BlackBerry Passport- a hands on perspective*



The first time I handled a BlackBerry Passport, I had been transfixed to the square screen, a design philosophy that had never been explored.

The history or Renaissance is hotly debated; in essence its equated to being “re-born”. It was a cultural revolution that swept through vast parts of Europe to spawn a new thought process. In effect, Passport reflects that ethos in its design, truly revolutionary and innovative. A product, that stands out in the sea of candy bar devices.

The device is skirted by a steel frame, which helps to beef up this muscular beast and possibly the heaviest that the wizards of Waterloo have ever designed. Yet, it’s surprisingly well balanced despite its proportions. The design materials, the technological advancements and the efficiency of ergonomics have all been boiled to this device. It represents the broth of a genius on a rampage that is reflected in the pinnacle achievement of the keyboard- physical touch mated to the virtual keypad.

The three rows are punctuated by thin rim of steel lines that are reminiscent of the earlier Q10. Yet the similarity ends there. The keys are angulated from the edges and beveled that flattens out at the bottom. They feel springy and tend to give a reflex push back that accentuates the feel of typing on this amazing device. The icing on the cake is the virtual kepypad that works as good as the physical keys. The swipe up feature has been mated to it. An alternative row of the characters springs up; a swipe down on the keyboard reveals the symbols and accented characters.

Functionality of the device remains the core concern of BlackBerry and that’s reflected in the way they are constructed. It did take time to get adjusted to the new keyboard-specially when I was adept to the one hand use of Z30. I often had difficulty in choosing between a Q10 and a Z30 flagship but stuck to Z30 because it seduced me back to its larger form factor and the keyboard. However, with the Passport, the choice is obvious.

A number of reviewers have focused on the hardware part of it, but I’d like to highlight the nifty changes that 10.3 brings to number of areas- the hub, home screen and addition of amazon app store. A number of subtle design elements in Hub have made the pleasure of using email and other social accounts. You can customize the flow of the email, file and flag or delete it, depending on the most common preference. There’s a subtle change in the design element with a flatter UI, which is reflected in the applications interface as well. There’s a hint of the shadowing at the back of the icons with more rounded edges. The peek and flow gestures remain intact, actionable notifications that pop up as toasters make the option to interact with them and making it easy to multi task.

The jewel in the crown is BlackBerry Blend, an interface that connects with the device either through the cable or the same Wifi network. This opens up the “dashboard” that allows you to interact with the device, send email or text and BBM opens up on the desktop! I personally miss the old Playbook and BlackBerry Bold interaction with BlackBerry Bridge but this makes the usage of the device’s core functionality as platform agnostic making it easier for me to access the device when I am working on the laptop. The interaction with the device is also possible through the USB cable. That helps me on the long commutes if I am focused on my Mac Air without distracting me to reach out to my phone.

Amazon appstore makes it official debut with this release. I personally haven’t used it. However, I have been told that the major names missing for the native applications can be found here. I still underscore that its important to get rid of the Android applications because its not feasible to control the granular permissions for the apps. One of the biggest drawbacks of the BlackBerry OS is the Android runtime. Although it runs in the sandboxed mode, its important to realize that commercial decision to include it stemmed from the criticism that BlackBerry 10 lacks apps. This is understandable and reviewer after reviewer piled on negative reviews. While John Chen has spoken about app neutrality, the app developers should understand that they stand to gain more subscribers rather than playing exclusionist games. I personally, don’t endorse Android “crapware” but there’s little I can do.

BlackBerry Passport is likely to be in the hands of the individuals who lead than follow. It’s a serious device for those who plough through their emails, their social accounts and instant actionable notifications with a truck of a battery that easily lasts you through the day. This device is likely to find itself in board rooms with its superior calling and adaptive noise cancellation and BBM meetings that allows conference calling between individuals. The screen sharing is superlative with the option of getting to the documents and BBM videos.

This device is clearly not meant for the Instagram crowd or those who are easily distracted by frivolity. While they are content with launching apps on the outdated hardware and trying to switch between apps and the home screen, I personally prefer to do some serious work on the device. This write up was solely written on Passport in a jiffy, as soon as the string of words were translated in to action. Clearly this is a device that keeps you moving!

*blog submitted by Stereotactic


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