BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) has been teasing its square Passport smartphone for weeks, and now, the company has finally unveiled all of its features. BlackBerry officially took the wraps off it at three events that were held simultaneously in different parts of the world.
BlackBerry focuses on productivity
The struggling Canadian smartphone maker said it is targeting “power professionals” with the smartphone. That amounts to about 10% of the smartphone market, according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen.
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The Passport’s display measures 4.5 inches diagonally, but it’s unique in that it’s actually square. BlackBerry has touted the longer lines of print the phone will show, saying that it will make it easier for business and government users to read documents on their smartphones.
BlackBerry highlights the Passport’s keyboard
One reason many people stuck with BlackBerry even after the greatest majority of the smartphone market switched to iOS or Android was because of the physical keyboard the company included on its phones. Clinging on to life, the company is returning back to its roots with the Passport by giving it a QWERTY keyboard that’s been upgraded for the 21st Century.
The keyboard actually doubles as a swipe pad that responds to touch. It’s also three lines instead of four, and the symbol and function keys are now on the touchscreen instead of on the keyboard.
In addition to greatly updating the BlackBerry keyboard for the Passport, the company also solved the problem with the lack of available apps by linking to Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s app store. That gives BlackBerry users access to 200,000 Android apps—quite an impressive improvement, as developers had essentially abandoned BlackBerry for the more profitable iOS and Android platforms.
Will the Passport be enough to save BlackBerry?
Chen said when he came onboard as CEO less than a year ago, he canceled a number of products. However, he continued the development of the Passport because it’s unique and innovative. It certainly isn’t anything like any of the rectangular smartphones on the market. Also less than 1% of smartphones have physical keyboards now, further setting it apart from competitors’ offerings.
BlackBerry is undercutting Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iPhone 6 by offering the Passport for $599 in the U.S. without a mobile plan. The company has put the Passport on sale in over 30 countries, including Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., starting today.
The struggling company is scheduled to release its next earnings report in a couple of days, and analysts are looking for signs of stability leading up to the Passport’s launch quarter. Chen has said that if the Passport fails, it will make his turnaround goal more difficult but not impossible.