BlackBerry Squares Off Against Rivals with Passport

Hoping to claw its way back into the palms of enterprise users who long ago switched to Android and iOS devices, BlackBerry released its new Passport smartphone Wednesday. Although once the most ubiquitous accessory for business executives, the company now holds only 0.5 percent of the smartphone market as of the second quarter of 2014, putting it behind Android, iOS and the Windows Phone operating system.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company highlighted the phone's distinctive design, saying that the device would stand out in a "sea of sameness." The name itself, "Passport," was chosen to reflect the device's unusual shape, about the size of an actual passport.

Tactile QWERTY Keyboard

The handset features a 4.5-inch 1440x1440 square touchscreen and a tactile keyboard with a full QWERTY layout. It runs on a quad-core 2.26-GHz processor that comes with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage, along with a microSD slot for additional space, a 13-megapixel camera and the BlackBerry 10.3 operating system.

The company said its reputation for security relative to mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android would once again make BlackBerry an attractive device for enterprise customers. It also comes with a 3,450-mAH battery, which the company claims gives it 36 hours of life, a considerable advantage over the iPhone 6's 1,810-mAH battery.

Although at 4.5 inches, the Passport is smaller than the 4.7-inch screen on the new iPhone 6, BlackBerry says the screen can display up to 60 characters across for users hoping to use the device to work on spreadsheets and other business documents. In addition, users can navigate through screens by swiping across the physical keyboard. The handset maker has also added compatibility with Android apps to the latest version of its operating system. Amazon's App Store will also come installed.

Priced at $599 without a...

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