BlackBerry reveals why the Passport is hip to be square: It's all about the spreadsheets

BlackBerry reveals why the Passport is hip to be square: It's all about the spreadsheets

Summary: BlackBerry's Passport has inspired a lot of head-scratching, but the company reckons it does have a good reason for going out on a square limb.

Image: BlackBerry

Taller than most smartphones and wider than many phablets, BlackBerry has gone out on a limb with the dimensions of its forthcoming Passport device. If you've been wondering why you'd need a square device, BlackBerry has the answer: spreadsheets.

Some BlackBerry fans are already sold on the concept of a 4.5-inch square display phone, but when news broke last month of BlackBerry's plan to release the category-defying Passport device, many had trouble fathoming how its unique form factor would appeal to the smartphone buying masses.

Blackberry expects to launch its business-class phablet this September at an event in London. The Passport will come with a physical QWERTY keyboard that stretches fully across the bottom of the 1440x1440 resolution display.

Little else is known about its specs, but in a blog post yesterday BlackBerry claimed it would offer superior handling of spreadsheets compared with the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5.

According to BlackBerry, the smartphone world has been enslaved by the rectangle for too long, which may be "limiting innovations".

BlackBerry argues that the Passport's girth will deliver a better viewing experience, in part because it can display 60 characters per line — much closer to the 66 characters typically seen in a book, compared to the 40 or so on rectangular devices.

One advantage of its width is that users won't need to turn the phone to landscape mode to view e-books, view documents, or browse the web.

But who will find it useful? Business users, of course.

BlackBerry may have turned its focus on to emerging markets with its recent release of the Z3 touchscreen phone for emerging markets in Asia, but the Passport is for all the working professionals who've abandoned BlackBerry for iOS and Android. It could even serve a few purposes that the BlackBerry's PlayBook seven-inch tablet probably could.

According to the BlackBerry blog, Passport's keyboard and wide display are very much aimed at business customers — from architects to medical professionals and finance-types. In short, businesspeople that were once its core constituency but have since largely moved onto Apple, and to a lesser extent, Android devices.

Read more on BlackBerry

Topics: Mobility, BlackBerry, Smartphones

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • I guess

    this phone will only be sold to enterprise customers only since it seems that is what BB is highlighting. How do apps present on the phone? I find it fascinating that BB has not offcicially announced this phone but is explaining it's use!
  • A business phone and a GAMING phone

    Big square screen with super high resolution, simple physical keyboard, super battery, will be perfect for reading and editing docs and charts and spreadsheet, and absolutely terrific for gaming.
  • id prefer a Rubik's Cube format

    Just imagine the possibilities... :-)
  • Can't be right

    Surely the form factor is wrong? I'm not a heavy user of spreadsheets but mostly I need "some" down and "a lot" along (otherwise I use a database). Should this not mean that Blackberry produce a widescreen phone, for full advantage?

    A bit like an iPhone or a Galaxy S5 on its side. A revolutionary new format, I think you'll agree. (You might need wider pockets, but every idea has its pitfalls to overcome.)
  • Interesting

    Why not try a new format. They are down on their luck, might as well try this format and see if it sticks, could be a game changer in the corporate world, or it could fizzle out. Either way good for them for trying something new. This reminds me of when Phablets came out, I thought they were too big for a phone, too niche of a product, but look at them now.
  • another example of Blackberry being out of touch...

    they are pretty much a dying company -- who would invest anything but the bare minimum until you migrate all users off?
  • BlackBerry

    There's a lot of buzz about the Passport, and the BB classic. BB 10.2 is being copied by iPhone and Android, and BB 10.3 still puts them both to shame.

    BlackBerry just won the Red Dot design award (for the second straight year), and their stock is 150% of what it was a month ago, before the released their 1Q financials.
    • ...

      sure, let's not leave out the important winners .. the Red Dot "Best of the Best" titles given to the Sony and LG android phones. for ref.
      To Rumber Drag
  • ???

    while it might be a good idea a couple of years ago, it does not make sense now. For once, we have mini tablet in the 7" to 8" that could do a better job. What about sticking this phone to your face? While Blue Tooth might help, I have seen less and less Blue Tooth devices.
  • The power spreadsheet user? really?

    the hard keyboard has no numbers. what power spreadsheet user only uses letters?
  • The Keyboard

    Is touch sensitive and allows the gesture invocation of symbols, much like the touch screen keyboard they made
  • Marketing versus Sales

    Blackberry Marketing is telling us how wonderful the product is and how right their design is. Sales will tell us what consumers and enterprises think, and how well it's received. This isn't the first time that an "amazing" product is being unleashed (e.g., Playbook, the "these will save the company" Q and Z series).

    Personally, I note that Blackberry is still hemorrhaging, with their latest quarter being "profitable" not because of explosive sales, but because their cost-cutting has outpaced their horrific decline in sales and loss of customers. You can only cut costs so much before you hit the bone, and then you have nowhere to go. That's when losses from nearly non-existent sales are unavoidable.

    I'm wary of Blackberry the company. No matter how great any product they create today, the concern about whether they'll be around in a couple of years is a very real one. It's one that overshadows their products.
    • BlackBerry Intimidates rivals with it's success!!! All the talk...

      It's interesting to see how many haters are on here. You must really be threatened by BlackBerry's success, otherwise, you would be indifferent. AND...even IF the company wasn't around in a couple of would still have an amazing phone. That wouldn't change. Also most don't keep a phone for more than 2 years now days...just sayin. Your logic is illogical.