Blackberry Passport: See the Bigger Picture

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Blackberry Passport John Chen
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Sometime last week, Blackberry launched its latest flagship device, The Blackberry Passport. Blackberry Passport was possibly the worst kept secret in the history of smartphone devices. As early as July, Blackberry leaked images of the device to gauge consumer interest. The shock reactions to the device prompted Blackberry to launch a charm offensive through blogs and social media geared towards educating the masses. They told of this ultra-powerful device with a 3GB RAM, 453 ppi and other insane specs. It also marked the return of Blackberry to the basics with the inclusion of a physical keyboard.  Blackberry created the device with the mind at enterprise consumers, who were the original Blackberry consumers.

So, I was little appalled last week when on launching of the device, Blogs and major news websites failed to focus on the strengths of the device such as the new Blackberry 10.3 OS, the new Blackberry Blend service or the powerful specifications to which neither the Windows phones nor the Samsung Galaxy devices can match up. Rather, the square form factor of the device became the mostly discussed feature of the device.

Below are a few excerpts of opinions on the device.

Big and bizarre -The Passport isn’t just big at 3.6 inches wide — it’s weirdly big, with a square display perched atop a few strips of keys. There really isn’t any other smartphone like it”. –Mashable

“The Passport device just doesn’t offer the tools I need to get my work done … the hub is a great idea executed poorly.”- The Verge

“BlackBerry is still years behind on everything else … its software and hardware have fallen so far behind Android and the iPhone.”- The Wall street Journal

“The screen’s strange size doesn’t deliver enough convenience to justify its awkward bulkiness, the app selection won’t satisfy a moderate power user, and in some places, BB feels like a shadow of more capable operating systems.” – Gizmodo

All these judgments focus on one single issue. The shape of the screen. Firstly, The Blackberry Passport was a device created not for the normal consumers. Its focus was power professionals in medical, business and government. In fact, during, its launch, Blackberry made impressive presentations on how the device will bring real productivity to these fields.  Blackberry also mentioned that the device will be available for power consumers “Prosumers”.  Its square shape means a doctor can see X-rays through their device; an investment banker can view the markets, finance managers can view spreadsheets without auto-rotation.

Secondly, where is the talk about the devices features? With Blackberry 10 OS, Blackberry introduced the Blackberry Hub. A feature that allows users to manage all your notifications from Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Calls and even text messages.  The most outrageous of reviews came from the Wall street Journal that claimed, “The Passport has some neat tricks and longer battery life than the competition, but it’s living in the past. It’s not 2005 anymore”. The Passport sports possibly the best hardware on any mobile device today.

When the HTC One X was launched, the tech community applauded them for the quality of speakers and microphone. The Passport now has the best speakers and microphone today. Providing for better call quality but hey, that is 2005 technology.  No one mentioned the adaptive, virtual on screen keyboard that adapts to use needs. Better yet the 1,440×1,440-pixel resolution, with a pixel density of 453 pixels per inch. I mean give me an android or iPhone device that can match that up.

The argument that Blackberry as an OS lacks basic applications no longer has the clout to ride roughshod as Blackberry OS 10.3 comes preloaded with Amazon apps allowing users to access most popular android apps. Besides, you could download them directly from Google Play. When the iPhone 6 and 6 plus were launched the tech world applauded and called the devices revolutionary. When the Galaxy’s devices pop out every week, they are revered even with their non-existent innovative features. When a Blackberry device with neat hardware features and futuristic software is launched, it gets a wide berth

Hence my conclusion, the Passport is not a device for bloggers, or tech enthusiasts. It’s a device for those that get it. To use the words of the Famous Apple Campaign of 1984, the Crazy ones.  It is both shameful that bloggers and media reviewers failed to live up to this. As a person who loves devices and particularly Blackberry devices, feel Blackberry as a company and the Passport as a device both deserve credit and it runs short.  I think the Passport’s shape is out of the norm but isn’t that how new technology becomes part of the mainstream? So really, give the Passport a chance. See the bigger picture.

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