New Technology

BlackBerry Passport

A month after the phones announcement, BlackBerry has now opened the registration process for those hungry for all the latest news and availability updates. From today you can pre-register to get all the latest news on BlackBerry products ahead of its release in early-Q4.

Nothing is currently known regarding price, although based on the specs – which we’ll tackle below – it’s likely going to be a high-end affair with a £400+ price tag. With regards to carriers in the UK, not much is known – no one has yet come out and said they’re picking up the Passport. We do know Carphone Warehouse will be retailing the handset, however, after the retailer accidentally published a hands-on preview of the device! The video has since been taken down, no doubt at the behest of a bunch of angry Canadians.

BlackBerry has now opened up pre-registration for its BlackBerry Passport ahead of the handset’s scheduled September release date. To date, BlackBerry has been pretty open about the handset, its capabilities, and what users can expect from it once it becomes officially available. It’s already starred in a couple of impromptu viewings, which you can read about in detail below.

“Starting today,” says the BlackBerry Blog, “you can pre-register to receive emails about BlackBerry Passport availability and other upcoming BlackBerry products and services. The BlackBerry Passport challenges the status quo with its large square touch screen that provides more viewing space for browsing, reading, viewing photos, or editing documents. Its touch-enabled keyboard allows for functions like flick to type, swipe to delete, scrolling, and fine cursor control to be carried out from the full QWERTY keyboard. The onboard high capacity battery is designed to keep up with you throughout the day, all in a package that doesn’t compromise on portability.”

BlackBerry Passport Specs

The BlackBerry Passport uses a 4.5inch display with a 1440×1440 pixel resolution, which equates to 480 ppi. Under the hood there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8974 quad-core chip. We don’t know precisely which chip just yet, but it does have an Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM, suggesting it is either a Snapdragon 800 or 801 setup.

The Passport is lighter than the BlackBerry Z30, and first look hands on demos show the handset on the top and bottom panels. There’s also a non-removable 3,450mAh battery pack and microSD support. Meanwhile the rear-facing camera (with LED flash) is rated at 13MP, with a 2MP shooter on the front.

The big thing with the BlackBerry Passport, aside from its square design, is battery – initial tests of the handset show it can go around 15 hours from a single charge with middling-to-high usage. That’s impressive, and it could make for a HUGE USP for the Passport. We expect a big emphasis on this aspect at launch.

Beyond this the modus operandi behind the whole Passport campaign is likely to be productivity, security and the myriad improvements included inside the BB10.3 update. Things like: improved support for Android applications, tweaks to the UX, and, of course, BlackBerry Assistant.

All in, very decent specs.

BlackBerry Passport Display

As mentioned above, the Passport uses a 4.5in HD display. Now, that’s nowhere near as big as some Android flagships currently doing the rounds. It’s smaller than the BlackBerry Z30, for instance, but you will actually be able to see more stuff on the display thanks to its ultra-wide composition.

“The Passport is like the IMAX of productivity, and you don’t have to sacrifice screen real estate, vertically or horizontally.”

“Based on academic typology, the optimal number of characters on a line in a book is 66 characters (current rectangular smartphones show approx. 40 characters and BlackBerry will show 60 characters). BlackBerry Passport offers its size and aspect ratio to accommodate these characters, making it the ideal device for reading e-books, viewing documents and browsing the web. No more worrying about portrait or landscape modes, and no; you aren’t missing anything,” said BlackBerry on its official blog.

BlackBerry Passport QWERTY Keyboard

Initially we knew the Passport’s keyboard would be a full-on touch-“enabled” QWERTY setup designed at bringing the best possible typing experience to its users. The company disclosed some details about the Passport’s new keyboard inside the BB10.3 SDK notes, which you can read below:

“This touch-enabled keyboard offers an even more productive and precise BlackBerry 10 experience, which opens up new possibilities for your app and your app’s users. To test it out, simply open up the BlackBerry 10.3 simulator controller and select the Touch Area control. We can’t wait to see the different ways you’ll integrate this unique, powerful functionality into your BlackBerry 10 app.”

CrackBerry – the first site to score a hands-on with the Passport – had this to say about the new keyboard, “It works in a fashion never witnessed before. The symbols, characters, numbers and everything else is on screen and intuitively changes depending on where you are. If you are on the compose panels contact list, you will get the numeric buttons on the screen and if on the body portion, the symbols and character can be invoked.”

Now BlackBerry has gone into further detail about what we can expect from the Passport’s keyboard on the official Inside BlackBerry blog.

“We set out to create a smartphone that would break some cherished rules in order to set a new bar for real productivity,” reads the post, “BlackBerry Passport’s keyboard will show there is an easier way to do more.”

A key point is that the phystical keyboard is also touch-sensitive, something we’ve heard before – but it means you can use it like a trackpad to control on-screen actions. That apparently includes swiping to navigate web pages, app interfaces and emails. You can use this to scroll or precisely place a text cursor.

“With rows of touch-sensitive physical keys, BlackBerry Passport combines the efficiency of tactile typing with touchscreen-like navigation to deliver on that productivity promise.”

“You’ll be able to read documents faster, as well as keep your fingers close to the keys, ready to type.”

BlackBerry also included a bullet-point list of features and advantages:

  • Faster scrolling: You can use the keyboard to swipe up and down to scroll on long lists in a document or on a browser page, keeping your fingers off the screen and focused on what’s happening.
  • More intuitive cursor control and text selection: This is a classic BlackBerry productivity enhancement reinvented for the Passport. Double-tap the keyboard, then drag your finger across the keyboard to drop the cursor at precisely the right point. Or select the text just as you would on an older BlackBerry: hold the SHIFT key while dragging your finger across the keyboard to extend a selection.
  • Smart, contextual virtual keys: The Passport’s QWERTY 3-row keyboard creates a clean-looking, right-sized layout. There is also a virtual 4th row on-screen that smartly shifts depending on context. So if you’re typing a password on-screen, the 4th row would automatically include numbers and symbols commonly used in passwords. If you’re typing an e-mail, the ‘@’ symbol will be displayed, and when surfing the Web, the colon and backslash characters needed to type in a URL will be displayed. Like I said, smart! With a little practice, most Passport users should find themselves typing faster than ever before.
  • Flick to type: Stuck on a word? BlackBerry 10’s next word suggestion feature learns from you to give you smart, personalized choice of words you’re likely to type. You then just flick up to complete the word.
  • Easier delete: Made a mistake? No problem, just swipe back (left) to Delete the last word, just like on our virtual keyboard!
  • Entering an accented character? Hold the letter key down, and then lightly tap on the key to add the appropriate accent!

Siri, Cortana. Meet BlackBerry Assistant

Personal Assistants were all the rage back in 2011. Apple kicked things off in earnest with Siri aboard the iPhone 4s, and Google quickly followed suit with Google Now. And now, three years later, we’re getting our first proper glimpse at BlackBerry’s upcoming virtual buddy: BlackBerry Assistant.

Over at the Inside BlackBerry Blog, we’re treated to something of a first-look at what BlackBerry Assistant is all about; how it differs from Siri and Google now; and perhaps most importantly, how you the user will interact with it once it launches inside the upcoming BlackBerry 10.3 update.

“BlackBerry Assistant can accommodate me the same way. It is voice activated when I need it to be, and helps manage simple tasks on my device from searching my email and calendar, finding out what’s trending on Twitter, to sending trivia night invitations. The more I use it, the more it learns and adapts to me. The more I speak with it, the more tuned-in to my queries it gets,” wrote Donny Halliwell in the post.

He added: “I used it to remind me about a car appointment, a vet appointment and my anniversary. Then, it helped me send an ever-so-romantic BBM note from the car on my way home (all hands-free, of course). It was also my go-to when I needed to find the lyrics to ‘Soft Kitty’.”

Everything is done hands-free, although users will also be able to tap into BlackBerry Assistant via their handset’s keyboard too. You can use Assistant to tweet something, update Facebook or, if you’re driving, get it to read your unread emails. You can also dictate a reply to said email, organise your inbox and search Google for anything that takes your fancy.

And this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. Another feature of BlackBerry Assistant seems to be complete control over the settings and apps within BB10.3. According to Halliwell, if you want something on – say, your handset’s flashlight – all you have to do is ask… and, BOOM, it comes on. Want it switched off? Just tell it.

BlackBerry Assistant will ship aboard the BlackBerry Passport, a square handset with a lot of potential that is scheduled to get a UK release date in September. The handset is also likely to be the first to carry BlackBerry’s new BB10.3 platform.


Samsung Galaxy Alpha

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has finally been unveiled by the South Korean mobile giant, touting a fancy metal frame, super slim design and some iPhone 6-worrying specs.

We’ve had somewhat of a bumpy ride in the lead up to the Galaxy Alpha, with the handset also being tipped as the Galaxy S5 Prime and Galaxy F, as well as some confusion between it and the supercharged, QHD toting Galaxy S5 LTE-A in Korea.

It’s design which is the main thrust for the Galaxy Alpha, after the Samsung Galaxy S5 failed to match the likes of the HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z2 or iPhone 5S in terms of build quality and premium appeal – with the style of the new handset being hammered home in Samsung’s messaging.

So without further ado, here’s everything you need to know regarding the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Samsung’s first metal framed smartphone, and a potential iPhone 6 rival
  • When is it out? September 12 2014
  • What will it cost? That’s currently unclear, but perhaps similar to the S5

Samsung Galaxy Alpha release date and price

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha release date has been confirmed for September 12 (in the UK at least), which should get it on the market just days after Apple’s potential iPhone 6 announcement.

It will be available in five colors – Charcoal Black, Dazzling White, Frosted Gold, Sleek Silver and Scuba Blue – but there’s currently no official word on price.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha design

We’ll kick off our in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy Alpha with its design – which is the main point Samsung wants to talk about.

At just 6.7mm the Galaxy Alpha is stupendously thin – beating both its bigger brother the Galaxy S5 (8.1mm) and the iPhone 5S (7.6mm) comfortably.

There’s a metal band which runs round the circumference of the handset, in a similar way to that of the iPhone 5S, however Samsung hasn’t totally ditched its beloved polycarbonate, with a dimpled layer slapped on the back of the handset.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

It’s a metal-plastic combo which we’ve already seen on the Lumia 930, and while it may not please those who love unibody metal, it should make the Galaxy Alpha feel a lot more premium than the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Mini.

Alongside the camera lens on the back of the Galaxy Alpha is a flash, and just below that a heart rate monitor. It links to Samsung’s S Health app on the phone, allowing you to keep track of your fitness – although as we found on the S5 it’s not the most convenient of places for the monitor. It works much better on a fitness band or smartwatch.

The iconic Samsung home key persists on the front of the handset, while the generally squarer design of the handset as a whole reminds us a little of the Samsung Galaxy S2.

Hidden beneath that home key is Samsung’s new fingerprint scanner which debuted on the Galaxy S5, allowing you to secure and unlock the Galaxy Alpha with the swipe of your forefinger (or any other digit you wish to use).

In terms of size the Galaxy Alpha measures 132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7mm and tips the scales at just 115g – making it very close to the dimensions and weight of the Galaxy S2.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha display

Some rumors suggested that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha would arrive with a QHD resolution display, but they clashed with other reports claiming it would sport a lowly 720p offering – unfortunately the latter claims have turned out to be correct.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

The Galaxy Alpha comes with a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED screen and boasts a resolution of 1280 x 720. That gives the Alpha a pixel density of just 313ppi, lower than the 640 x 1136 iPhone 5S, and obviously no wear near the Galaxy S5, One M8 and co.

Colors will still pop on the Galaxy Alpha thank to the Super AMOLED technology, but considering the low cost Moto G sports a 4.5-inch 720p display this offering from Samsung is hardly dazzling.


Apple’s new Iphone 6.

iPhone 6

After months of speculations and rumors, the iPhone 6 launch has been given a release date— September 9, to be exact, which falls on a Tuesday at the start of the month.

The date was revealed by Re/code, which says Apple has scheduled a big event for that day. The website, which was founded by former Wall Street journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, cites the Cupertino-based company’s history of releasing new gadgets during September.

“As with September events past, the focal point of this one is to be Apple’s next-generation iPhones,” they said.

Moreover, there are rumors that two handsets will be released on the aforementioned date— the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and a 5.5-inch phablet, which could be the iPhone Air.

Right now, the most talked about feature of the iPhone 6 is its screen, and rumors suggest that the new smartphone will feature a bigger screen than that of the iPhone 5s. There are speculations that the phone will be rounded at the corners, with lines running over the top and bottom sections to supposedly improve reception and overall connectivity.

As for the price, Techradar reports that the iPhone 6 won’t be cheap, with the price going up by at least $100 more. Latest pricing rumors put the iPhone 6 in the $800 price category for the 4.7-inch model, while the 5.5-inch handset is rumored to start around $966

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