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Hands on with the new Blackberry Passport smartphone

Al Sacco | Sept. 25, 2014
BlackBerry has officially announced pricing and availability details for its new Passport smartphone, which was previously unveiled and detailed through a variety of blog posts on the company's Inside BlackBerry blog. (Specific pricing and availability information can be found at the end of this post.)

The BlackBerry Passport has a clear identity, an apparent purpose, and it is a tangible sign of renewed focus at BlackBerry.

There's a lot to appreciate about the BlackBerry Passport...but it does have some downsides.

What You Might Not Love (Maybe Even Hate) About The BlackBerry Passport

That Unique, But Challenging, BlackBerry Passport Keyboard

As much as I like the Passport keyboard, it will almost certainly be a bit much for some people. As previously stated, there's a significant learning curve. Some of the integrated touch features and gestures work better than others. It takes time to learn them — and in some cases, learn to avoid them.

I suspect more than a few people who at one point loved their old BlackBerry's keyboard will find the Passport's combination of touch and physical keys overwhelming. You need to take the time to not only learn and understand how it works, but also practice a bit to master the features, or you won't appreciate its unique functionality. If you're the kind of person who likes to read user guides and know how to use all of a device's features, the Passport could be a good fit. If you want an interface that immediately makes sense, that doesn't require time and a bit of effort to learn, the Passport probably isn't right for you. 

BlackBerry Passport Is Big and Bulky

Like the BlackBerry Passport's keyboard, the device's size and shape takes some getting used to. You can call it a large phone or even a "phablet," though BlackBerry says it's still a phone but the thing is big and square. Thanks to the physical keypad and the square display — in contrast to the long, thin screens found on most phones and tablets today — the form factor can be challenging, even a turnoff.

The Passport is almost exactly the same size as an actual traveler's passport, but thicker. It's big but compared to the unwieldy iPhone 6 Plus, it's not too big, at least not for me.

I'm having more trouble getting used to how it fits in my hands. I say hands, plural, because this isn't a device you'll want to use with one hand. It's very awkward typing with one thumb while holding the Passport with the rest of your hand, so much so that it's almost impossible and definitely not economical.

I have large hands, and I'm still trying to find the ideal way to hold the Passport comfortably when typing. The long, short physical keyboard is at the base of the device when it's held upright. You have to slide the bottom of your hand off of it to get a good typing position, which isn't ideal. When you do, the device feels top heavy and unbalanced.


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