numbers are surging and with good reason.
Devices on both platforms are getting relentlessly better and apps are becoming increasingly impressive.
You can even get BBM, taking the edge off of BlackBerry’s own hardware.
There is simply no compelling reason for consumers to buy a BlackBerry instead of an Android device or iPhone.
BlackBerry may say it’s aiming the Passport at enterprise, but even there it’s struggling.
Google is upping its security games thanks to Samsung’s KNOX software and iOS continues to grow in this space.
CEO John Chen can be pleased that BlackBerry averted disaster last year. But the decision to continue in the hardware business will surely prove foolhardy.
Licensing secure software would surely have been a smarter bet.
This is not his fault, BlackBerry’s days have been numbered ever since its ex-CEOs bad-mouthed Apple without products of its own that backed up their claims of pre-eminence.
The Passport looks cool, but it’s hard to see it as anything other than a final novelty device for the Canadian firm.