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article imageOp-Ed: Blackberry Passport a square in a world of rectangles

By Kris Coombes     Jul 11, 2014 in Technology
In the modern technological world, there is a huge demand for both style and substance. Blackberry's new phone encourages people to be square (hahaha), but is it the right phone for the modern person?
At the annual meeting, John Chen announced the Passport, expected to be released towards the tail end of this year. Certainly, it raised a few eyebrows, not least because IT'S A SQUARE PHONE. This may seem impractical, and I wouldn't be looking to replace my modest Xperia U with one. However, the Passport is clearly not designed for the aspiring teaching assistant, or the incessant texter, nor the selfie-snapping student.
But is it necessary? What hole in the market is it filling?
Let's start with some (unofficial) specifications. The most obvious feature is its large touchscreen; a whopping 1440x1440 pixels along with a 4.5 inch width allows for greater working space and increased visibility. It has a quad core processor, 32GB of memory and 3GB of RAM, more than most entry level laptops can offer. All in all, this is a very powerful piece of kit. However, these specifications all add up to create a phone package perfect for the white collar worker on the move. Blackberry have spoken of this idea of an optimal number of characters on a line for reading (66), and state that it's rectangular counterparts offer 40 characters, while the Passport allows for 60 with its size, a much closer figure.
Going back to the hypothesis of this phone being aimed at the white collar worker, the size and power of the phone allows for functions such as viewing and creating charts and figures, working on spreadsheets, presentations and documents, and also makes it perfect for viewing and composing emails. It also has two cameras and the ability to record in 1080p though. If this is a pure workers phone, why are these features available? Are they leaving the market open to the young people who want a new, bold, ostentatious gadget to show off? Reason: the screen also lends itself perfectly to social media. The square shape is perfect for viewing Instagram photos, and the large screen size and keyboard make it great for messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and whatever else you may be on, even blogging services like Tumblr can make great use of the features the Passport has.
And yet I still wouldn't want to replace my current smartphone with one. The failure of the Z10 is still very fresh in the mind of some people, and the Blackberry OS is by far the weakest of the four big players: iOS, Android, and Windows OS. To exemplify this, the apps are so few and far between that Blackberry OS doesn't have an Instagram app, which you would assume would be a lynchpin for a gadget like this. Significantly, the retention of the popular hardware keyboard of Blackberry's of the past has come at the cost of cramped space and the loss of a number of important keys, such as shift, most punctuation keys, and the number keys... yes, there are no number keys... on a PHONE. I assume there will be touchscreen keys for numbers where necessary, but to have a keyboard and no number keys just seems daft. Even the full stop has gone.
Then there's the size... yes, the thing I've played up all article. It's a big phone, wider than the Samsung Note which many deemed unnecessarily large, to put it mildly. Is it going to fit in my pocket? Will it truly be mobile or will I have to put it in my bag to carry it with me? Hardly convenient if so.
As a summary, Blackberry's new effort is trying to be all a phone, tablet and some kind of outside-the-box statement of style. Will it work? I don't think so. The market niche they're trying to fill is one I can't see anyone really wanting or needing. Want a fashion statement with great social media and self-imaging functions? Get the latest iPhone. Someone like me who uses a phone to call and text? Any cheap Android smartphone will do. A businessman on the move? Well. You could find use for this, but what exactly is wrong with an iPad or netbook when working on the train or tram? You can work on both handily, they're very portable, and they come with none of the drawbacks of the Passport, not to mention the Passport is likely to be very expensive and it could be cheaper to run a netbook and a smartphone separately than a Passport.
I cannot see this working out for Blackberry. It's a very bold, ambitious idea, designed to break the mold, but it all just seems a little pointless to me. But hey, what do I know. It's mad enough to work if people take to it. But in my view, it's not hip to be square in this instance. It's a square in a world of rectangles: it just doesn't fit in.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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