BlackBerry Passport review: A smartphone going nowhere

Has BlackBerry passed its 'use by' date?

BlackBerry Passport
  • BlackBerry Passport
  • BlackBerry Passport
  • BlackBerry Passport
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • High resolution screen
  • Good processing hardware
  • Secure emails

Cons

  • Awkward form factor
  • Stiff QWERTY keyboard
  • Limited application support

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    TBA (AUD)

A suit, tie and buttoned up collar go best. It’s held in one hand with coffee often in the other. There’s no time to waste because time is money and money is money.

“Hi. My name is BlackBerry Passport, and I’m a workaholic.”

The Passport is an unusual smartphone from BlackBerry, a company no longer part of mainstream lexicon. This is the company's attempt at bringing innovation to the popular touchscreen form factor.

There’s a 4.5in screen up front joined by a three row QWERTY keyboard. BlackBerry has meshed these together in a body the size of an international passport.

Why a passport? We don’t know. It’s not like a passport comfortably fits in pants pockets.

BlackBerry’s reps claim the shape comes closest to the pages of a book as the screen can display 60 characters per line. There’s credence backing the claim with text and web pages looking less compromised and more like they would on a computer.

Older BlackBerry’s circumvented not having a touchscreen by including an optical trackpad. Swiping your thumb over it caused the on-screen content to scroll fluidly, either horizontally or vertically. The Passports performs an interesting trick by doubling the keyboard as an optical trackpad. Using it means fingers don’t get in the way of the screen; however, most people will continue to use the touchscreen because it offers more control.

Read more: Top Twitter reactions to Windows 10

The three-row keyboard covers only letters, a backspace and an enter key. It’s hard typing at pace because you’ll have to reach up to the screen for numbers and special characters. Lugging such a large smartphone should pay dividends in how quickly texts can be written and emails can be drafted, but between the layout of the keyboard and the stiffness of its keys, typing on the BlackBerry Passport is not easy.

Receiving texts and emails is, though. BlackBerry’s Hub feeds all notifications into one informations savvy interface. Notifications from social networks can be viewed and actioned here, such as accepting a LinkedIn request or replying to a tweet. Viewing the hub can be done quickly from any part of the menu by gesturing an arc and, although Windows Phone offers a glace at different notifications, BlackBerry’s Hub offers a lot more detail. It is the most information centric interface available and will appeal to people who are always plugged-in.

BlackBerry smartphones run BB10 and the Passport comes with the current 10.3 version. The software has been geared for business use first and it is supplemented by frayed application support.

Read more: Windows 10: a new platform that runs on every device
BlackBerry Hub, the task manager and the application draw
BlackBerry Hub, the task manager and the application draw

BlackBerry offers its own application store, BlackBerry World, on the Passport, however, it doesn’t have a large app population. That’s why the company has made its operating system compatible with Amazon’s application store. Amazon’s Appstore hosts some 250,000 applications, and although that’s just one-quarter of Apple and Google’s, it’s on par with Microsoft’s.

Theoretically, the BlackBerry Passport will work with applications from Google’s Play store. Don’t get excited because you’ll have to download the installation file (.apk) separately before it will work, and that’s an inelegant solution reserved for hackers.

Hardware tells a better story with the Passport proving one of the best kitted BlackBerrys in the company’s history. The 4.5in screen has a 1440x1400 resolution for a density of 453 pixels-per-inch. Inside is a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, with the option of adding a microSD memory card. The smartphone bristles with connectivity options, while long-lasting battery life remains a hallmark of BlackBerry phones.

During our testing of the BlackBerry Passport, we had all of our social networks and email accounts actively refreshing. This type of usage would’ve flattened an iPhone 6 within 17 hours, but the Passport endured 33 hours before going flat.

Snapping a photo with the BlackBerry Passport is just another reminder this smartphone is reserved for business use. Photos captured with the rear 13MP camera suffer from too much image noise when viewed at their native resolution. The Passport’s camera falls behind what’s on offer from Sony, Apple, Samsung, HTC and Nokia.

Captured with the BlackBerry Passport
Captured with the BlackBerry Passport

The photo above cropped at 100 per cent resolution
The photo above cropped at 100 per cent resolution
Read more: Nikon Coolpix AW120 review: Tough and then some

Final thought

The BlackBerry Passport is the Fort Knox of smartphones. Only those with for-their-eyes-only information will value its proficient security, though we’d recommend the BlackBerry Z30 in those cases. The Passport does few things well, but it is let down by doing too many things not well enough.

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