My love/hate relationship with the BlackBerry Passport

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry's latest smartphone courts controversy

No one's been talking about BlackBerry for a while. The square-shaped BlackBerry Passport, launched a little over a week ago, has changed that at least – although not all the chatter has been positive by any means.

Even so, I'm impressed that a company that has been struggling to compete for a number of years now has managed to pull out a product so strikingly different from the iPhone 6-shaped status quo. And, according to BlackBerry's figures, 200,000 Passport handsets were bought in the first 48 hours of going on sale.

It's a gamble, BlackBerry – and I like a gambler. So that's reason one why I'm prepared to give the Passport a good word to folks who'll listen.

Here are four more:

Power up

There's a great battery life to be had from the 3,450mAh beast stuck in the back of the Passport. Seriously, if you don't want your productivity hampered by the need to charge a smartphone, then BlackBerry has done you a favour here.

It's comparable to the 4,000mAh battery inside the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 phablet in terms of longevity.

Big brain

The 3GB (count 'em) of RAM means that multitasking is handled with business-like efficiency.

Even the layout has a designated homescreen for tiled shortcuts of whichever apps you happen to be running.

There's no lag when it comes to switching either because BlackBerry's plumped for a Snapdragon 801 processor.

Fair and square

The Passport's 4.5-inch Gorilla Glass 3 screen displays 60 characters across instead of 40. And for websites, emails and office documents, I'm enjoying all that extra width.

The 1,440 x 1,400 resolution is crisp and detailed, and I don't need to constantly zoom in and out to work my way around a document.

Even better, a double-tap on BlackBerry's keyboard lets me scroll up or down the page without obscuring any of the screen.

BlackBerry Passport

The extra screen size is useful

Scrubbed-up software

There are also some useful software upgrades working away underneath the black and silver chassis – not least the BlackBerry Hub, which is a substantial plus for me.

Grouping all notifications together in a single place and giving you the ability to dive in and out of them rapidly is a bit of a USP for BlackBerry, and a productivity godsend when you're compiling messages from multiple work accounts.


BlackBerry hasn't made a perfect sweep by any means, and the main problem with the Passport is that when you can't operate a phone one-handed, it becomes a much harder sell. At 90.3mm in width, you won't be using the Passport while holding the rail on an escalator or clutching a bag in one hand.

Here are four more reasons I'm not won over by the BlackBerry Passport:

Appy slacking

Apps are the lifeblood of smartphones and BlackBerry's been notoriously dry for far too long.

Adding the Amazon Appstore to the Passport is a step forward, but when that still means I can't get hold of Instagram, BBC iPlayer, Pocket, Feedly, Snapchat, Endomondo or Uber, it's not a very big step.

Some of the big names are here, but not nearly enough of them to compete with what Android and iOS have to offer.

Keyboard bore

Unfortunately the Passport's most defining feature – its keyboard – is also one of its most awkward. Time was when resistive touchscreens made typing out lengthy messages on-screen a pain, but now we've moved past that into a capacitive Utopia of SwiftKey and friends.

Typing on the Passport's keyboard, while arguably more comfortable, is still a lot slower than on the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Time is money.

Blackberry Passport

Typing on the BlackBerry Passport's keyboard is slower than a virtual keyboard

Video no-no

Even business users want to watch a movie or TV show at some point – think of all the flights and train journeys. But watching a 16:9 video on the Passport screen means a letterbox view that won't go away.

It's not a great experience. Music? Yeah, you've got 32GB of storage, a microSD port, Spotify and decent speakers, but that's just part of the story.

Too big to succeed?

Expect to be weighed down by this phone: it tips the scales at 194g and you'll notice every gram. The size also makes it awkward for conventional trouser pockets.

Clearly, the Passport demands you dress for business at all times with a suit jacket, or possibly a holster.

BlackBerry did what it needed to do to get noticed in a cut-throat smartphone market that, thanks to Apple and Samsung, had all but forgotten them. And for that, I say well done.

Blackberry Passport

The sheer size and weight of the BlackBerry Passport means it won't have mass-market appeal

The company has made sure the Passport can compete on specifications and performance. But the fact remains that the form factor, app limitations and media shortcoming mean this is never going to hit mass-market appeal.

BlackBerry's Passport is interesting by virtue of being different. And, while it handles the business side of things well, there's too much wrong with the design to displace the likes of the iPhone or Galaxy phones for most people.