BlackBerry stock continued its rally this week and has climbed by more than 45% since the beginning of the year. While this is certainly an incredible gain for any stock, it’s especially remarkable for a company many investors had written off as defunct. So has new CEO John Chen managed to coax some more life out of the company? It’s too early to tell, but clearly investors are impressed with what he has done so far.

BlackBerry

BlackBerry looks for growth

Seeking Alpha contributor IAEResearch highlights a number of areas in which BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) appears to be finding growth. Aside from simply selling off its property to cut costs, the firm notes that the company sold assets and 200 of its employees to Volkswagen. This is particularly interesting because the German automaker uses BlackBerry’s QNX operating system in its vehicles. In other words, the deal was less about the amount of money BlackBerry got for the sale and more about securing its share of the auto infotainment industry.

Also recently BlackBerry revealed plans to expand its healthcare partnership with NantHealth in India. The partnership combines NantHealth with BlackBerry’s QNX operating system with a goal of expanding both companies’ share of the healthcare connectivity market.

BlackBerry plans square phone

And even though BlackBerry is fighting an uphill battle in the smartphone industry, the company isn’t giving up there yet. The Canadian company recently reported a successful launch of its latest smartphone in Indonesia, and it is forging ahead with even more smartphones. Perhaps one of the oddest decisions Chen has made so far involves plans for a square smartphone.

This week BlackBerry unveiled more information about the upcoming square phone on its blog. The company’s Matt Young said the smartphone industry has been focusing on entertainment for “so long that there’s a homogenization of the visual cues in smartphone design.” He says that some called last year “The Year the Smartphone Died.”

BlackBerry tells about Passport

Young noted that the rectangular design all current smartphones have is certainly an ergonomic one that’s good for media consumption, but he thinks that it may be limiting innovations. He added that the BlackBerry Passport will have “a marriage of form and function with a rhyme and reason to it.” The smartphone will have a 4.5-inch square screen with full HD resolution. He said the viewing space on the handset is similar to that on a 5-inch phone but with “an even better viewing experience because of the screen’s width.”

He points to research which indicates that the optimal number of characters per line in a book is 66, but most rectangular smartphones only show about 40 characters. The BlackBerry Passport will show 60 per line. As a result, he says it will be “the ideal device” for browsing the web and reading e-books and documents.

The company heavily targets business users with the Passport, highlighting how architects and mortgage brokers could view full schematics and healthcare workers would be able to fully view x-rays. BlackBerry also said finance workers would be able to more clearly see stock price changes and that writers will be able to see more of the typing space because the keyboard doesn’t cover most of the screen.