Saturday, September 27, 2014

BlackBerry Passport review – after 30 minutes hands-on

Background: currently use a BlackBerry Q5 (phone), Nokia 808 (camera), and Samsung Galaxy Tab (tablet) on a daily basis. I also lug around a Asus Vivotab Note 8.

The new hybrid keyboard is softly sprung (yeah, less stiff than Q5), good amount of travel (more than Q10); but as expected, the bottom row of keys is difficult to reach with your thumb, as it is too close to the bottom edge of the device.

The Passport is so wide that one-handed typing is difficult; this is compounded by the usual security attachment behind handphones when placed as demo units inside a telco shop.

The virtual keyboard has keys that are a little small. Have to be careful to make sure you tap on the one you require.

Couldn’t get the hang of flicking on the hardware keyboard to select the predicted words; that meant I had to use the usual method of touching the screen. This meant having to “hurdle” over the row of contextual softkeys.

Scrolling by stroking your fingers over the hardware keyboard works well, and still works when you rest another thumb on the keyboard. This scrolling by keyboard works in all directions, so can scroll sideways (or even diagonally) if you want.

Double-tapping on the hardware keyboard to enable the on-screen cursor feels quite intuitive, but using the virtual Shift key in combination with sliding your thumbs over the hardware keyboard to select text is still not as accurate as using a D-pad or arrow keys.

Photos look similar to the camera on my Q5; poor then. Smudgy photos when you zoom in, insufficient shutter speed to capture even slight movement in Auto mode.

centre-weight average metering

 I think I changed to Action scene mode
spot metering

Autofocus is slow, and there were a few occasions that the shutter didn't fire when the AF had not settled down. By the time the shutter fired, I had already moved the phone away. Not a HTC One M8 competitor in photography speed then...

No big issues; was able to load the full Guardian newspaper (in desktop mode). didn't seem to work though; managed to login, but it just loaded a blank page when I tried to go into the blog list.

The motion-related actions sound useful, though I didn't get a chance to try it out (screenshot below).

The universal search seemed to "remember" the characters typed earlier, which is not ideal. Example, on the home screen, I start typing BR, which then I can access the browser. Then later when I want to access the Settings page, I start typing SE on the home page. But the universal search has BR from the previous search, so I end up with BRSE, which means I cannot go to where I want to go. Hopefully this bug can be resolved.

On the way home, I realised that the Passport is also based on the wallet; i.e. your wallet is roughly the biggest thing that can still go inside a pocket. So that's an easy way to gauge if you can carry a Passport in your front pocket.

I can already see the Passport 2 inside my head (it's just a fantasy; am quite worried that BlackBerry may not survive to see it; seeing Nokia die was already traumatic)
  1. landscape screen 
  2. with the space saved, use a 5 row keyboard, with space between bottom row and bottom edge of device 
  3. better camera (partner with Nokia, since now they have nowhere to go) 
  4. D-pad or arrow keys (I still miss the precision control of arrow keys on my HTC ChaCha)
  5. longer body; put a wallet in your front pocket and you may understand. Front pockets are typically longer, so "fishing" out the Passport may be easier if it is longer
  6. I realised I'm just trying to recreate the Nokia E71 :(

Will I buy?
Initially, I was adamant about buying the Passport, to support BlackBerry as one of the last manufacturers still making QWERTY phones. But when the local retail pricing was announced, my heart sank.

S$938 is just overpriced, compared to the US pricing. Besides a bigger screen, I do not see major improvements over my Q5.

Hopefully, real world pricing will be a little bit better.

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