Blackberry Passport review – the perfect niche

Design

blacberry passport bottom left corner

+++ eye-catching and innovative. I had the device for just a little over a week, and I could not recount the number of times somebody has come up to me checking out the Passport finding it fascinating. It was just because of the fact that it’s square. It was the eye-catching design that immediately won their first impression. And that, is quite an achievement indeed.
While the square display will not be suitable for all use cases, it’s laser-focused on getting everything right that a business-person might ever want- an appropriately sized screen real estate.

+++ Elegance. That elegant design is back. It’s not a flashy iPhone 6 with gold aluminum all over. Rather it’s the subtle elegance of a stealthy black iPhone 4 that people will instantly associate with.

+++ Ergonomics. Using the phone singled-handed is totally out of the question. It’s not a matter of implementing a Samsung-style one-handed mode or Apple’s Reachability. It’s a matter of using it with both hands, and both hands only. Unless you don’t mind dropping the phone ten times a day.
But when you can actually use the phone with both hands, the overall level of comfort is pleasing. The keyboard, for every complaint about its narrow height, there are two praises for its spacious width. It’s a matter of getting used to things before it all opens up and you come to appreciate the layout.

blackberry passport design top right buttons

—— pocketability. It won’t fit into a single hand of any size, and it won’t snug up your palm with a nice contoured back. And if the iPhone 6+ requires tailors to alter their trouser pockets, then the Blackberry Passport is going to require a designer to custom-make a new pair for you. Granted, the Passport is not designed to be put into one’s trousers pocket but rather the inner suit pocket of a businessman. Or the handbag of a business-woman. Or an official Blackberry holster that doesn’t yet exist.

— another design fail is Blackberry’s insistence on a narrow keyboard. Yes, the display is center stage and everyone wants to phablet-size everything. But the compromise here is the hardware keyboard now lacks a dedicated row for the numbers and symbols. The answer to this is of course a virtual row inside the display. Now while this is a clever solution, it was not well implemented.
These virtual keys would popup when the context calls for them during input, and they slot into the UI under the bottom-left Back key, pushing it up in the process. Once you start typing, word association and suggestions start to appear (where you flick up to accept) so another row is added under the Back button, pushing it up further.
So you end up with a Back button that’s often changing positions, meaning an inconsistent UI. And an inconsistent UI is a bad UI. The solution is of course simple – all Blackberry has to do is to pin down the Back button / navigation row or integrate the bottom keyboard pop-up row with it.