BlackBerry launched two new business phones in the last six months, but so far there hasn't been an affordable way for U.S. buyers to pick these phones up. That's about to change when the BlackBerry Classic and BlackBerry Passport arrive on AT&T's network on Friday (Feb. 20). This makes AT&T the first major U.S. carrier to offer either smartphone for a subsidized price when you sign on to a two-year contract. The Passport will cost $200 on contract, while the Classic will cost $50 with the same two-year agreement.
So what do these new BlackBerry phones have to offer business users? For starters, they're the only modern smartphones on AT&T's network with physical QWERTY keyboards. Typing on a hardware keyboard may not be quite as fast as tapping out messages on a touch-screen device, but it's a nice perk for business users who want to avoid typos in email replies. Plus, both phones come with BlackBerry's excellent suite of security features, including built-in encryption for messaging and email.
Individually, the Passport really stands out with its unusual square display, which is designed to offer more horizontal screen space than you'll find on other smartphones. That's a plus for users who want to perform screen-intensive tasks like examining large documents or editing spreadsheets. The wide display, combined with the Passport's physical keyboard, makes this device an interesting option for business users, even if the BlackBerry software is lacking and the phone's large size makes it feel a bit unwieldy.
The Classic, meanwhile, is designed like a throwback to the old BlackBerry Bold 9900. It sports a more compact, 3.5-inch display, but has the same excellent physical keyboard. It offers most of the Passport's best features at a more manageable size, making it the better pick if you can deal with the smaller screen.