Blackberry’s Passport Smartphone is Anything but Square

by Matt Klassen on July 10, 2014

While initially the notion of being ‘square’ meant that someone played by the rules, was fair and equitable, and held to traditional values of loyalty and honesty, in the counterculture movements of the mid-twentieth century the label of being ‘square’ took on a distinctly different meaning, referring instead to someone who clung to an antiquated, repressive “in-the-box” worldview, those who were distinctly behind the times and who refused to open their minds to a new world of possibilities.

With that latter definition in mind, for years I would have considered to Blackberry to be one of the most square mobile companies in the market, steadfastly rolling out its bland and featureless smartphones because that how things had always been done. Given that the old way of thinking resulted in the company’s initial success, there seemed to be no sense in changing things…and we all know how that worked out.

Now in an interesting twist of irony Blackberry is looking to turn the mobile market on its head, offering some distinctly out-of-the-box thinking that just so happens to be very, very square. According to reports, Blackberry will unveil the Passport smartphone, a device already making waves not because of its innovative features or enterprise functionality, but because of its revolutionary shape: square.

The Passport “is different than the 256 varieties of rounded rectangles that make up the smartphone market today,” Carl Howe, a research vice president at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. It’s “the kind of device that makes people go ‘What the heck is that?’ which is what BlackBerry needs,” he said. “The last thing BlackBerry wants at this point is a me-too device.”

Although the mobile consumer market now equates the current rectangular mobile form factor with the epitome of technological style and class, when it comes to sheer functionality and usability, Blackberry argues, the rectangle just doesn’t cut it. Not only does the phone’s 4.5 inch screen offer the same viewing same as a rectangular 5-inch smartphone, but the square Passport solves many of the issues that plague our favorite rectangular form factor as well.

One of the outstanding issues the Passport will immediately resolve is the need for users to turn smartphones on their side to better view content, particularly things like PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheets, and sometimes even books or videos. Content “can be displayed in a more consistent manner, and application developers could spend less time worrying about landscape mode design for this device,” Michael Morgan, an independent mobility consultant, told TechNewsWorld, adding that the Passport “is extending the phablet concept beyond just a large screen as in the Samsung Note devices.”

By not having to adjust the Passport to view content the phone becomes ideal not only for using productivity software, but for viewing e-books, documents, and browsing the Web, Blackberry explains. Further, there will be no shortage of content, as Blackberry has partnered with Amazon to deliver the latter’s 240,000 apps on its devices.

The Passport’s new square form factor comes with one additional bonus as well, the prominence and accessibility of the keyboard, a key feature, no doubt, for enterprise and Blackberry diehards alike. “The key to this device is not the screen, but the hard keyboard,” the Yankee Group’s Howe said. “Hard tactile keyboards have a small but devoted following among consumers.”

In the end I have to applaud Blackberry for trying something new here, not that I have any confidence it will succeed. But the key to the Passport’s success or failure is not consumer perception about its dimensions, but how it feels in our hands. If the Passport is comfortable to use and easy to carry I don’t think anyone, particularly in the enterprise sector, will really care what it looks like.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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