BlackBerry Shows Off Square Passport Phone, Shrugs Off Secrecy

CEO John Chen acknowledged last month that the beans had been spilled on the Passport, a square phone BlackBerry has shared an official photo of.

BlackBerry Passport smartphone

While Apple and Samsung aggressively shroud their product roadmaps in secrecy, BlackBerry, with its more uncertain handset future, is game to make the most of any spotlight shined its way.

In a July 7 blog post, the company offered an early look at the Passport, a smartphone it planned to introduce at a September event in London.

During BlackBerry's June 19 earnings call, CEO John Chen good-naturedly acknowledged there were few secrets left. "We are launching a brand new device called the Passport," he said. "Most of the information has been leaked to Websites, so you guys should go and check that out."

In early leaks, the Passport was reported by its code name, "Windmere."

Chen added that the Passport will be followed by the Classic—another also thoroughly discussed addition to the BlackBerry portfolio—in November.

Beyond any leaked-secret appeal, the Passport is notable for its shape, which is more square than rectangular. Or rather, it's shaped like a passport.

"Just as a passport is the universal symbol of mobility and was the inspiration for the size and form factor of this device, your passport becomes your ticket to open new doors of opportunity," BlackBerry said in the post.

The Passport's display is a full HD and 4.5 inches square, offering the same viewing space as a 5-inch smartphone but an "even better viewing experience."

How so?

BlackBerry explains: "Based on academic typology, the optimal number of characters on a line in a book is 66 characters." The average rectangular smartphone shows 40 characters; the Passport will show 60.

The Passport was designed for business users, BlackBerry continues. Architects and mortgage brokers will be able to look at full designs and schematics; physicians will be able to look at X-rays with a patient on a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant device; Wall Street traders will be able to see, at a glance, fluctuations in a stock; and content creators will be able to create, with the majority of the display given over to their work instead of to the keyboard.

"No more worrying about portrait or landscape modes, and no; you aren't missing anything," BlackBerry added.

Staying in the Smartphone Game

Chen's plans to rebuild BlackBerry include making its smartphone division profitable again. In April, following a report that said BlackBerry was considering a sale of its hardware division (BlackBerry executives said that Chen's comment was taken out of context), Chen made clear that he believes he can again make smartphones a profitable component of the company, and he intends to do so.

"Being a business person, if you try long enough and you can't make money at something [you stop doing it]," Chen acknowledged at an April 10 event. "But the only news," he added, "is that we're committed to the handset business, and we're going to make it work."

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