BlackBerry Passport review
|Review: January 2015|
In a nutshell: The BlackBerry Passport is different, but in a good way. It's big, heavy and strange to behold, but it offers business users everything they need - an incredibly powerful keyboard, a great OS with BlackBerry and Android apps, a beautiful square screen, and powerful performance to match.
Design - weird shape, yummy keyboard
At S21, we've seen a lot of phone shapes over the past 15 years, but we still weren't prepared for the BlackBerry Passport. It's got to be one of the biggest phones we've ever reviewed, and our initial reaction was "no way!" Read on to find out how that perception gradually changed.
Everything about the Passport is unexpected. It's certainly the widest phone we've reviewed in living memory, and in overall volume terms it's bigger than even the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (which is a seriously big phone). At just under 10mm thick and weighing 196g, the initial impression is that it's monstrously cumbersome. It's nearly impossible to use with just one hand.
However, BlackBerry claims that it slips into your pocket just like a real passport, and indeed if you put it next to a UK passport you'll see that they are almost exactly the same length and width. But guess what - a real passport is about one third the thickness of this device. Still, we get the point - it's not quite as cumbersome as it first seems. We can even fit it inside pockets that the Galaxy Note 4 would never squeeze into.
The Passport has a full physical QWERTY keyboard, which is a good feature if you like to work with text - and who doesn't? Although virtual keyboards do the job, there's nothing like a real keyboard for speed and ease of use, and that's definitely a reason to pick this phone. The keyboard is extra wide, and is very easy to work with (using one hand to hold the phone and one to type.) Although it has only three layers, an additional one or more rows of touchscreen virtual keys appear above the keyboard, depending on context. The virtual keys may be a selection of symbols, appropriate to the task in hand. It's an intelligent keyboard too, with fully-featured prediction and correction. It has a trick up its sleeve too - it's touch-enabled. This means you can access shortcuts by swiping the keyboard, and even use it to navigate around the text on the screen.
We've got to say that you could easily fall in love with this keyboard. Already our perception of the Passport is changing from "what!?" to "mmm."
There's another reason for the strange shape of the Passport. It's the huge square screen fixed above the keyboard. There's no doubting that this is big - at 4.5 inches, it's almost as big as the iPhone 6. It's fully touch-enabled of course. But it's square. While this is clearly a problem for videos, games, and all that consumer stuff, for business users, it's an ideal shape. The IPS screen has a huge 1440 x 1440 pixel resolution, allowing it to display information and text in very fine detail. It's pin sharp, has wide viewing angles, and we love it! Whoever said that square had to be boring?
Powerful hardware inside
So we've grown to love the exterior of the Passport, but what's going on inside?
Well, hold on tight, because this beast rocks a quadcore Snapdragon 801 processor from Qualcomm. Running at a speedy 2.2GHz, this is a match for most Android phones. Matched with an Adreno 330 GPU for graphics processing capability, and a huge 3GB of RAM, this makes the Passport as powerful as it needs to be. It will easily devour any task you care to throw at it.
There's 32GB of built-in flash memory too, and a microSD slot, so you can add in a memory card for up to 128GB of additional memory.
BlackBerry 10 OS
The Passport runs the BlackBerry 10 operating system. As we've said before, this OS has a steep learning curve, and you can easily tie yourself in knots with all the swiping and multiple screens available. But if you're a power user, making extensive use of the phone every day, we reckon you'll quickly grow to love it. Central to BB10 is the BlackBerry Hub, which is where you'll access all your messaging and notifications, and is probably the core app of the system.
The clever keyboard certainly makes the Passport easier to use than phones like the pure touchscreen BlackBerry Z10.
The phone comes with a full set of business and productivity apps, and more are available from BlackBerry World. In addition, you can now download a limited range of Android apps from the Amazon Appstore. Can't get through a meeting without Candy Crush? No problem! Seriously though, we think that the combination of BlackBerry and Android apps makes this a seriously attractive platform for the business user.
Finally, the new BlackBerry Assistant is a voice-activated Siri-like helper that can perform tasks like sending messages, organising calendar events and converting speech to text.
We're perhaps not overly concerned with camera performance in a phone such as this, but in fact, BlackBerry has given the Passport their best camera ever. The main rear-facing camera features a 13 megapixel sensor, BSI for low-light enhancement, optical image stabilisation, continuous and touch autofocus and an LED flash. It's definitely up to scratch for a camera phone.
The camera can record full 1080p HD video too.
The front camera is fixed-focus, but is ideal for selfies or video calling. With a 2 megapixel sensor and 720p HD video, it also features image and video stabilisation for shake-free video calls.
You'd expect a phone of this calibre to be fully connected, and it is. It's compatible with a wide range of 4G LTE bands, as well as 3G HSPA+ and GSM networks. It supports the latest Wi-Fi standards, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 LE, micro USB 2.0, NFC and a headphone jack.
Strong battery performance
In the past, some BlackBerry models have been equipped with batteries that were far too small for purpose. That's absolutely not a problem here. The Passport comes with a huge 3450mAh battery, which is larger than almost every other smartphone currently on sale. That's a full day of use, even for heavy users.
Conclusion - from huh? to yeah!
Our initial impressions of the Passport weren't good. We actually wondered what the point of it was, and whether the company had simply lost it. But pick it up and start using it, and the form factor quickly grows on you. Put some effort into learning BB10 and playing with that super keyboard, and you can start to love this phone. And when you realise just how glorious the big square screen is, and how fast this beast is, and how long the battery lasts, we think you'll come to the same conclusion as us - that for serious business users, this might just be the best phone ever.
BlackBerry Passport features include:
- Operating system: BlackBerry 10 OS
- Touch-enabled keyboard
- 13 megapixel camera with BSI, autofocus, image stabilisation, 5x digital zoom, LED flash and 1080p HD video recording at 60 fps
- 2 megapixel fixed-focus front camera with 720p HD video
- Square display: 1440 x 1440 pixels, 4.5 inches
- Multimedia apps: Music, Videos, Pictures, Camera, Picture Editor, Story Maker
- Productivity apps: BlackBerry Hub (Email and Social Messaging), Universal Search, Calendar, Contacts, Browser, Text Messaging, Clock, Calculator, Documents To Go, Print To Go, File Manager, Adobe® Reader, BlackBerry Remember (memos /tasks)
- Other apps: Phone, BBM (Voice and Video), BlackBerry World, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Games, YouTube, Maps/Navigation, Smart Tags (NFC), Setup, Help
- FM radio
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with 2.2GHz Quad-Core CPUs, Adreno 330, 450MHz GPU
- Memory: 3GB RAM plus 32GB flash memory, plus microSD memory card slot (up to 128GB)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, micro USB 2.0, 3.5mm stereo headset port, NFC
- Size: 128 x 90 x 9.3 mm
- Weight: 196g
- Networks: LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 20, 3G HSPA+, quad-band GSM
- Battery: 3450 mAh
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BlackBerry Passport user reviews
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Average rating from 10 reviews:
Reviewed by Jet
on 18th Jun 2016
Update, still impressed after over a year of 24/7 usage. HFT, e-mails and battery life all exceptional, so no need to carry a charger. A pity that this has been so overlooked especially with the usability and flexibility of BB10 which is exceptional. Never seen anyone else with one.
Reply by Tris
on 8th Jul 2016
In the not far off 2hrs I've been using one, I can honestly say I've only ever seen 3 in the wild. BB10 maybe on its last legs but as a true testament to this device, even without official apps and only Web based apps. I can still do everything I need to do. And even after all this time people still are stopping me in the street or coffee shops to have a look at my phone because they can't actually believe it's a Blackberry. Also everyone I've ever showed the keyboard to is completely amazed. Can't see me letting go of it until bb10 reaches EOS in 2018.
Reviewed by andre
on 26th Apr 2016
I've had this phone for about a month now and after being unsure initially I have to say that this is the best phone I've ever owned. Once you get used to the square shape it's so easy to use. It's quick and very responsive too. Having owned iphones in the past I have to say that the passport outperforms iphones in almost every category. overall I'd give this phone 9/10. Great work blackberry.
Reviewed by Simonblonde
on 6th Nov 2015
If you want to get people talking, give them something interesting to talk about!
The beautiful Silver Edition Blackberry Passport certainly looks sophisticated and refined, with it's Porsche Design silky stainless steel frame and soft-touch leather diamond-pattern back cover that made it's debut in the AT&T Passport in the USA. Superb in every way with the best HD display put on a phone with Gorilla Glass for strength, clever engineering, A battery twice the size as the iPhone 6....get the picture?!
Yes, it IS the ultimate business phone and even global IT, media and telecoms bosses (not to mention world leaders and the Forbes rich-list) won't be seen using anything else, but it is so much more than that! A mobile office, 13MP Samsung high-end camera, Android compatible and a tablet you can carry around.
Don't trust many of the reviews, who are just tech geeks who love iPhone or Samsung phones (superb phones in their own right!) and are used to giving reviews to Taylor Swift and Britney Spears songs! One things for sure, use one of these and the looks just keep on coming!!!
Reviewed by Jet
on 4th Jul 2015
Bold 9900 owner for three years and it was a great phone and the best I had ever used. Did not need to upgrade but saw the PP and it looked awesome. No chance of one locally so when it arrived it was a total surprise when the box was opened. Tremendous phone, intuitive, great battery and easy to set up including HFT. Good work BB.
Reviewed by Stretch
on 30th Jun 2015
Sorry Blackberry, but the Passport is just not up to it!
I so wanted the Passport to be the Blackberry Iíd been waiting for, however, I was sadly disappointed.
Having been a previous Blackberry Bold owner, Iíd been almost forced reluctantly to switch, and had been using a Samsung S3.
Iíd but up with the S3ís poor battery life and poor operating system, waiting for my contract to end, so I could swap back to a BB.
I'd read and watched lots of reviews, both for and against, and had decided the Passport was the phone for me.
Unfortunately, once I'd got the handset, my expectations that BB had finally produced a phone worth having were soon smashed.
Itís hard to put into words or to pinpoint what it is about the Passport, but there is just something!
Is it the quirky form factor, the convoluted unfinished feel of the operating system, or the lack of apps?
I donít think itís anything major, but rather a lot of minor little issues or finishing touches, that on their own wouldnít be a problem, but added together made the Passport disappointing!
Sorry Blackberry stuck with the Passport for about a week, had to take it backÖ
Swapped it for a Samsung S5, and I have to say reluctantly, for me it beats the Passport hands down.
Back to the drawing board BB.
Reviewed by matt
on 16th Jun 2015
I buy my phones outright so always use iphones , android and tried windows... I was interested in the passport at Christmas as it was just something different fromeverything including the old blackberries people had a few years back. My interest became more definite since reading tris' first review back in January. it was then I bought a black passport... the device is exceptional including battery life as without this a smartphone is useless regardless of what it can do when it has a full battery.... it does take a couple of weeks to fully get to grips with the keyboard and shortcuts but then its plain sailing..... especially now as a lot of people get another phone and don't give it the time to get used to it be it ios, android etc.... so therefore good second hand hardly used passports at decent prices can be had.... thanks Tris!!!
Reply by Tris
on 26th Mar 2016
Well its 18 months later and im still on a passport albeit a silver edition. BB10 maybe dead but I still cant fault this phone.
Reviewed by Tris
on 9th Jun 2015
OK. I wouldn't usually write a second review on a device, but in the case of the passport i feel more qualified than most to write about it based on 6 months of straight use. First things first, I stand by everything I said in my first review. After 6 months I am as happy today with it as I was then. So much so that this is the only phone I have now. All my media such as films and games, reading and such are all done on my ipad. My passport is a communication and Web device only. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, BBM, Instagram are' all managed on the passport. All I. Can say is wow. It's everything an iPhone isn't and more, It turns heads, keeps me connected. All my family have gone back to blackberry so BBM with work and family is more useful then ever. The design is cutting edge and not aging. It's super reliable. Super easy to use. Spread sheets are great. Works very much like a true PDA. In short this is the best phone I've ever had. Remember, this is all based 6 months use. I am not an iPhone user. A different breed does exist!
Reviewed by Les Randles
on 6th Jun 2015
What a phone.. was apprehensive at 1st.. changed my phones as often as my underwear. So wen I saw the passport I just had to try it.I was not disappointed..super fast with all the toys.. Sadly if blackberry had produced this phone 18 months earlier.. well who knows.. totally secure.. take it out in public and people ask you what it is..Show it off..Easily a idroid beater.. WELL DONE BLACKBERRY.
Reviewed by Graham
on 2nd May 2015
I have owned blackberrys, android and windows phones. When bb10 was released i bought the Z10 but whilst I loved the hub the battery was rubbish and i got fed up charging all the time. I bought a HTC M7 and whilst I truly like the phone I just missed the hub. I decieded to try the passport and that was the best decission I could have made. I should say that I dont play games or watch videos on phone. I also only have 5 android apps, and thats only because there are no alternatives on BB world. I use dropbox, evernote, twitter, facebook, all of which are built into os of phone. This thing is fast and the battery last all day with heavy usage. If you buy you wont be dissapointed but dont buy if you think it will replace you existing icrap or android with farting apps and games. Dont buy and expect to use as a TV, its not for that kind of usage. If like me you use as a phone and messaging device 1st, social device 2nd you cant go wrong.
Reviewed by Tris
on 9th Jan 2015
Although I have a classic for work and also have a lumia 1320 I couldn't resist buying a white passport. First things first. This isn't a consumption device. It's not in anyway for the masses. This is like nothing else on the market at all. The nearest thing to it is the BlackBerry classic. The passport is powerfull as hell, a real beast. It's heavy but very well made indeed. Call quality is one of the best I have used. The screen is crisp and sharp and stunning to use. The speakers give HTC boom sound a run for their money. The camera is as good as most finally for a blackberry. But 3 things stand out about the passport. No1 is the battery life. It's insane and really takes some beating. 2nd is the keyboard. With a built in track pad it makes things like swiping left to delete a word or scrolling so easy and natural. It even has the flick up for predictive words. Last is BB10 on the passport itself. Quiet simpily it was made for it. It really makes the best of it. Everything from BBM facetime to email to browsing is just really awesome and the HUB just brings it all together. This quiet simply isn't just the best business phone there is. It's just a dam good phone full stop and easily the best Blackberry has ever made. BB10.3 has had a lot of work done to make Android apps work better and I even have the play store on mine although any app that uses Google services won't work yet. The passport may look strange but S21 is quite right. It's only by using the passport you realise that there really is a world out there that isn't dominated by the glass slab. The sad thing is that most won't give it a chance, and that's a shame. The passport really is something special indeed and fully deserves it's five stars.