back to article BlackBerry's Passport will be the WEIRDEST mobe of 2014

BlackBerry teased one the year's most whacky smartphone designs at its shareholder AGM yesterday, but it still isn't ready to disclose any more details. The firm then posted - and deleted - a statement about the BlackBerry Passport. BlackBerry's Passport is striking for a couple of reasons. It has a physical QWERTY keyboard …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    So if that's their big play, they're definitely finished.

    1. Bear Features

      Re: Yeah...

      People like you have been repeating that "they're finished" for the last four years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah...

        Would that be the same four years that saw their stock fall from over $50 dollars to $10 dollars?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yeah...

          Correct - BB has shrunk dramatically and become a niche player. But that doesn't mean they're finished. If they can get the size right for their particular market, and get the business balance right, they can continue quite happily.

          Being a huge company may mean that a few people can pay themselves a lot more, but from the shareholder point of view if a medium size company shows the same price and dividend trends as a large one, there's nothing between them.

          My own view is that there are always going to be literate people who need to do a lot of mobile messaging, that some of them will always need secure communications, and that meeting their needs will provide a long term stable business.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Yeah...

            "Correct - BB has shrunk dramatically and become a niche player. But that doesn't mean they're finished. If they can get the size right for their particular market, and get the business balance right, they can continue quite happily."

            Yes, I was being a tad flippant - 'finished' needs qualifying, and I need to do a little bit of backtracking. Blackberry 'as we knew it' most assuredly is finished - they've never managed to adapt to a changing market, and frankly the build quality I've seen with some models is diabolical. If they want to continue as a niche player in the handset market that needs to be dealt with post-haste, and I will admit that I've seen none of the Q models - perhaps they are a marked improvement.

            Still, Blackberry's best hope for survival is to reinvent itself as a software services company and continue applying that handset policy and management knowhow they have from BES and focus on solutions across other platforms; definitely money there, and we know they're still sitting on a fairly sizeable war chest that should be used for development.

            Bear made the very valid point that people 'like me' have been saying that BB are finished for 4 years; that's nothing compared to Novell's long, slow spiral into irrelevance in terms of timescale, but they're still a has-been, no matter how long it took. Blackberry got rid of Thorsten 'Tablet are a fad!' Heins, but for their sake I pray his kind of thinking isn't entrenched in the company - there's no room for that kind of Ballmer-esque denial and disconnect if they are to survive in any form.

  2. Matt Bryant Silver badge


    The new Z3 looks like an i5C competitor, the Classic is the same old BB for business, but the Passport looks interestingly different. That large screen should make it tough to fit in a pocket, yet it should make many apps a joy to use. It's more a mini tablet but with full BES and phone capability. I'd actually choose the Z3 for business use rather than the Classic (full screen and slimmer), but I will be looking to try the intriguing Passport, especially with Android apps tailored to take advantage of the screen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting.

      It's actually the same width as the Galaxy Note and a bit shorter. They fit in pockets. I've measured, in fact, and it would fit in my top shirt pocket.

      In effect it has the screen definition of a 1080px screen but in a format which works better for messaging, i.e. wider than the narrow Android screens in portrait, deeper than the same screens in landscape.

      It's actually a clever idea and was on the original BB10 roadmap - I guess they were waiting for the screens to become available, as it's basically a 2k screen with the bottom cut off.

      I might even buy one when the Q10 wears out, though that could take some time.

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: Tough to fit in a pocket.

      Oh. I was sort of thinking it would be the same size as a passport.

    3. Sureo

      Re: Interesting.

      "...tough to fit in a pocket..."

      Doesn't anyone make clothes with larger pockets for today's gadgets? If not there's an opportunity waiting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Interesting.

        Everyone I see seems to carry their phones in their hands nowadays since they're too big to fit comfortably in pockets. Definite a backwards step to me!

      2. Richard Taylor 2

        Re: Interesting.

        "Doesn't anyone make clothes with larger pockets for today's gadgets? If not there's an opportunity waiting."

        Sony have a patent on that

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weird designs are a sign of desperation.

    Nokia did all manner of odd designs in the late 90s and 00s

    1. rizb

      Nokia ruled the world in the late 90's.

      Your theory falls somewhat flat.

    2. Karlis 1

      Nokia did all sorts of very weird designs - whilst being de facto leader in the market with not a threat in sign. One still wonders how they threw it all away...

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        How they threw it all away?

        Management, I reckon. The engineers were still making stuff, like the linux tablets and other wierdos.

        I think that companies mimic people. They have a foolish childhood, a vigorous adelescence, a capable and stong midle age, and descend into senility and refusal to change.

      2. rizb

        > Nokia did all sorts of very weird designs - whilst being de facto leader in the market with not a threat in sign

        Motorola had arguably better hardware in many cases but their OS was dogshit.

        Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

  4. theOtherJT Silver badge

    I like it

    Am I the only one thinking that for work purposes that could be really rather good? I _hate_ not having a physical keyboard, and a square screen actually makes quite a lot of sense for reading emails.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Reminds me of that square looking LG smartphone from 2012. I'm looking forward to this and the "Classic" version. Probably the only two phones that I will want to have to replace my Z10.

  6. Frankee Llonnygog

    Interesting mix of old and new

    Sort of like an electric penny-farthing - and probably the same target market

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting mix of old and new

      Have you seen those Chinese electric unicycles? In a sense they're a derivative of the penny-farthing, but also a very interesting 21st century idea for mobility on crowded cities.

      But then a nuclear reactor is basically just a steam engine boiler with the coal replaced with uranium.

  7. Christian Berger

    They apparently have _no_ clue what they are doing

    They are desperately trying to copy iOS and Android by having large colour screens, while not understanding what their sector of the market wants.

  8. James 51

    It's a pity they are cutting back on native apps. The difference in ease of use and battery live between native and android apps on BB10 can be huge.

  9. Leo-pinkus-pantherus

    Crackberry one

    BB is a shining example of what happens when you ignore customer requests because you think you have it down, failing to realize your corporate head is up your corporate ass and what the marketing people are telling you is pure unadulterated bullshit.

    I implored Crackberry to respond to HTC phones running Windows back in 2005 and to Motorola Android based mobes that were teasing Verizon back when, but noooooo, I was told there was no demand for it !!!

    How did that work for you, BB execs???

    On the plus side BB OS sucks, so Android has to be a better strategy if they can port BB technology into the darn devices.

  10. jellypappa

    history does have lessons for us

    BB excecs should look at SAAB and why they went under, they would not change what they designed because they knew best, where are they now, a history that all businesses execs should read.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: history does have lessons for us

      Not really. Saab actually did know best, and made some of the safest, most reliable and really quite luxurious cars going. It was the sale to GM - being forced to use common GM platforms - that was the issue.

      GM tried to make them into a volume manufacturer. The amount of re-design they had to do of the common platforms to meets Saab's own safety standards etc to maintain their key selling points added loads of cost.

      If GM had kept Saab as a "premium" brand and allowed them to tootle away at their own thing, selling lower volume higher margin, then they would have been far less affected by the overcapacity in the auto market in 2011-12.

      So the main issue was GM not understanding what they had, not Saab "knowing best".

      IMHO anyway...

      AC/DC as a precaution due to tenuous connections.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: history does have lessons for us

        Wasn't the beginning of the end for SAAB when they decided that as the only producer of luxury hatchbacks, they should switch to selling cars with boots, like BMW & Audi.

        Too late, turns out some people like luxury hatchbacks.

        Some people like their phone to have a keyboard - hence BB.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Pisspot would be better.

  12. Wilson! Wilson!

    Same size as a Canadian passport

    The Passport is the same size as a Canadian passport. It's not too tall or too wide to fit in any normal pocket. I think it will be easier to hold and type on than most phablets.

  13. Jess

    I like the look of it.

    As long as it doesn't share the Q5's poor text selection. (Cursor keys would solve that). And lack of phonetic non latin keyboard layouts.

  14. Wisteela
    Thumb Up

    I actually really like the look of it.

  15. Jim84

    Qwerty Slider + Moon on a stick

    I know they already tried this with the torch, but ended up with the worst of both worlds. The screen was smaller than an iPhone 3.5 inch job, and the keyboard was awful. Plus the whole thing was 1.5cm thick.

    Still if they could produce a thinner torch, with a bigger screen, and a keyboard rivaling those on the classic designs, they would have a very nice phone. Whether that is physically and technically possible I don't know?

    Also the keyboard is a bit worse than onscreen ones by not being contextual. Could they use a white and also a UV backlight to highlight different characters on the keys? Or make changeable e-ink keys? And for a reasonable price?

    I do think the Torch failed not just because of its design compromises, but because BB7 was bloody awful as a smartphone OS for downloading and using aps and surfing the net. Messaging still worked outstandingly well, but Android and iOS were good enough by then.

  16. Phil W

    If this was an Android device

    I would buy this no question. I loved my note 2 and love my note 3 but I still miss having a hardware keyboard as I used to on my desire z and n900.

    Hardware qwerty keyboards still have their place among those of us who's primary mobile use is email and texting, even more so in the slightly smaller subset of users I fall into who heavily use their phone for remote desktop and telnet/ssh sessions.

    1. James 51

      Re: If this was an Android device

      Given that you can run android apps on it, what's stopping you?

  17. Barry Rueger

    First Time Caller here...

    About two months ago the spouse and I were ready for new smartphones, so we ordered up two BlackBerrys - a Z10 for me, and a Q10 for her.

    Reason? Partly Canadian pride. Partly because she owns a bunch of BB stock. Partly because I use my phone as a primary computing device most days - especially email and text creation and such - and figured that BB should do that well.

    Upside: I love the hardware. The on screen keyboard is so much better than my old Android phone that it's a true joy. And the predictive text on the Blackberry is stunningly good.

    Downsides: Android apps work, sort of, sometimes, to various degrees. Native apps are few and far between. Integration with Google products is spotty and occasionally just plain boneheaded in how bad they work. I was REALLY surprised by that.

    Biggest downside for me though is in support: there is none. Period.

    BlackBerry does not offer ANY support to end users, Nothing, At All, and is explicit in saying so.

    When a serious problem emerged (suddenly can't text message a group of more than ten people) I found that:

    - There was no way to get support from Blackberry

    - my wireless provider claims it's software bug, and not their problem.

    - the company that sold me the phone will exchange it for a new one, but that's it - no other support.

    I'm the first to criticize Google for lousy support, but this takes the cake. And at least with Android the core OS is more or less open sourced, so there is almost always someone who can fix something, or at least tell you why it doesn't work.

    I'm not a big corporate customer, but I can't see me ever buying another Blackberry product.

    1. Wilson! Wilson!

      Re: First Time Caller here...

      Barry, did you try the Crackberry site, from what I can tell they have huge community that help each other in the forums... chances are your problem already has a solution.

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: First Time Caller here...

        Oh yeah, been through the Crackberry and Blackberry forums. Sum total of knowledge there is a) Restart your phone b) delete the group c) rest the phone to factory state.

        Nothing that really addresses the underlying problem.

        HOWEVER, only two days after tweeting them Blackberry Twitter support responded. I immediately replied, and expect to hear back in another two or three days.

        In the words of Sloan, "I was underwhelmed, if that's a word."

  18. A Twig

    That Passport looks pretty decent - especially as a "grown up" phone (e-mail, notes etc), rather than one to twat about on Angry Birds all day long.

    I used to love the candybar style keyboards (I had "touch typing" sorted by my last one back in '08) and personally I'm sick of touchscreen keyboards (yes I've tried Swype etc but with thumbs like cauliflowers I think I'm beyond help...)

    I've finally accepted no-one is going to make a decent candybar/touch hybrid as I appear to be the only person in the world who wants one, so looks like I might have to settle for this as the nearest I can get!

    1. Robert E A Harvey


      head/desk - why are we still stuck with the typewriter thing? Newton and palm got close to handwriting recognition, and we have had various types of voice input. Where are the brave ideas like the microwriter? I can still send morse code at 25wpm. perhaps we could have a phone with a morse key? What about direct neural input, or using the smartwatch to somehow pick up the sort of nerve impulses that are used for moving prosthetic limbs? What about a giant projected keyboard that is half whole words and cameras to detect eye movement, something like thegdget that Hawkin has, only - err - better?

      There are thousands of engineers making me-too replicants of what the other bloke is selling, and not enough trying to make something genuinely new.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Morse code

        Phone with just one button?! Sounds great, would love to see it in action!

      2. Fred Goldstein

        Re: ...keyboards...

        The typewriter thing works. It is tactile, allowing users to type without the perfect hand-eye coordination needed for touch screens. The only other idea you mentioned that makes the least bit of sense is Morse -- I too can do Morse at 25 WPM and would love a Morse straight key (bugs are for wussies) phone, but alas nobody makes one. Handwriting is horrible -- again it is an obsolete skill that some folks have and others don't, and we shouldn't be regressing there. Cuneiform with a stylus is probably a less bad retro option.

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          Re: only other idea you mentioned that makes the least bit of sense

          I don't mind that. I'm asking for innovative ideas, not telling people what to do.

  19. Lamont Cranston

    All those keys, and none of them have numbers on.

    How will we make phone calls?

    No shift key, either - SHOUTY EMAILS ONLY?

    Tetraplegic keyboard aside, I quite like the design - different from the competition, which must be a good thing.

  20. Fred Goldstein

    Agreed -- it looks like they forget about phone calls. Glass dialer apps are hostile to us tactile phone users. I stick with my ancient clamshell because it's good as a phone, and I need that more than stupid apps. The Q20 looks more promising, frankly; I hope that comes out and Verizon picks it up (not all that likely, given how few 'berries the still sell.)

  21. xBURK


    Mark my words - The new Blackberry Passport will be a huge success. Enough Said.

  22. ted frater

    Its another keyboard desaster

    Im late to this comments page, but, want to expand on my title.

    Its been a long time sine the mobile phone designers looked closely at how people actually use a keyboard. We all use them to write text and given the size of the keys on a standard k/board. theres no problem, but scaling that down to a mp size is trying to get a quart out of a pint pot.

    Smaller keys are fine, even for big hands "IF" the spacing between the keys is suitably designed.

    Its all been done before over 100 yrs ago. Ive a Lachenal concertina the keys of which are just over an 1/8in dia. a 1/4 in high and spaced some 3/8in apart. Easy to use even for my size 10 hands.The last time a properly designed k/b was made was by Nokia on their communicator range prior to th 9300. Then the rot set in.

    There is a constant fight for the front of a mp. either its all screen or a small screen and a keyboard.

    The only way to get a quart out of a pintpot is to go back to the folding mp.

    One side is the screen and the other the kb.

    When folded its the right size for a normal pocket , when in use, USEABLE!!

    As Ive written here many times before, FORM should follow FUNCTION.

    Top hinged flip mp is better than a side opening. Actual size? when closed?

    3 in wide by 4in deep. Battery? at least 3000mah. A decent speaker, to cover machinery noise. Back illuminated keys. and waterproof.The money is here to buy one,

    As for the this bb? keyboard a desaster. Even if it was completly free I coiuldnt use it.

    so wouldnt hve it.

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