Canadian smartphone manufacturer BlackBerry is set to launch its uniquely shaped “Passport” handset on Wednesday, following years of decline. BlackBerry, once an industry pioneer, is struggling for survival as rivals Apple and Samsung dominate the global market for smartphones.
The company will hold launch events simultaneously in Toronto, London and Dubai, with each of the events scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m. EDT. The launch of the new smartphone comes at a crucial time for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, which is set to report its second-quarter results on Friday. The company is also expected to launch another device called “BlackBerry Classic” in the coming months.
“BlackBerry just needs one hit phone for now,” Morningstar analyst Brian Colello told Reuters. “It doesn’t quite matter whether it is the Passport, the Classic or anything else, but they do need one device to jump-start the hardware business again. The big question really is whether any of these devices will kick-start it.”
The BlackBerry Passport will be the first high-end smartphone produced during CEO John Chen’s tenure. Chen took over at BlackBerry as interim CEO in November 2013 and was retained to turn around the company’s fortunes.
According to Chen, the new device “allows users to view 60 characters on each line, which is substantially more than typical, rectangular smartphones such as iPhones,” The Globe and Mail reported, citing the Wall Street Journal.
The report added that the phone, which comes with a 4.5 inch screen and a keyboard, will retail in the U.S. at $599.
“They still need to turn around and develop a viable ongoing business model,” Colello said. “Their products are certainly pointing toward that and the new strategy makes sense, but there is still a lot of execution risk at this point in a very competitive market.”
According to BlackBerry, Passport has already ignited a lot of consumer interest, and its square form is considered to be the company’s response to “the need for innovation.”
The BlackBerry Passport, which features a screen resolution of 1440×1440 pixels (453ppi), is likely to be powered by a quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with the Adreno 330 450MHz GPU. The device is expected to have 3GB RAM, 32GB native storage and a microSD card slot expandable up to 64GB.
Other expected features and specs include a 13-megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization, a 3450mAh battery and a touch-responsive physical keyboard.