How BlackBerry is Shaping Up

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — July 10, 2014

There is a smartphone with curved glass that responds when rolled; there's talk of bent and foldable displays, but the typical iteration with a new device is simply size—smaller, larger, thinner etc.
Researchers at Queen's University's Human Media Lab recently developed a new smartphone—called MorePhone—which can morph its shape to give users a silent yet visual cue of an incoming phone call, text message or email.
But BlackBerry's latest device, the Passport, is square.
According to the Inside BlackBerry Blog, the industry has been homogenized and has been "stuck in a rectangular world" long enough. Yankee Group Senior VP of Research Wally Swain explained, "Part of the reason all devices look roughly the same is convention and part is practicality, e.g., men’s suit jackets have inside pockets that are this wide and no wider."
BlackBerry, however, believed that shape was limiting innovation, so it innovated in shape.
Squaring Up
Yet, the BlackBerry Passport is not change for the sake of change, but a "marriage of form and function with rhyme and reason." It has a 4.5" inch square screen with full HD-class (1,440 x 1,440) resolution, and though it has similar viewing space to a 5" inch phone, the device is said to deliver a better viewing experience because of the screen's width.
Swain commented, "We all complain that there is no innovation in the industry and then when somebody does try something truly different we point out how much it does not look like every other device on the market. I saw one report that called the Passport ‘bizarre.’ This kind of attitude hardly encourages other companies to venture out of the box."
There also appears to be science behind the square. The blog says that academic research shows that the optimal number of characters on a line in a book is 66. "Most current rectangular smartphones show approx. 40 characters; the BlackBerry Passport will show 60 characters."
The size and aspect ratio then, lends to reading e-books, documents and web pages. "No more worrying about portrait or landscape modes, and no; you aren’t missing anything."
Size Matters
Still, Swain said that the size is likely to make it more suited for specific vertical applications, where it doesn't matter if it fits in a pocket or purse; for example, courier terminals, first responders and inventory management.
BlackBerry said it is being designed with "the working professional in mind," but also suggests specific use cases such as architecture, finance, healthcare and writing.
The Passport might not be the ultimate game-changer BlackBerry is looking for, but according to Swain, "It should be profitable for the company and definitely re-establishes its 'street cred' as a company thinking about moving the boundaries."


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