Is BlackBerry’s Passport hip, or just square?

September 26, 2014, 4:21 PM UTC
A woman holds the Blackberry Passport smartphone during at a simultaneous launch event in London on September 24, 2014. BlackBerry on Wednesday unveiled its newest smartphone with a full physical keyboard and a large screen, aiming to return to its roots targeting business users. The BlackBerry Passport, named for its approximate size to the travel document, is designed to win back key corporate users after the struggling Canadian company was effectively knocked out of the highly competitive consumer smartphone market dominated by Apple and Samsung. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Carl Court — AFP/Getty Images

The reviews are in for the BlackBerry Passport, and by and large they just aren’t very good.

The one-time heavyweight champion of the smartphone market is trying to gain back some of the ground it has ceded in recent years to Apple (AAPL) and Android phones. If the techie press is to be believed, though, it probably won’t. Here are a few of the not-so-nice things people have to say about the strangely square gadget.

  • Wall Street Journal writer and former BlackBerry (BBRY) fiend Joanna Stern writes that “even if I did carry two phones, I wouldn’t pick the Passport. The bulky, awkward design and the unfamiliar keyboard make it hard to justify finding space for it in a pocket or bag.” She also says that the “frankenkeyboard” partially made up of tactile keys and partially a touchscreen is “harder to get used to than it may sound. I liken it to coming home to find your living room is now your bedroom and your bedroom is your bathroom.”
  • Pete Pachal at Mashable finds some definite strengths in the phone — namely its powerful computing — but thinks that the weirdness is just too much: “There’s no escaping the fact that this is a very strange phone, and an unwieldy one at that. Even power users will need to rethink how they type on the keyboard to take full advantage of it. If you have that patience, the Passport has to goods to level up your BlackBerry experience. For everyone else, though, it’s just too bizarre to take seriously.”
  • Reviewers in BlackBerry’s native land of Canada aren’t loving the Passport either. Raju Mudhar at the Toronto Star says the phone “is reminiscent of an old school calculator.”
  • Re/Code’s review notes that watching videos on the square screen isn’t ideal: “When I switched to full-screen mode in Netflix, the scenery on the left and right sides got cut off. Meanwhile, in YouTube, there was a lot of black space above and below the picture.”
  • The phone “like a giant square drink coaster,” according to Dan Seifert at The Verge. He adds that while some people may like the phone, “awkward dimensions and confusing interfaces aside, the Passport’s biggest failure is that it just doesn’t have what I need to get my job done.”
  • Gizmodo is also quite negative, saying right in its title that Blackberry’s best effort “isn’t good enough.” The review highly recommends not buying the phone, saying that “if you want to stand out, the Passport carries some ‘WTF is that?’ appeal, but its usefulness is outweighed by its setbacks.”