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BlackBerry Passport: 5 Unsung Power Features

By October 1, 2014Overview, Video

The Passport is really an innovative new device. Everyday I’m finding new ways to maximize the experience the unique form factor offers. With that in mind I want to share some of the top 5 power features for Passport users. While many of these focus on the added layers of productivity the device is focused on supporting, it also seems optimized for general consumer uses as well.

Highlighted in the short videos below, you’ll be able to clearly grasp how flexible and decided the Passport is from a design and implementation perspective. There’s no mistake this device was purpose built to enhance productivity and empower users to get more done, period.

BlackBerry Passport: Adaptive Onscreen Keyboard

BlackBerry Passport has a 4th virtual row of keys that adapts to your needs. It allows access to punctuation, numbers, symbols and more. Based on the context of use, the keyboard allows the user to be more flexible when editing text and inputting numbers.

This is only elevated in utility by the touch enabled physical keyboard which takes interaction with this virtual 4th row to a whole new level.

BlackBerry Passport: Android App Zoom Feature

With the 10.3 OS upgrade on Passport, BlackBerry has not only enhanced the Android 4.3 runtime within the OS, but has optimized it for the best viewing experiences possible on the unconventionally shaped 4.5″ square pixel dense screen at ~453 PPI

Zooming out within android apps allows you to get a larger viewing experience which fits more content on the screen. Even fixing some problematic Android apps at times that are broken due to vertical height constraints on the square screen.

Unsung Features – RetroArch on BlackBerry Passport & Cross-Device Cloud Saving

BlackBerry Passport is more than just the most innovative business device ever built. With a powerful quad-core and added graphics Adreno GPU the device is blazing fast for things like console emulation.

Here, we’re showing off a classic throwback with Zelda showcased on the Passport. The square screen and physical keys make it an ultimate handheld gaming device. Not to mention, the screen in incredibly crisp at 453PPI or 1440×1440.

One of the more notable features here is the Dropbox integration within the BB10 file manager and how you can pair this with the emulator to get essentially cloud saving and restoring from device to device. Just make sure you “pin” the ROMs, saves, and save states within the file manager so you can still play when not connected to WiFi.

UPDATE: An awesome community member made a fork of the current RetroArch & fixed the start/select button issues that were occuring on the Passport. Be sure to check out the new version! Visit bb10-10210: updated to work with Passport and sideload the bar file.

To download RetroArch visit Justin’s GitHub Retroarch Releases Page and sideload the bar file. I recommend version because does not have the Game Boy Color emulator in it for some reason.

BlackBerry Passport: HUB Instant Actions

BlackBerry Hub Instant Actions allow you to triage emails and messages on the fly. File them in folders and quickly delete multiple emails. This experience is empowered by the large screen on the Passport. You can see more at once and the added icons do not encumber the wide work screen employed on Passport.

BlackBerry Passport: Device Rotation, Landscape Orientation & Touch-Sensitive (Capacitive) Keyboard

On Passport, BlackBerry has designed the 1:1 square screen with the proportions of the device in mind. You can actually put the device into landscape orientation and utilize the touch enabled keyboard to scroll through websites, inside applications and most invaluably; in the BlackBerry Hub.

Also keep in mind, you can double tap the keyboard to bring the cursor up at any time when writing a message. You then have fine control over the cursor without ever covering up the screen with your finger. Pairing this with with the on-screen uppercase key, you can quickly highlight words or blocks of text in a matter of seconds. A workflow that takes some time getting used to but I can no longer see myself going back to the old way of actually having to touch the screen (;

Alex Bass

Author Alex Bass

Alex is a Front-End Developer & UI/UX Designer. He is the President & Co-Founder of CyberBytes Inc. and made the BB10 App Web Design Cheat Sheet - Follow him at @alexhbass

More posts by Alex Bass
  • Regarding the problem of button mapping in Retroarch on Passport, I’ve taken the source code and modified it a bit such that now Space becomes the select button, K & L become X & Y, and L1 R1 are shifted to I and O. If you feel interested I can probably package it up and create a new github repo for it.

    • Jane

      Great stuff, I’d be interested in getting your modified retroarch.

    • ClickNick

      That would be great!! Still trying to get this to work. Can’t wait!

    • I’d be very interested as well! Please do link :)

    • For some reason I haven’t received any email notification for your replies.

      Anyway, here’s the bar file:


      If you encounter any problem don’t hesitate to contact me (send me an email, preferably)

      Alex: if you find my version useful you might want to include my link in your article so that other readers can benefit from it as well

    • Updated the post! Thanks so much for doing this for everyone :)

  • Dare

    What version did you use ?

  • ClickNick

    hi – I just sideloaded version of RetroArch but it’s not quite working like in your Video. I also got the exact same game to make sure that that is not the problem. The game opens and runs fluently, but there is that light crispy noise in the background. The bigger problem tho, is that my Passport Keyboard isn’t recognised by the emulator. There is that option to map the keys and when I do so it all seem to work (mapping a different letter on my keyboard for each key). But when the game runs it just don’t work. I would be pretty happy if it would be like in your video with ‘a’ ‘s’ ‘d’ ‘w’ as move keys ans so on. Do have any tips on how to set up my keyboard??

    • Ahh! Should have pointed that out, sorry!

      My cousin actually found a fix for it (he is very good with emulators).

      Make your video settings like this:
      http://i.imgur.com/GxEsb3Y.png (Turn threaded driver ON)

      and make your audio settings like this:
      http://i.imgur.com/eCoOBOy.png (Rate Control Delta 0.022ish)

      That should stop the crackling noise that you are getting.

      Unfortunately the larger problem in these current builds are that you cannot currently change what keys around, you have to use the default layout (wasd, nm). Don’t touch any of the input settings. If you messed around with them and the default layout isn’t working, I recommend deleting it then reinstalling it to get it working again. Unfortunately the ONE major problem with this version of it is that the custom input settings currently don’t work. Which unfortunately means you cannot use the “select” button either on the Passport because it uses the “shift” key which no longer exists on the Passport. But you can play many games without using the select key, just use save states to save in Zelda (which requires start and select to be pressed to bring up the save menu)

      Hope this helped!


    • ClickNick

      Thank you so much for the quick answer. I just deleted RetroArch and then sideloaded it again. This time I just launched the game and did nothing to the settings on the left. Unfortunately I still can’t use the keyboard. And therefore can’t access the RetroArchMenue as well (wich makes it impossible to change the settings for audio…)

      Do you think I should delete it again, restart my BlackBerry and then install RetroArch again? I have no clue why this isn’t working. I mean its the same device -.-

    • Genuinely no idea. If all else fails, try restarting the phone, it may just be something dumb. You can try doing what you mentioned, otherwise I have no idea, that’s extremely odd. :/

    • ClickNick

      okay – thank you soo much! I let you know when I got it to work ;) Really nice blog btw

    • Alright, great! Good luck! And thanks, we try :)

    • ClickNick

      okay sorry to bother again, but there must be something I’m missing here. I just sideloaded the emulator to my BlackBerry Q10 and I have the same problem as with the Passport.

      Basically what I’m doing is:
      – Connecting the BlackBerry 10 Device to the Computer (MacBook Pro), or make sure it’s in the same wifi
      – Sideloading the app with the Blackberry tool in Google Chrome
      – Opening the RetroArch app and then doing nothing to the settings
      – Opening the rom file within RetroArch

      Everything works just fine. I just can’t use my keyboard… on both Passport and Q10 :(

      What am I missing??

    • I genuinely don’t have the slightest clue whatsoever. Maybe try sideloading a different version of RetroArch. I really have no idea, you can try to report that as a bug on GitHub. I have no idea how the emulator was made or how it works or anything, I just use it. I really can’t be of much assistance. I’m sorry :/

  • Bryan

    I have in fact bought the game when I was little. It’s a shame I cannot get it again for the retroarch ) :

  • Big Chief

    Everyone that i have shown this device to pretty much liked it.

  • Bryan

    Hi, I’ve been trying to get the RetroArch to work without any success so far. How do you get the ROM’s for the games? I been trying to get Grandia II to work on it ): It’s my childhood game that got me into RPGs to begin with. Thanks for the nice tips!

    • Alex Bass

      Unfortunately giving direct links to download ROMs is quite literally against the law. Though it is legal to get a ROM of a game if you actually physically have the game in your possession. Anyways, I digress. Google will bring you the answer, ROMs really are not that hard to find nowadays. Get the ROM, install retroarch, select the proper emulator within RetroArch, and then select the ROM you’re trying to play. It’s fairly straightforward. If you can’t get it to work then the ROM that you have might be bad.

      Also, isn’t that game for Sega Dreamcast? Idk if RetroArch has dreamcast support built in. It might, but off the top of my head I don’t think it does. Not sure.

    • EGa Rama Dhinata

      do you have a emulator files *BAR of SEGA Dreamcast/raincast? can i get the link please

  • xBURK (Shawn) “BB POWERED”

    Great stuff. This was presented beautifully. Thank You!

    • Really appreciate it! Glad you enjoyed it (:

  • Maulik

    Thanks Alex. I am buying my Passport on the 10th when it releases here in India. Can wait to experience these new features first hand.

    • Great, hope you enjoy! (: I’m dying to get this thing on my main carrier, come on Verizon! I hate carrying around my Z30 and Passport everywhere I go. Haha

  • Sumeet Jadhav

    This all new features in the BlackBerry Passport are pretty cool… do we get those on the other BlackBerry 10 devices?

    • Yes, aside from the android zoom-out feature for obvious reasons due to pixel density :)

    • And obviously, the touch sensitive keyboard. An OS update won’t magically allow these innovations on older BlackBerry 10 keyboard devices.

  • Anthon

    Awesome Alex, thanks for the tips.

  • Isa

    Thanks for the tips, Alex. I was hoping you can help address a question I have that I haven’t been able to get a clear answer on yet. It relates to the adaptive on screen keyboard.

    If you add a secondary language like Arabic on the Passport, does the adaptive keyboard show the new characters/letters of the secondary language when you compose a new message or email?

    Your help would be much appreciated.

    • Absolutely! So I just tried adding a secondary language and the only difference I notice is that upon typing on the physical keys, suggestions in the selected language pop up. Unfortunately I have no idea what I’m writing nor am I familiar with other languages so I can’t be of too much help.

      I did notice something strange though, when you choose a language like Chinese or something. It has a few characters on the 4th virtual row and then has an asterisk (*) and upon clicking that, it starts suggesting tons of Chinese characters. I can then click a down-arrow and it suggests dozens of characters (within kind of a emoticon scrolling screen if you will).

      The on-screen adaptive keyboard does change to be useful for that particular language, but the actual physical keyboard buttons stay “qwerty” no matter what language is selected because it is actually written on them.

      Hopefully I answered your question?


      EDIT: Here are two screenshots that might help better answer the question? (I have no idea what I typed btw, sorry)


  • BBZTEN Black Lantern

    I sure hope Verizon gets this device

    • Same here man, same here.. Really hoping the thing continues to sell well because if it does, I assume it would convince Verizon to pick it up. Who knows though :/

  • Adam

    Alex great share some really interesting tidbits I wasn’t aware of.

    As for the adaptive keyboard you can swiped down on the keyboard and the virtual row symbols and numbers will be mapped to the keys so you don’t have to leave the keyboard.

    You can also swipe down a second time for more options and a 3rd time robust show the original virtual keys.

    • Glad to be of help!

      And yes, for those unaware, if you swipe down on the keyboard, the alt keys are mapped to the keyboard for one click then the virtual keys disappear. It is extremely quick and useful if you’re just trying to do one special character like “&” or “%” or “$”, etc. Though keep in mind, to get the equivalent of an “alt/num-lock” you have to tap the 4th row virtual keyboard button all the way on the right and there you can tap as many symbols/numbers as you want without it disappearing. Though it is not mapped to the physical keys when you do it that way.

      My favorite feature is the double-tap on the keyboard to bring up the cursor. I just realized last night that you could do that after watching the live-stream over. SO useful, never have to touch the screen when editing text now (:

    • Frank

      I thought I heard/read somewhere that you CAN use the actual keyboard to mirror the virtual keys on the screen. Glad you brought this up and it has to be mention more.

    • You can, but only when flicking down to get symbols – e.g. http://i.imgur.com/yfoR6WFh.jpg & http://i.imgur.com/sEREnKsh.jpg

      In regards to other languages, I haven’t really found anything.

  • Alan

    Have noticed the same effect on my Passport. Using the keypad for scrolling is so much more comfortable. Enjoyed the tutorial. Thanks Alex.

    • Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it feels and how responsive it is when scrolling. Definitely a learning curve involved but once you get the hang of it, it’s great. Glad you enjoyed and thanks for checking it out! (:

    • mapshop

      Alex Bass

      I don’t understand. The images you attached – do those numbers and symbols visibly appear on the keys when you flick down?

    • That’s a screenshot. The keys never change, but if you flick down on the keyboard, the above images show up on the screen and correspond with the keyboard. So for instance if I swipe down on the physical keyboard once and press “S” it will put in the number “4”. Or of course you can swipe down and just tap the number “4” on the screen above or tap the “@123” button on the screen which you then have number lock and can tap a bunch of symbols or numbers. But again the pictures are screenshots so they are of the screen, not the physical keyboard.