Blackberry unveils its innovative “Passport” smartphone

BlackBerry Ltd. has just unveiled their latest Passport phone at various events around the world, in a move that Chief Executive, John Chen, believes will help bring back business users.

It is the first real piece of innovation that the company has unveiled for a while, after months of restructuring and significant financial problems, it is a sign that Blackberry is able to provide quality products to consumers again.

In an interview before the announcement of their Passport, John Chen said:

“When you come out of restructuring, when you come out of financial problems, once you stabilize the company, customers and the market will only respond if you’re innovating again.”

It is the first major device to be introduced since Chen assumed the role of CEO in November, 2013. At the time of his appointment there was a possible buyout of the company – which did not go through.

According to Blackberry, its latest device is designed to meet the needs of professionals.

This is part of Chen’s plan to change the direction of the company, which focused on the average consumer, and rather, focus on the needs of people in the corporate world.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Chen says that the Passport could help boost BlackBerry’s financial performance.

He said:

“I’ve told people we will be profitable by 2016. If I could get some growth on the top line, I will be able to make it profitable sooner.”

The new BlackBerry “Passport” smartphone

Blackberry Passport

The Passport comes equipped with a 4.5 inch screen and a physical keyboard that can double and be used as a touch sensitive swipe pad. It has a battery life of approximately 30 hours, a 13 MP OIS camera, and 32 GB of storage space.

It’s been developed to maximize work productivity, quite different to Apple’s new iPhone devices, which are primarily marketed for the average consumer.

There were three simultaneous events around the world exhibiting the Passport. In Toronto’s event, the stage was welcomed with the appearance of Wayne Gretzky, the former professional hockey player.

Wayne talked about the Passport’s impressive battery life, and added that Chen is a Canadian hero, who would help “win our home country back”.

A different corporate market than before

Approximately 10 percent of the global smartphone is made up by professionals, a sector of the market that BlackBerry wants to tap into.

As opposed to the past, less companies are providing devices to their employees, as a result, more and more employees are choosing their own devices.

Could the release of the Passport change this though?

That’s a question that’s currently baffling analysts who are waiting to see if the Passport will be fully integrated into the corporate world, with companies buying the handsets in mass quantities.

The Passport is targeted for users who are “power professionals”, including individuals who are educated, well-paid and employed, according to Marty Beard, BlackBerry’s chief operating officer.

In a briefing, Beard said:

“Everything that we’re doing at the company is pointed towards this segment – all of our marketing activity, our sales activity, our partnering activity.”

When does the Passport go on sale and how much does it cost?

The phone is already available in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and France, and will be available in over 30 countries before the end of the year.

It has a retail price of $599 in the U.S., without any mobile plan ($50 less than the iPhone 6), although the company has said that this price will only be available for a limited time in the country.

In Canada the phone costs $631, in Germany and the UK it is selling for a hefty $867 and in France the Passport is also selling at a high price of $834.

Video – BlackBerry Passport – The Design Story