Leaked BlackBerry Passport Video Demos 'Touch-Sensitive Keys'

BlackBerry has embraced the fact that nearly everything about its Passport has been leaked. A new video clip serves it particularly well. 

BlackBerry Passport smartphone

BlackBerry has taken in stride leaks about its upcoming Passport smartphone—so much so that CEO John Chen chuckled to analysts, during the company's last earnings call, that they should "go online and check it out," as "all the information has already been leaked."

Now, added to the information they might find, is a video demonstration of the Passport, posted over the weekend by an Arabic-language blog. (The user seems to be a young Saudi tech blogger named Zakaria Alahmed; during his demonstration, he lingers on his Twitter home page, and his Tumblr site includes a photo of the Passport.) A sticker on the back of the phone labels it an "evaluation unit," and the user eventually swipes through the settings menu to show that the phone is running

The Passport is unusual for being much less rectangular than most smartphones—indeed, it's close in shape to an actual passport, and has a wide, dedicated three-row keyboard at its bottom. And still, the video demonstrates, the display can be tipped into landscape and portrait modes.

The keyboard also seems to be touch-sensitive, allowing the user to scroll up and down with a thumb gesture over the keyboard, and also to move side to side.

On another screen, a fat yellow dot appears, and English-language instructions on the top of the display explain, "Touch the keyboard to move the cursor." The user does, and the yellow dot runs around, following his lead, if with perhaps a smidge more lag than it may in the finished version.

BlackBerry—again, realizing the beans have been spilled and clearly trying to make the most of the attention—referred to this feature in a July 10 blog post, explaining that the phone has "touch-sensitive physical keys."
"You'll be able to navigate Web pages, apps and emails by lightly brushing your fingers over the keys, which helps with things like scrolling and cursor placement," wrote BlackBerry blogger Michael C.

In a July 18 post, BlackBerry social media marketing head Donny Halliwell said that the feature combines everything he loves about the traditional BlackBerry keyboard (physical) with the best aspects of BlackBerry 10's virtual keyboard. This includes "commands such as 'swipe left to delete' and 'flick to type,'" Halliwell continued. "On top of that, the keyboard provides fine cursor control and scrolling, which for someone like me who composes blog posts, novel-length emails and tons of BBMs, comes in very handy."

In his post, Halliwell also talked up three other features: sound quality, battery life and size.

On the first point, Halliwell said that the Passport has four microphones, which work with a Natural Sound feature to provide a "dynamic and clear" audio experience to those on both ends of the line. It also has stereo speakers for a "tablet-like volume" that's helpful for multi-participant conference calls.

To the second point, the Passport has a 3,450mAh battery that Halliwell said lasts well through the workday and into midnight-oil territory. More specifically, he added, "No other smartphone or phablet on the market today has a battery that large."

Finally, addressing its size, Halliwell answered the classic question, made still more relevant by the Passport's unusual size.

"Yes," he wrote, turning to the caps lock for emphasis, "it does fit in my pants pocket."

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