After months of teasing, BlackBerry's latest and most interesting device for some time, the Passport, has finally launched alongside a new app that will bring better integration between BlackBerry handsets and other devices.
Like all of the company's best products, it boasts a great-to-use physical QWERTY keyboard and an excellent battery life.
However, it also has a perfectly square screen — 1,440 x 1,440 pixels — that measures 4.5 inches from corner to corner.
BlackBerry isn't being different for the sake of being different. It claims that a square is always a square, and therefore the phone never needs to be held in landscape mode to use an app, write an e-mail or play a game.
Not needing to rotate the handset means that you can always grasp it by the keyboard, and this is where the Passport comes into its own. The keyboard responds to taps, swipes and gestures so you can navigate the content on the screen without ever touching or obscuring it with your fingers.
A brilliant idea for those of us who want to use spreadsheets and other productivity-focused documents rather than play Candy Crush Saga.
The Passport has a personal assistant — just like Apple's Siri — called BlackBerry Assistant and is ready to respond to voice commands and queries. Contextually aware, it will provide answers and additional context if you ask it a question via a Bluetooth headset and can't see the screen, for example.
And despite the fact that it's all about productivity, the fact that the screen is perfectly square and therefore the ideal format for Instagram hasn't escaped BlackBerry's attention.
The Passport has a massive 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and, thanks to a partnership with Amazon, owners will be able to run any apps from Amazon's app store as well as BlackBerry World on the device.
Also announced at the handset's launch event on Wednesday is something called BlackBerry Blend, which will bring new levels of integration to the lives of BlackBerry users.
A desktop and tablet app, it will let you check and send BBM messages from your computer or tablet as well as from a BlackBerry handset and remotely access calendars, documents and other media that are stored on your smartphone.
BlackBerry Blend is available to download for free now for Mac and for Windows PCs or as an Android tablet app. As for the Passport, it goes on sale officially in North America and Europe on Wednesday. — AFP/Relaxnews 2014
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