I made the switch to iPhone from BlackBerry about four years ago. As I grew increasingly frustrated with my old BlackBerry’s limited capabilities, and more and more impressed with the seemingly limitless possibilities of the iPhone, making the switch to Apple’s device became an easy decision.

But to this day, there’s still something I miss about my old BlackBerry that the iPhone has never been able to beat: That wonderful, familiar, tactile keyboard.

The truth is, the longer I’ve had my iPhone, the more it’s become clear to me: This touchscreen keyboard thing isn’t working out. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to type, retype and retype again a word that either my thumbs or iPhone’s autocorrect, or both, have mangled into nonsense. Writing anything longer than a few quick paragraphs is out of the question.

So right on cue arrives the BlackBerry Passport, featuring an actual, physical keyboard. With its arrival, I find myself confronting the same dilemma as before: Do I really want all the exciting bells and whistles that come with Apple’s device, or a sleek, professional, work-oriented smartphone with that trusty QWERTY keyboard I’ve been missing so much?

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Blackberry Passport
The Blackberry Passport

Passport isn’t just a clever name. The new BlackBerry device is exactly the dimensions of an actual passport, giving it a unique wider, bulkier build than most smartphone devices. This accommodates a larger, square screen with a 1:1 ratio that mostly eliminates the need to rotate back and forth between portrait and landscape orientations.

The wider build means this device’s keyboard is exclusively for two hands, so typing a quick “On my way” while on the go is more of a challenge. But to be honest, in day-to-day use I rarely type anything one-handed on my current device to begin with, and the Passport offers reliable and straightforward voice commands (more reliable than its competitors at times) that make sending a message or making a call hands-free from the headset simply an easier option.

The keyboard is also only three rows – no numbers or punctuation marks, which are reserved for a fourth touchscreen row that appears when typing. The wide and narrow shape is a bit awkward and can certainly take some getting used to.

But even so, the keyboard has some nifty new tricks. While the touchscreen offers all the expected gestures (scrolling, pinching to zoom in and out, and so on), those who miss the old BlackBerry touchpad will find that the keyboard itself now fills this role. Quickly scrolling up and down through a message can be achieved using the same familiar flick of the thumb that’s still locked in your muscle memory, but this time across the touch-sensitive surface of the keyboard itself.

The Blackberry Passport runs on BlackBerry 10.3 operating software, which does a great job of being fast and responsive and, importantly, not getting in the way. It’s built around “The Hub”, which does its best to bring together your messages, social media and calendar all in one place at a quick glance. Menus are easy to navigate, and, for the most part, apps are easy to find.

Speaking of apps, the Passport can now run Android apps via the Amazon Appstore, but the selection is still limited – Google apps aren’t on offer, though Google Calendar works well enough and integrates with “The Hub”.

One useful new BlackBerry exclusive app is BlackBerry Blend – an app that promises to let you view and send messages and content from your Passport to your computer or tablet and vice-versa, letting you seamlessly transition between devices without losing productivity.

As for battery life, despite the large screen and powerful quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, the Passport has pretty incredible stamina – easily lasting an entire day and beyond.

The Passport also sports a 13 megapixel camera that can shoot in 1080p HD video at 30 or 60 frames a second – the most powerful of any BlackBerry device before it – as well as a basic but functional front-facing 2 MP camera. The camera app can be a bit sluggish, but produces photos of a quality on par with other smartphone devices in its class. It’s by no means stellar, but it does the job.

While the keyboard itself isn’t perfect – personally, I anxiously await the BlackBerry Classic, which offers the familiar keyboard shape of the old BlackBerry Curve – it’s still a big improvement over its touchscreen competitors. How important that is to you will largely depend on how much you find yourself typing and sending messages.

The Passport is definitely a unique device, given its unorthodox shape and form. But make no mistake; this device was built with a razor-sharp focus on productivity. This phone is all about business and is an excellent fit for a work-oriented real estate professional who is okay with going without the bells and whistles of offerings from Samsung or Apple – or, as I found, anyone who misses having a physical, tactile keyboard for typing as much as I do.

19 COMMENTS

  1. blackberry is great phone in our profession. I have been using it for long time. I own z10 and I would like to switch to passport. I get all apps needed for work in real estate. I side loaded app called snap which gives me access to google store. It works great. Now I can access treb mobilepass and I use waze for maps. The newest 10.3.1 update is a game changer. blackberry is hands down more productive than ios or android. It is highly recommended

  2. I am used to my BB 9780, and very satisfied with it so far. Anyway I have to change it for BB Classic or Passport, and the choice is really very difficult to me.

  3. Don’t forget Blackberries do a great job of integrating with maps, calendars, etc… which means when I show clients home within one calendar event I can have several homes lined up with the addresses already inserted and only requiring a tap to activate the GPS…. guiding me quickly and smoothly from one showing to another without having to tediously type in each address on a GPS… best part is I set up the showings from the comfort of my laptop on Outlook which through exchange server automatically appears on my cell phone ready for me to quickly show these homes to my clients.

    However of course best part if the very convenient QWERT keys…. in our business we text a lot… often I negotiate an entire offer between 2 or 3 parties via texting.. I may even have a couple offers on the go via either text or email features all in the palm of my hand.

    I am excited to see what it will be like to utilize the new large Passport Screen as I navigate the streets showings houses to clients via the integrated GPS… I believe this will make a huge difference.

  4. Be the new Two-handed champion with BlackBerry PassPort .
    Since Connors and Borg popularized the two-handed winning shot.
    We have seen new great champions like Djokovic, Murray, Nadal or Cilic !
    We get the control easily. Fast & precisely …

    Like Hamilton behind his fantastic Mercedes Steering Wheel.
    PassPort to Success with this Stainless Steel Road Warrior

    This Messaging Powerhouse will be our best companion.

  5. PassPort, the Pocket-Friendly Device is the Paradox of Simplicity.
    Dive and discover the Inside Beauty of the Fantastic Blackberry PassPort
    The Best Pocket Laptop for Mobile computing.
    This is the phone that will keep you amazed

  6. I would like to say :
    This is the Perfect New Universal Swiss Toolphone
    But no ! It’s just better. Leave Behind the Narrow Vision

  7. Nobody talks about the amazing steroe speakers of the Passport, matched only to the HTC One, way better sound then the S6 or even Sony devices.

  8. Have a BB bold, other than the kink size and shape of the passport I could be quite interested in getting one. Can’t handle the onscreen keyboard of wife’s phone, I send the craziest messages on it.

  9. I used iPhone for a short period and was back to BlackBerry. I agree, a lot of time wasters. This is an intelligent phone with a good balance of business and fun.

  10. Had a Blackberry since day one and never looked back. An excellent business work horse and maintains all the necessary apps needed in business. AND as Jim mentioned it IS all Canadian and a testament to the strong Canadian innovation.

  11. i really liked Blackberry. then when my Torch finally gave up the only option i could find was the passport, but it is to big for me. Went to an Iphone and hate it. Keypads on phones are too small for my big mitts and liked the torch touch screen. Wish BB made something new the same size as my old torch or smaller with a touch screen. Z10 maybe?

    • I wrote a reply to your post yesterday but it was evidently not approved, don’t know why though.
      If I may suggest looking into the Classic, it’s a little larger than a closed Torch, about 1/2″, but it’s almost 3/4″ shorter when the Torch is open and you’re using the physical keyboard. This is going by published measurements of the Classic as compared to my old Torch. I upgraded to a Z10, but I miss the excellent BlackBerry physical keyboard. I hope this helps.

  12. I´ve been on BB with the Z10 and Z30 for the past three years and it is awesome… The new BB OS10 does an amazing job and apps for productivity are available on all phones anyway… BB is a great business phone and offers everything a true professional is asking for anyway… ;)

  13. I had the Blackberry Torch and kept hanging on till I could figure out what was best for the next phone. Then along came the Blackberry Classic – oh my god, I love it! Not too big but a bigger screen then the Torch. I’m so glad I didn’t get pulled into the iPhone world like many other folks. This phone is for business and being a Realtor my life revolves very much around business. This is definitely a phone to look into – you won’t be disappointed.

    • I eagerly acquired the BB Classic a few months ago. I like it for the usual reasons – keyboard, and larger touch screen. Unfortunately, I use Outlook for calendar and contact management and the new Classic won’t sync with Outlook 2007 nor can I download pictures and video from my phone to my desktop. I have spent over 6 hours with BB tech support as well as my own tech support trying to resolve the issues and no luck. The BB techie admitted that they needed to write more software. So if you need the sync function, beware the new Classic. I learned that I am among a few thousand with this issue.

      • Outlook is synced on mine. A few more security precautions to fill out than with normal emails. But if you add all the details it should work

  14. I am going back to Blackberry ..
    I do not need the cool factor of the I phone..over rated apps .i.e time wasters ,voice dictation on I phone is a big disappointment
    Its all about getting the job done
    Blackberry is Canadian !

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