Device reviews
    07 January 2015


    Passport to connectivity

    Looking for a phone that's great for work and fun? PIPPA TSHABALALA reviews the surprising BlackBerry Passport.

    I have to state upfront that I have never been a fan of BlackBerry. I have never owned one and have never had any desire to. Being asked to review the BlackBerry Passport was an opportunity for me (in my mind) to prove why I would never own one. Except that I was so pleasantly surprised by this rather odd-looking device that I came away seriously revising my preconceptions about the future of BlackBerry.

    Square screen

    If you're looking for a good way to integrate your business productivity with your social media, this would be an excellent way to do it.  

    First off, let's address the size of the Passport, and BlackBerry's motivation behind it. You'll immediately notice the large, square screen with the keyboard at the bottom of the device. The screen is 30% larger than a normal smartphone screen. It's designed to provide a better viewing experience, particularly when browsing news sites and apps like Instagram. 

    It accommodates 60 characters across and no matter how you rotate it, you'll always get the same viewing experience. This is quite different from a 'normal' smartphone, which has a rather big adjustment between portrait and landscape view.

    The screen is the ideal size for social media apps like Facebook, and specifically for Instagram. The square format displays the photos beautifully and the 13MP rear-facing camera takes great photos. I do still find it a little awkwardly shaped, even if I like the size of the screen, as it's not something that fits easily into my pocket.

    Business and productivity

    BlackBerry is of course known as a business and productivity phone, and it certainly is designed in every way to support this. The integrated BlackBerry Hub displays all your emails (from multiple clients) and messages (again from multiple clients such as WhatsApp and Telegram, as well as your default messaging app) in one place for ease of access. On top of this is the incredibly clever BlackBerry Blend. 

    This software allows you remote access to your BlackBerry and integrates with your computer. If you left your phone at home, logging in to BlackBerry Blend would allow you to connect, via the internet, to your phone and access your messages as well as see who was calling you (although obviously you won't be able to answer). 

    Touch-sensitive keyboard

    The keyboard is a physical QWERTY keyboard that integrates predictive text in a rather unusual way, but one that works really well for the device. The keyboard is touch sensitive, so you can use it to scroll, as well as swipe upwards to select the word you want while typing. It takes a while to get used to, about three or four days if you're used to another non-physical smartphone keyboard, but once you do, its comfortable and easy to use.

    It might seem like a small thing, but the BlackBerry Passport comes with three international standard chargers (speaking of which, the battery life is excellent), as well as a non-slip cover. Considering the fact that we so often have to buy all these accessories at an additional charge, it was a welcome surprise to see that they are included in the box.

    In short


    • BlackBerry Blend is a great piece of software
    • Long battery life
    • Good camera


    • Large size makes it impossible to use one-handed
    • Keyboard is a little tricky to get used to

    Verdict: 8/10

    I was pleasantly surprised by a phone that I had previously had no interest in. If you're looking for a good way to integrate your business productivity with your social media, this would be an excellent way to do it.