Not just a keyboard
Yesterday we had a quick look at some of the features that BlackBerry has added to its new flagship, the BlackBerry Passport. Today we’ll be looking at its redesigned QWERTY keyboard arrangement in more detail.
Going by some of the early accounts, the 3-row physical QWERTY keyboard will certainly take some getting used to. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, it’s just that many of the BlackBerry faithful will be used to the 4-row QWERTY of old.
That being said, the Passport does still have 4 rows to its keyboard, it’s just that the top row is on-screen rather than physical. This virtual row is where you can access numbers, symbols and shortcuts when typing. Outside of text input, the row of virtual icons will change depending on the app that you’re using.
A trackpad as well
The most ingenious feature of the Passport’s keyboard is its touch sensitivity, and I wonder if this is a feature that we’ll someday see in laptop keyboards.
The Passport’s touch-sensitive input can be used for both device navigation and gesture control. You can swipe one finger back across the keyboard to delete a word. Or you can configure shortcuts, such as double tapping space to end a sentence and insert a full stop.
The touch sensitivity can also be used in conjunction with predictive text. As you type, predictions are shown on-screen. Flicking upwards on the keyboard below the word you wish to use will select it for you.
The keyboard can also be used to navigate the passport. If you double tap the keyboard ‘close cursor control’ is activated, which enables you to navigate more precisely. This is useful when you want to position the cursor at particular point in a sentence.
Because the keyboard can be used as a trackpad, it accommodates one-handed use. Flip the passport on its side and the screen automatically rotates. You can then swipe your thumb over the keyboard to navigate the screen. This photo from Engadget’s review shows it in action:
Typing language and predictive suggestions can be configured in the settings menu. If you switch between different languages often, there’s the option to switch the input language option by tapping the language icon in the Passport’s virtual row.
The cut, copy and past tools are easy to access. Simply highlight some text and the edit menu pops up. The Passport also supports dictation, which can be initiated by simply tapping the microphone button in the keyboard’s virtual row.
It’s certainly different to any of the keyboards we’ve seen in the past, and we’re looking forward to seeing just how quickly it works in practice.