I’m in a small minority of people who still use – and love to use – BlackBerry 10 as my mobile device operating system. Here’s what it comes down to for me: my phone is primarily my productivity device. I have other devices for movies or games, so even though BlackBerry 10 can do some of that well, I’m not really thinking about those things when I consider a phone. Not everything in this list is unique to BlackBerry 10 or the Passport, but putting them all together is why I will continue to use it until I discover a better option.
The obligatory caveat: I am talking about what works best for what I use. I am not claiming that any platform is definitely better or worse for everybody in all circumstances. If you’re considering buying a phone, you should think about your own priorities.
The Hub is one place for all of your messages. With one swipe gesture from anywhere on the phone, I can look at multiple email accounts, BBM, Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Google Talk, Text Messages, call history, voicemail, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more. I can easily filter to find which one you’re looking for all at once, or just work down the combined list. I can perform quick actions like reply, file, and delete. There’s a nice big button to quickly find any attachments I have received – one of those little things that sounds simple but comes in handy very often. With my emails, I can control things like out-of-office replies. It all syncs very quickly, faster than desktop Outlook in many cases. Emails are pushed so they are still on my device even when I’m not in a place with great signal.
Physical keyboards aren’t particularly popular anymore, but I still prefer one to typing on glass. Some good software keyboards can make the speed pretty comparable, but you’re still more prone to typos. Another big factor for me is that it is very hard to type on a screen when walking, watching TV, talking to somebody, or anything else that involves looking up. No matter how good the software keyboard, you have to look down to use it. The Passport combines some great touch keyboard elements: you can use it as a trackpad, you can auto-complete words by swiping up, and you can delete a word by swiping back.
Another perk that comes with physical keyboards are shortcuts. I can map that a certain letter calls a certain person, for a simple example, and I don’t have to search for the correct app each time. This might become less dramatic as phones are moving away from the siloed app paradigm into virtual assistants, but for now, this still can speed things up significantly.
My Passport has a 1440×1440 resolution. That’s more height resolution my 1080p desktop monitor. Where it really stands out, though, is reading. Many phones you have to zoom in and out, pan up and down, to read a PDF document. On my Passport, I open it and I can read the whole thing comfortably. New high-end phones tend to be quad HD now, which is the same width and double the height (much of which is overtaken by the virtual keyboard when needed). This isn’t as rare as when I got my Passport, but it’s still one of my key factors with how often I am reading documents on a phone.
The Passport’s battery lasts an entire day. For my average use case (probably could be called “moderate”) before I started pairing it with my Pebble smartwatch, I usually got in the 24-30 hour range. Now that it is constantly paired via Bluetooth, it’s dropped to more like 12-18 hours, which is still enough for the work day and most if not all of the evening. I don’t want to stop using it to get work done in order to charge it 2 or 3 times a day, as has happened with some previous phones. This is the area that smartphone technology desperately needs to advance, but the Passport is better than most.
BlackBerry 10 can multi-task better than any other platform thanks to the QNX core behind it – the same company owned by BlackBerry which has a large presence in the automotive sector. I can quickly and easily jump back and forth between multiple apps, with them still running while I’m in something else.
File management isn’t flashy but it is important. I love that I have one great File Manager app that lets me see everything on my device, on an SD card, on Dropbox, on OneDrive, and on Box. I can easily copy and move between any of them. I can unzip files. It’s easy to find something I saved as an attachment or to find a file that I want to upload in any other app.
The App Gap?
The big counterpoint most people offer is that BlackBerry 10 doesn’t have the quantity or quality of apps as the competition. I’m not convinced the app gap is as big as everybody likes to say, at least once you know how to load Android apps. Over 99% of Android apps work on BlackBerry 10. Most that don’t are those that require Google Play Services. That means primarily the official Google apps, although even some of those work, just without any signing in to synchronize data (Maps, YouTube). The two Google apps that I actually use – again Maps and YouTube – also have third party apps available on BlackBerry 10 that do a perfectly fine job. The same can be said of great third party apps for other services like Facebook and Instagram. In my years with BlackBerry 10, I’ve found a total of 1 app that I wanted to use but it didn’t work, and that was a companion app for a videogame, so hardly a big loss. In terms of quality, that’s probably fair, but I can’t think of any particular functions that I’m missing but know are available elsewhere. The app gap may exist, but the average person in the average use case probably wouldn’t notice.