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Roundup: Journalists and Analysts Praise BlackBerry Passport



As BlackBerry Passport made its official debut on Wednesday, the device that enables mobile professionals to Work Wide generated a huge reaction among the digirati: tech journalists and bloggers, analysts and other influencers. Besides dominating the front page of tech news aggregator Techmeme, it also was a top Twitter trend in the United States and Canada.

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So, what are people saying?

Analysts Praise Keyboard, Productivity Potential

CNBC tech reporter Jon Fortt liked many aspects of the device, starting with the oversized screen.

“BlackBerry’s explanation for the design makes sense: The display shows 60 characters of text at a readable size and shows enough depth in a document to get context, making it the best I’ve seen for reviewing and annotating documents,” he wrote. Fortt also thought that Android apps “ran smoothly” on the BlackBerry and that its size was a non-issue.//

“Skeptics of the shape will question how it fits in a pocket, but it slips in about as easily as its namesake, the universally pocketable passport,” Fortt said. “It will be a snug fit in skinny jeans, but this phone won’t bend in there—unlike the iPhone 6 Plus.”

In a piece for Computerworld magazine, reporter Matt Hamblen quoted several analysts, including Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research, and Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

Rob Enderle lauded the keyboard. “The advantage of a physical keyboard is that you can blind type, which means you can keep your eyes where they are supposed to be and with quick glances can still get that email or text sent out . . . The Passport will be a great tool for those that are still wedded to a keyboard and want a more cutting-edge phone.”

“QWERTY keyboards are highly underrated,” echoed Maribel Lopez. “While they seem old school, they’re very useful. Millennials might like the device because it could be perceived as retro cool.”

Meanwhile, Jack Gold recognized the appeal for business professionals, saying, “Passport is aimed squarely at enterprise users . . . Its unique form factor is optimized for document creation and editing, so BlackBerry is targeting really heavy Office-type users and its core messaging users. Passport . . . could give BlackBerry a boost in its enterprise installed base.”

Jack Gold separately noted that some commentators criticizing the BlackBerry Passport didn’t understand its intended business professional audience:

Jack Gold Twitter

Principal Analyst at Reticle Research, Ross Rubin, likes the BlackBerry Passport’s “horsepower”:

“This latest handset launch shows that it’s back to business for BlackBerry – and what a smart move that is. Business handsets are where BlackBerry started, and this phone could be its Passport back from the youth messenger market – and all the bad PR that came with their love of BBM,” uSwitch analyst Rob Kerr told Mobile News in an article headlined ‘Analysts Quick to Praise BlackBerry Passport.‘ “After a year away from the UK market, a return to Blighty with a keyboard-based smartphone is a move that plays to BlackBerry’s strengths, and shows it has finally understood what people liked about its early phones.”

Meanwhile, CCS Insight chief of research Ben Wood told the Financial Times that “this is definitely a marmite product – based on our experience so far people either love the design or are a little perplexed by the size and shape.” Wood called the BlackBerry Passport “distinctive” and added that “after 18 months of disruption the strategy that new CEO John Chen has laid out seems to be taking hold. The business has stabilised and the Passport device is a critical milestone in efforts to rebuild the business.”

Another CCS analyst Shaun Collins told the BBC that the BlackBerry Passport “certainly made me respond more eloquently to emails rather than just triaging them with a ‘Yes, no, I’ll call you back or see you later’…it gives you the BlackBerry experience on steroids.”

“This is the BB10 device that BlackBerry users have been waiting for,” IDC Research analyst Ramon Llamas told CNET.

“This is really built to appeal to the business customer,” said Bloomberg Intelligence’s John Butler. The BlackBerry Passport can succeed if it captures a slice of BlackBerry’s core audience of 50 million, he added.

Journalists Call this a “Great” Phone

In a review for the Register, Andrew Orlowski writes, “The key difference of the Passport, apart from its striking shape, is that the its QWERTY keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad. This gives you two main advantages over the generic rectangular smartphone that aren’t immediately obvious from the pictures. Firstly, when editing text, the phone doesn’t move in your hands, and your attention doesn’t switch quite so much. Note “hands” – plural: this is a two-handed device. I particularly enjoyed being able to select and manipulate blocks of text very quickly,” he wrote.

CIO’s Lynn Greiner wrote: “Videos look great on the wider screen too, and the stereo speakers even do justice to music like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy . . . Bottom line: this is a great phone . . . [T]he functionality is solid, the feature set comprehensive, and performance strong. It definitely puts BlackBerry back in the game.”

Al Sacco, reviewing the device for CIO, digs it:

Reviewers: “No Trouble Lasting a Full Day”

“[The BlackBerry Passport’s battery] is huge (big phones beget big batteries) and it had no trouble lasting a full day for me,” wrote The Verge’s Dan Seifert. “Many times, I could get well into day two without having to plug it in. That’s great: it’s hard to get any work done if your iPhone is begging for a charge at 3PM.”

Mashable’s Pete Pachal wrote, “Once you get past the strange form factor and the unusual way the keyboard works, you can find the powerful device beneath those first impressions. The touchpad can improve your experience in some subtle ways; you don’t know how much screen space your fingers cover while scrolling until they’re gone.”

The Star’s Raju Mudhar was impressed by a number of features, writing, “In terms of the software, Blackberry’s OS 10.3 . . . is very solid and has some interesting productivity features. One thing the company does better than its competitors is multi-tasking, with its BlackBerry Hub feature, [which] remains one of their top selling points . . . Their messaging history is also evident, with a swipe from the left of the screen bringing up all the messaging options including BBM, text messages and emails. The selling point is that the wider screen can accommodate 60 characters (most devices are around 40), and browsing Twitter on this device is very good.”

Mudhar also notes the battery: “I got through almost two work days of fairly heavy usage and it comes with a huge battery (3450 mAh).”

Engadget‘s Brad Mullen wrote, “Overall, my first impressions of the Passport are better than I expected. The device is built well and the keyboard is comfortable.”

And it Goes On and On…

“It’s rare now for any smartphone to have a true new iconic form factor, but BlackBerry Passport has just such an iconic innovative design.” Ian Fogg, IHS, Mobile World Live.

While Fast Company’s Harry McCracken hails the “convention-defying” device:


Pricing and Availability (UPDATED 3/15)

You can get your factory-unlocked BlackBerry Passport from at these links:

Black (currently $599, regular $699)

White (currently $599, regular $699)

Limited Edition Red: $699

…and at Amazon HERE, with AT&T offering it for $649.99 unsubsidized or $199.99 with a 2-year contract. The BlackBerry Passport is also available in Canada via Rogers for $249 and Telus (for as low as $150 up front) and other carriers.

For those outside the North American market, you can get your BlackBerry Passport directly from us at our global shopping portal HERE.

(Check with your local carrier for device compatibility.)

Remember – the BlackBerry Passport has a battery capacity that exceeds all rivals in milliamp hours:*

BlackBerry Passport 30 hours
Samsung Galaxy S5 23 hours
iPhone 6 21 hours
iPhone 6 Plus 25 hours

(*Based on third-party lab testing sponsored by BlackBerry, under 4G and 3G wireless conditions, using a mixed-usage profile. Results will vary by carrier and network conditions.)

Are you excited yet? There’s a lot to discuss, so share your mind in the comments below!

Matt Young

About Matt Young

Matt Young is a writer and editor with experience in tech, music, news and entertainment. A current Performance Evangelist for Radware, Matt has previous experience with BlackBerry, and Avaya. He has a degree in Journalism from San Jose State University. Follow Matt on Twitter @techunraveler.