The Passport is pictured between an iPhone (left) and Samsung Android phone (right).
Would you buy a square business phone? The BlackBerry Passport eschews typical smartphone design to deliver a device with a screen that's as wide as it is tall. The company says the unusual shape can actually help working professionals be more productive by providing better dimensions for viewing documents. And the Password also retains the physical keyboard that made BlackBerry a hit with the business crowd in the first place, as well as the company's trademark encryption and security features. Specific hardware details for the phone, which launches in September, haven't yet been announced. But in the meantime, here are three features that could make the BlackBerry Passport good for work.
The Passport's standout feature is its square display. The idea is that the rectangular dimensions of iPhone and Android screens are actually too narrow to provide an optimal viewing experience for business tasks. On rectangular phones, users who want to edit a document or spreadsheet are forced to choose between the standard portrait mode, which crams your data into a narrow column, and landscape mode, which lets you turn your phone sideways for a wider view but limits the number of vertical rows you can see at once.
In a blog post about the Passport, BlackBerry described several examples of how the phone could help business users be more productive. For instance, the company says the Passport could help architects view full designs and schematics on their smartphone. Or, health care workers could see full X-ray images and medical documents with minimal swiping and scrolling, and finance professionals could get a better view of spreadsheets and online trading tools.
Most smartphone makers have phased out physical keyboards in favor of on-screen touch keyboards that pop up only when you need them. BlackBerry is returning to its roots for the Passport with a physical QWERTY keyboard at the bottom of the device, letting you tap out messages by pressing actual buttons. The hardware feature could be a boon for business users who want a more tactile, and potentially more accurate, typing experience on their smartphone. It also keeps the keyboard from hogging half your screen while you're trying to work.
The Passport has all the great security features that BlackBerry fans expect, including built-in encryption for email and messaging. BlackBerry devices also feature special software that prevents personal contacts and work data from being copied, forwarded and accessed by social media apps. And if you deploy smartphones to your employees, BlackBerry's online device-management console lets you restrict app access, monitor activity and wipe devices remotely.