back to article Good grief! Have you SEEN BlackBerry's SQUARE smartphone?

Unveiled on Wednesday and already shipping, BlackBerry’s square-shaped Passport is a Marmite device – people will either love it or hate it. It’s quite uncompromisingly the most unusual smartphone in modern times. BlackBerry may as well have called it the “WTF”. Trackpad-cum-keyboard on square phone – you'll love it or you …

JDX
Gold badge

"keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

I am struggling to understand this... is the keyboard then just a touch-screen with letters glued behind it, like turning the onscreen keyboard on permanently on an iPhone? Or is it somehow a tactile keyboard with buttons, which is also a touch-pad (seems unlikely)?

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

It's the latter, a tactile keyboard with added touch-pad functionality integrated.

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Anonymous Coward

as useful

As useful as a square wheel

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

It's a normal keyboard (in the fashion of past Blackberry devices) but with a capacitive layer on it meaning that you can use it like an oversized track pad (think the little optical pad in earlier devices but huge). I've seen a few demos of it and it looks really, really good.

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Silver badge

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

It's a real physical keyboard, with proper shaped, physical keys that move just as they should when you press them. Just like BlackBerry are famed for.

It also a touch pad. And for a mobile device it's large. I'm assuming the screen is also touch enabled just like their other devices.

That's probably counts as being clever, or possibly cunning. It's also an improvement on the little track button that old blackberries used to have.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

Yup, tactile plus touch pad - http://blogs.blackberry.com/2014/09/blackberry-passport-keyboard/

I can picture it as one of those things you really don't appreciate until you get to try it, ie scrolling webpages, documents, emails, pdfs etc while also having great screen estate, editing functions look great as well.

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Trollface

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

If only the article was accompanied by photos where you could see for yourself. One with the device in someones hand at a slight angle would have been especially useful. Sadly I guess we'll never know.

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Holmes

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

Now that I've spent the past 2-3 years getting good at swype, not sure I really want to go back to double-thumb-punching a Blackberry again. That would slow me down quite a bit.

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

"getting good at swype, not sure I really want to go back to double-thumb-punching"

With the touchpad layer, I could see swype-style functionality being added. This would have the advantage that you could feel the keys as you swipe over them, and could be incredible.

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

The add-on keypad for my PS3 controller had this as well. Just pretend the keypad is a touchpad...you drag your fingers over it and it moves a mouse pointer.

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JDX
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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

I find it hard to imagine swiping my fingers over a bumpy surface but maybe it's one of those things you just have to experience to understand.

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

Best Reg comment of the week. As I was thinking "Read the bl--dy article before commenting, you... " the satire hit me. Brilliant! Thanks for the laugh.

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Silver badge

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

It's not a bumpy surface at all as far as I can tell from the evidence presented so far - just a dedicated but flat touch sensitive area, much like the "physical" buttons of some smartphones: lit and touch-sensitive, but NOT actually MOVING discrete pieces of plastic. I may well be wrong of course, but then please [citation needed] of a video or review that actually shows those touch-sensitive keys DEPRESSED AND PHYSICALLY MOVING.

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Pint

Very Brief Design Brief

Avoid Rounded Corners.

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Re: as useful

Huh? Having a proper touchpad AND a proper keyboard is probably the most useful innovation on a mobile device in years...

...I know, I know, a stupid clueless AC is a just a stupid clueless AC, no need to reply, I know.

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Silver badge

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

It's a proper keyboard, not just a touch sensitive screen.

The symbol key and numbers have gone - they appear in the screen above when needed.

Also allows autocomplete by swiping up on the keys.

Brilliant design. Not sure it will work for me, but nice to have something interesting around.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

If you find it hard to swipe your fingers over a bumpy surface, I have to assume you're

a) single

b) not very creative

I'll get my coat now, Mine's the one with a copy of a dirty mag in the pocket.

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

Look at the picture in the article. You can clearly see the reflections from the edges of the raised buttons. They look like they're a single sheet, but each button is raised slightly so they'll be able to be pressed and give tactile feedback.

I had a Samsung NV10 point & shoot digital camera years ago that allowed you to navigate the menus by swiping across the capacitive physical buttons on the back. It worked very nicely. This is (shock!) genuine innovation in the mobile phone sector.

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Re: "keyboard doubles as a capacitive multitouch trackpad"

They are physical, moving keys. You should be able to tell they're not flat just by seeing how the light reflects off them in the photos here. Of course, this is a phone keyboard, so the key's aren't raised all that much, so they shouldn't get in the way of swiping. You can do a quick search on your favorite popular video sharing site if you want a video.

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Silver badge

That looks pretty damn good.

Look at your market and give them something actually innovative.

I've no idea if it'll save the company - but at least if they do bite the dust, they can walk away with their heads held high.

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Happy

Well I WANT ONE

It has a proper tactile keyboard and it runs Android apps. It has decent battery power and gets a decent signal.

Ticks every one of my boxes.

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Silver badge

Re: Well I WANT ONE

Only thing it's missing for me is dual SIM...

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Re: Well I WANT ONE

if it was a tiny bit more price competitive (say within 10-15% of a Nexus) I'd be seriously tempted.

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Re: Well I WANT ONE

Not sure if it will do exactly what you want, but you know BlackBerry just bought this company? - http://www.movirtu.com/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well I WANT ONE

I think the only thing that would put me off is having to deal with the endless sniggers and "wozzat?!" questions from the Sammy-Apple sheep!

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Pint

Re: Well I WANT ONE

"...it runs Android apps..."

Does it run Android apps any better than the BlackBerry Playbook's pathetic implementation of same?

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Re: Well I WANT ONE

Yes, it does. The article states as much.

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Re: Well I WANT ONE

BlackBerry acquired the company Movirtu last month which developed software for a virtual dual sim technology. In other words, it's a virtual second (or theoretically third, fourth or fifth sims) sim card that will allow you to have two phone numbers on the same phone functioning simultaneously.

Check it out, it's pretty neat :)

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Can't quite put my finger on why...

... but I think I like the look of that beastie.

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Re: Can't quite put my finger on why...

It reminds me of something, but I can't remember what exactly.

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Re: Can't quite put my finger on why...

I'll try a few.

It doesn't have silly curved corners, but they're not dangerously 'shuriken' sharp.

The display is reasonable sized and a decent aspect ratio (not widescreen/narrowscreen, depending which way you hold it like every bl**dy thing else)

It's from a well known company but not one with huge numbers of fanbois and/or haters

The keyboard/touchpad looks like it will be easy to use, even for someone with largish fingers

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Thumb Up

Re: Can't quite put my finger on why...

They got the idea from the "After Eight" mint design. Slightly bigger of course, wonder if it comes with a similar case.

I can see me upgrading my contract when the time comes.

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Coat

Re: Can't quite put my finger on why...

Looks of similar dimensions to a whiskey (or whisky) flask to me, should fit nicely into a jacket stash pocket (see illustration -->). Sounds like a decent piece of kit, looking forward to further reviews when it's been put through its proper paces.

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JDX
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I wonder if MS ever considered buying BB/RIM as well as Nokia, to try and sew up the business market.

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Anonymous Coward

"I wonder if MS ever considered buying BB/RIM as well as Nokia, to try and sew up the business market."

Windows Phone already massively outsells Blackberry - and has about 25% of the UK business market. Blackberry wouldn't add much to the product suite.

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Silver badge

They're onto something

I think they maybe onto something. Oddly enough I am quite intrigued by it. Probably rather odd sensation holding something like that to your ear, however for uses other than phone the display format is quite appealing.

I'm looking forward to how this one turns out.

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Re: They're onto something

Ditto. Might try one when my Lumia comes up for renewal. Never expected BB to come up with something that lies me from Windows Phone.

Dead keen to have a play work one...

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Never had a blackberry before, but I'm going to get one of these.

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Coat

"Oh and it comes in black and white."

Really? Rather retro, don't you think?

Are there people out there who don't want a colour screen?

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Re: "Oh and it comes in black and white."

There will be a special blinged "Ealing comedy" edition for the UK market

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Thumb Up

Pity they didn't get this out last year.

This is probably their last chance. If it fits a standard inside pocket in a suit, a shirt pock and jeans, then the shape is OK. Less likely to get bent?

A real keyboard that is a touch pad sounds good if properly done.

Now if there was a Flip version same exact size (but a little fatter) with lid as 2nd screen able to fold underneath ...

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Re: Pity they didn't get this out last year.

"Less likely to get bent?"

Funny you should mention that:

http://www.cnet.com/news/even-blackberry-is-making-fun-of-the-bendable-iphone-6/

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Innovative

I do like this.

I suspect it is a real keyboard that has capacitive sensing on each key, so the keyboard as a whole can act as a very low res, crude touchpad. Which for the purposes described should work just fine.

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Re: Innovative

New screen format, actual keyboard and 30 hour battery? Proper innovation, its been a long time coming, hopefully it breathes some life into the "look how thin we can make our phone market" I'm guessing it doesn't bend to easily either? Win win all round!

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Anonymous Coward

tempted

But need to see a few more hands on reviews and videos. Saw one review claim that every android app he tried crashes or didn't work and that you get a warning every time you install from Amazon app store and that one android app didn't work crashed constantly so he tried installing it from bbworld only for that to fail to install until he removed the android one... Looking at this review android apps should be fairly painless.. Hmm?

The price is a bit of a bummer too bit more expensive than I was hoping. Definitely gives me food for thought when renewing the contract soon though

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Anonymous Coward

Re: tempted

I have been evaluating this device for a while. I have installed apps from BB World, Amazon Store and also from Google Play (via the sideloaded Snap application). The only app which I have experienced an issues with is Instagram which i downloaded from Google Play. Otherwise Google Maps, Banking Apps, Roku app, etc work absolutely fine.

Once you get used to the UI and how it works it really becomes indispensable. I have lot count of the number of times i have absentmindedly used the swipe gestures on my iOS device - only to think "FFS sake Apple you need to pull your finger out". The iPhone has been relegated to a test device...

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Re: tempted

Odd that it's £367 in the USofA but £529 in Blighty.What's the extra £162 for?

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FAIL

DOA

This phone is DOA. One has to wonder why if this is such a good idea, why none of the other phone makers thought about it before? Maybe because, the vast majority of usability studies show that most people like a phone they can pocket, or they can easily slip into their pocket book. I guess once you get rid of over 60% of your staff, whatever is left isn't the most talented, or forward thinking bunch.

The best think BB could have done, was to continue their BB7 line, while BB10 catches on. By now BB7 devices would have cost $50 bucks, and would have help them retain a lot of customers who are now in the Apple and Android world and would never go back to BB.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: DOA

This phone is DOA. One has to wonder why if this is such a good idea, why none of the other phone makers thought about it before?

All the current phone manufacturers see Apple making billions from producing the same old shaped slab with the screen on the front and a little button and decide to do the same thing and look how that is working out. It is a race to the bottom. The Samsung S5 was a failure (S4 owner here btw) and the Note 4 doesn't seem to offer anything than the Note 3 didn't. HTC and other firms are barely making profit on these things. At least if Blackberry are gonna go under they will go down fighting.

Maybe because, the vast majority of usability studies show that most people like a phone they can pocket, or they can easily slip into their pocket book.

There is a video on youtube where someone has helpfully compared it in size to other phones it might be considered with and it fits into pockets no problem. Maybe not skinny jeans, but that's not the target market here.

The best think BB could have done, was to continue their BB7 line, while BB10 catches on. By now BB7 devices would have cost $50 bucks, and would have help them retain a lot of customers who are now in the Apple and Android world and would never go back to BB.

I think Nokia have got the whole bottom of the market can't give them away market covered. BB7 is dead, but they should've done a QNX version of the bold design

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Coat

Re: DOA

Perhaps or perhaps not. But not long ago it was (can you remenber) brands like Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia. Things change, imagine if every car manufacturer gave up because of Toyota and VW. It would be better if no company had a market share above 10%. Many companies are far too big to day.

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