Gadget review: BlackBerry Passport

For the past year or so, speculations were rife whether BlackBerry would survive. While the commoners preferred feature-rich Chinese brands (which came at affordable prices), the business/corporate users still preferred Blackberry.

Blackberry Passport gadget review

It seems BlackBerry has realised that it's futile to fight the battle of mainstream market share and has gone back to doing what they do best – making phones that get work done. On an average, people use BlackBerry to manage all their work, with their phones becoming an extended part of their office desk and filing cabinets. BlackBerry calls such people as 'Power Pros'.

With its 'squarish' looks, this 5.03x 3.55-inch phone is nothing like any other smart phone available today. At 196 gm it's sturdy but not heavy. Passport is a well-built device with sandblasted stainless steel band wrapped around the device, which acts a booster for the antenna. It has a 1440 x 1440 pixel, 3.5x3.5-inch square IPS LCD display, which is ultra responsive with the capability of displaying about 60 characters per line, making it perfect to read spreadsheets or viewing presentations.

The keyboard is a combination of the physical keyboard, three rows instead of the usual four, and a virtual keyboard, which makes up for the missing row. It will take some time for users to get used to punching in the alphabets from the physical keyboard and switching to the touch screen one for numbers and special characters. But, overall, it's functional. The physical keyboard can be used as an extension of the touch screen, with embedded sensors under the buttons. It lets you scroll through web pages and email by swiping along the keys. You can even double tap on the keyboard and a magnifying glass appears over the text.

Passport has a 13 MP camera, with Optical Image Stabilisation, LED Flash, 5X optical zoom and 1080p HD video recording with image stabilisation and back-side illumination and a 2 MP camera on the front. It even offers advice for shooting in certain modes depending on the conditions while taking pictures. You can even click a picture while shooting a video by simply tapping the camera button or pressing the space bar on the physical keyboard.

The main feature in Blackberry OS 10 release was the Hub and it improves in 10.3. It's a unified notification centre, where all your e-mails, SMSes, Facebook and Twitter messages and other alerts appear in a single window. You can easily reply to them, triage them or delete them from Hub itself. This saves you time from switching between apps. The Priority Hub studies your phone usage habits and curates a view of the most important messages and alerts. BlackBerry 10.3 comes with its own personal assistant, which adds reminders and appointments, searches the web, helps you answer emails etc all with your voice command. The phones also come with a pre-installed Amazon App Store, giving you access to 2,50,000 apps.

With the introduction of Passport and 10.3 OS, BlackBerry also introduced Blend, which lets you connect your iPad, Android Tablet, Windows PC or a MAC to your Blackberry via USB, Wi-Fi or the cellular networks. This lets you access BBM messages, text messages, e-mail accounts, calendars and transfer files without even picking up your phone. You can read, send and receive everything directly from the other devices that are connected to Blend at that moment. This is a dream come true for people who need to work on their worksheets while on the move.

BlackBerry has ensured that you get an enhanced conversation experience. A built-in microphone next to the earpiece measures the sound pressure on the ear, optimising it, as well as handling noisy situations giving you a consistent experience. The Passport is loud and clear on speakerphone mode too.

Our verdict
The Passport is mainly for the 'Power Pros' on the move. The slightly awkward size makes it difficult to handle at times but after using it, you realise that Blackberry still has what it takes to build a great business phone.

Price: Yet to be announced
Display: 4.5 inches, 1440 x 1440 resolution
Battery: 3,450 mAh
Storage: 32 GB, expandable up to 128 GB
Camera: 13 MP rear with LED flash, 2 MP front
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with 2.2GHz Quad-Core CPUs RAM 3 GB

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