Seeking To Stand Out, BlackBerry Goes Square

BlackBerry is out with its Passport smartphone. The new device stands out for one geometrical attribute: it's square.

"It's hip to be square," the Canadian smartphone maker asserted Monday on its Inside BlackBerry blog. The Passport offers a 4.5-inch square 1440 x 1440 screen with full HD, and, the company said, provides the same viewing space as a five-inch phone, but with "an even better viewing experience because of the screen's width."

The company offers several reasons why a square form factor is better. For one thing, BlackBerry said, the optimal number of characters in a line from a physical book is 66.

40 Versus 60 Characters

However, most current smartphones show only about 40 characters, while the Passport will have 60 -- thus presenting "the ideal device for reading e-books, viewing documents and browsing the Web." The idea is that, if your phone is square, deciding whether to view something in a portrait or landscape mode could be a thing of the past.

Use cases cited by the smartphone maker include architects and mortgage brokers looking at full designs and schematics on the go, or doctors reviewing X-rays or medical documentation in the office with a patient. Stockbrokers would have enough real estate to more clearly see financial transactions and information, not to mention the ability to somewhat navigate spreadsheets. For anyone needing a more spread-out QWERTY physical keyboard, the Passport's screen is still visible while you type -- unlike virtual keyboards on most smartphones.

The Passport was revealed by the company last month, and is expected to be formally launched in September at a London event. While software and in-phone hardware innovations are having a difficult time standing out from the deluge of features in countless competing smartphones, a dramatically new form factor could help BlackBerry set itself apart while providing an easier-to-use productivity...

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