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BlackBerry pitches square-shaped Passport smartphone at professionals

After retreating from the consumer market last year, BlackBerry is trying to win back the business user with the  Passport, a smartphone with a square-shaped touch screen and a unique touch-enabled QWERTY keyboard.

The focus of the new Passport, which is designed so that it can fit in a pocket like a passport, is on worker productivity and not for the general consumer, according to Cameron Vernest, Managing Director for the Philippines and Singapore.

The Passport has a physical QWERY keyboard but is touch-enabled. The way it works is instead of having dedicated keys for all functions, some keys pop up on the screen above the physical keyboard, including numbers, punctuation and shift keys. It has a responsive touch surface like a trackpad that lets you perform many touch functions directly on the keyboard. You can scroll web pages, flick to type or slide along the keys to move the cursor, leaving the full screen space for viewing.
BlackBerry Passport cropped
Now available in the Philippines for Php35,790, the Passport is equipped with the new BlackBerry 10.3 OS that offers features such as the all-new BlackBerry Blend, BlackBerry Assistant and Amazon Appstore.

With Blend, users can share content and messages from a BlackBerry 10.3 smartphone with desktops running Mac OS X 10.7 and higher and Windows 7 and higher, iPads running iOS 7 and higher and Android tablets running Android 4.4 or higher, according to Damian Tay, Senior Director for Product Management, Asia-Pacific.

The BlackBerry Assistant allows users to make queries and leave appointment reminders by voice command or text. The Assistant is similar to Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Windows Phone’s Cortana.

Tay also said Passport will be able to access BlackBerry World apps and Amazon Appstore apps, which are designed for Amazon’s variant of Android. While BlackBerry World apps are primarily focused on business professionals, Amazon apps will include popular games.

The Passport’s 4.5-inch square screen offers a 1:1 aspect ratio and 1440×1440 pixel (453 dpi) HD display and is made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

A 1:1 aspect ratio means the Passport’s screen is a lot wider than 16:9 phones with the same screen measurements. The 1440×1440 resolution display can pack 60 characters across each line, says Tay, adding that because of the Passport’s square display size, users will see a truer browser page or more columns in an Excel spreadsheet.

The new BlackBerry also offers better battery performance with a 3450 mAh that can power 30 hours of mixed use.  It is the largest of any smartphone on the market. However, it is not removable.

Inside the Passport is a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, 32 GB of storage, and a MicroSD card slot.

The phone has a stainless steel frame, weighs 0.43 pounds and measures 0.37 inches thick.

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