BlackBerry lifted the lid on its much leaked Passport handset today, heralding a return to the smartphone market after a year-long hiatus prompted by weak sales for its 2012 efforts.
Billed as a phone that “redefines productivity for mobile professionals’, the Passport also appears to mark BlackBerry's return to a strategy focussed on enterprise users rather than the youth market it once courted with the Curve range.
At the heart of the Passport is a square-shaped, 4.5-inch screen that combines with a QWERTY touchscreen keyboard and a Siri-style voice assistant for a device that blends the BlackBerry of old with features borrowed from recent efforts from rivals.
In a nod to the Canadian gadget-maker’s heritage, the keyboard also features a responsive touch surface “like a trackpad” that lets you “scroll web pages, flick to type or slide along the keys to move the cursor, leaving the full screen space for viewing”.
Much was made of the Passport’s capacity to show spreadsheets in full. Given how little that’s likely to appeal to youngers, it’s fair to say that the days of endorsements from Drake and Tinie Tempah appear to be long gone.
The BlackBerry Blend app, meanwhile, lets users port messaging and content from their Passport over to their computer or tablet for more seamless working on the move.
A 3450mAh battery that’s the largest on any smartphone on the market is also on board, as is the latest 10.3 version of BlackBerry’s operating system, a 13-megapixel camera and a quad-core 2.2 GHZ processor to keep things ticking over.
Ernest Doku, tech expert at uSwitch.com, said: “This latest handset launch shows that it’s back to business for BlackBerry - and what a smart move that is.
“Business handsets are where BlackBerry started, and this phone could be its Passport back from the youth messenger market - and all the bad PR that came with their love of BBM"
He said: “After a year away from the UK market, a return to Blighty with a keyboard-based smartphone is a move that plays to BlackBerry's strengths, and shows it has finally understood what people liked about its early phones.
“Its touchscreen-only handsets were criticised for their lack of physical buttons users had come to expect from the mobile maker. You can't blame BlackBerry for trying, but abandoning your unique selling point is never wise."
After years of being well off the pace when it came to apps, the Passport offers access to Amazon's Android download store for games and diversions, as well as use of BlackBerry World for productivity and office applications.