BlackBerry has been one of the biggest victims of Samsung and Apple's growing duopoly in the smartphone market.
Thanks to the seemingly unstoppable bring-your-own-device (BYOD) surge affecting many IT departments, BlackBerry has seen increasing numbers of its enterprise customers using handsets from these rivals instead. Thanks to this BlackBerry is listed by most analyst houses as accounting for less than five percent of the handset market.
To address this, BlackBerry has chosen to break away from the "sea of boring rectangular handsets flooding the market" and release the Passport, a device that has baffled and piqued the curiosity of smartphone users in equal measure.
Design and build
Visually, the BlackBerry Passport is a very striking and unique-looking device. Measuring 128x90x9.3mm, the Passport is distinctly squarer than the average smartphone.
Initially we found the wide, square dimensions made the Passport feel slightly odd and cumbersome to use one-handed. The dimensions also mean the Passport is a tight fit when stashed even in generous-sized pockets. The chunky feel is not helped by its hefty 194g weight, either.
However, after a few days using the Passport we soon became accustomed to the design and noticed a number of novel design features. One of the biggest of these is the touch-enabled physical keyboard.
Unlike past BlackBerrys, which featured basic Qwerty keyboards, the Passport includes a completely reworked keyboard, which can also be used as a trackpad (but only in some applications). BlackBerry claims the touch technology and redesigned keys will let professionals type more accurately and make 70 percent fewer typing errors.
While the keyboard doesn't allow you to use the Passport one-handed, there is a lot of truth to BlackBerry's claim. Reverting to the old-school two-handed typing strategy when sending messages or editing documents, we found the combination of physical keys and computer-like trackpad made the Passport one of the most comfortable devices available to type on.
While the Passport isn't ruggedised, meaning an accidental aquatic adventure could mean the death of it, it is fairly well built. Featuring metal sides, a Gorilla Glass coated screen and smooth-finish non-removable polycarbonate backplate, the Passport proved scratch and bump resistant, managing to survive an accidental encounter with our hardwood floor unscathed.
Next: Display and operating system