I have always been a fan of small devices that are portable and that, ideally, have keyboards. Over the years this encompassed devices such as the PSION series 5, PSION Netbook, Motorola, and of course the Gemini PDA. The best phone I have ever used in this regards bar none is the BlackBerry Passport SE.
The Passports form factor (60 character display – ideal to review business docs on the move) is ideal and the keyboard is sumptuous and very easy to type on. Yes, soft keyboards are an adequate replacement and may appear faster but you spend a lot of your time correcting mistakes and I find that on the Passport I, in the main, types and send.
A couple of years ago I moved from the Passport to a Galaxy Note and in the main have been reasonably happy. The Note is a great all round device and it is great for meetings where you can whip it out and start taking notes easily and quickly. However as smartphones have become taller and less broad, the experience of trying to do anything of substance on them from a business viewpoint has become more difficult. Additionally although the BlackBerry Hub is now available from the Play store on any Android device, the Hub on the Passport on OS 10 is just so much quicker and easier to use.
To that end, a couple of months ago I decided to see if it was possible to drag some more life out of the BlackBerry Passport., mainly for answering emails on the move.
I had not really ditched the Passport as a device because I had repurposed it as a trackpad for my laptop when on the move with an exceptional App called Blue Touchpad which was also perfect for cramped plane journeys as it also allows the Passport keyboard to be used to type remotely onto the paired device.
Adding the email accounts so the Passport could work with email was easy and all worked fine. Prior to that I noticed there as an OS update. I decline to update as I noticed from the forums that for many people it seemed to have caused as many issues as it had fixed and if I needed to come back to it I would do that later (I did not need to).
Once email was working I was curious if any other productivity Apps would work and whether ultimately the Passport was capable of becoming my daily driver again.
When I navigate to my prior install of Cobalt’s Google Apps apk, although I could authenticate against my Google Account I could not download and install Apps. It turns out this had been updated to a V2 since I had been away from my Passport and the solution was to simply delete the existing Google App Store install and instal the new V2. After I had done this all worked as expected and I could access the Google Play store from the Passport and download my free and paid Apps. Of course given that Passport is locked to 4.3.3 Android and with some Apps insisting on Play Services not all could be installed., but I could live with this.
Native Skype and WhatsApp had been deprecated for BB but there existed Android Apps of the same and interestingly one of the trends in recent years has been to have ‘lite’ versions of Apps such as Skype, Facebook etc and I found from the Crackberry forums the correct versions that would play nicely with the Passports 4.3.3 Android and soon I had Skype, WhatsApp, Slack and other Apps I used installed and working, There was a slight glitch with sharing content over WhatsApp but there was a WhatsApp Fixer App BlackBerry World to resolve that.
Pretty soon I had everything on my BlackBerry Passport that I was using on the Note and indeed I found that I could use the Passport again as my daily driver, something I intend to do until it indeed hits end of life which BlackBerry has announced to be at the end some time in 2020. Not bad for a 5 year old phone, which is positively ancient in modern tech terms !