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BlackBerry squares up to Apple with official 'Passport' phone launch for £529

Determined not to become square pegs in a round hole, BlackBerry has today launched the final piece in its three-year-long turnaround: A new smartphone called the BlackBerry Passport.

Running Android apps courtesy of Amazon, the 4.5in phone is available now in the UK, US, France, Germany Canada.

With a price tag of £529, it's also a direct threat to Apple's new iPhone 6 which currently retails for an almost identical £539.

'Passport' is an apt name for the unusually shaped device. The Canadian company has designed its new smartphone with a large square screen and a unique, touch-sensitive tactile keyboard that may appeal to those who are bored with the analogous swathe of smartphones flooding the crowded market.

So what about the specs? The square screen packs 1440 x 1440 pixels, and has been designed to fundamentally [change] the way business professionals get work done on their smartphone," said BlackBerry CEO John Chen. Under the hood the Passport Packs a quad-core 2.2 GHZ processor, 3GB RAM as well as a 13-megapixel rear camera, and 32GB memory.

There's also an incredible 3450 mAh battery, which should pack up to 30 hours of juice for extended business trips (or marathon-length meetings.)

The Passport launched with a focus on the phone's benefits for corporate users. Chen, has made no secret of the fact that he wishes to rebuild relations with the enterprise market – the proverbial keystone of BlackBerry's business.

Read more: BlackBerry CEO emphasises growth after slashing 60 per cent of workforce (opens in new tab)

In an amusing twist, Chen also couldn't resist poking fun at Apple's bendy iPhone 6 mishap. With over 10 million of the new Apple flagships already sold worldwide, reports of them unnaturally bending are flooding in. Chen was quick to turn Apple's face an even deeper shade of puce, quipping "I would challenge you guys to bend our Passport."

Measuring 4.5in, the Passport has been "designed from the ground up for the working professional in mind," according to a BlackBerry blog post.

That brings us right back to the square screen. The smartphone's manufacturers say that the shape means the Passport can display up to 60 characters across. This means that spreadsheets, medical charts, reports and other enterprise-based documents will be easily readable from a device that can fit in your suit pocket.

BlackBerry has been fighting for survival for the past three years, having entered into an unforgiving restructuring process under Chen's leadership.

The one-time industry leader slashed 60 per cent of its work force, as well as selling non-core assets and building new partnerships to make the company's manufacturing and supply chain more efficient.

Read more: John Chen reveals $599 price tag for Blackberry Passport (opens in new tab)

A well-respected turnaround wizard in the tech space, Chen has promised that the period of turmoil is over, and the company now has plans to grow again. The launch of Passport will likely be that first phase.

Clearly, BlackBerry is aiming to carve off a lion share of the enterprise market once more. Either way the BlackBerry Passport's performance at launch will be a thorough testing of Chen's strategy, as well as a fascinating bellwether for the company's potential in the future.

Alysia is a multi-talented freelance filmmaker, presenter, and writer. She's worked with and created content for Netflix UK, IGN, BAFTA, the Guardian, the BBC, and has written for sites like IT Pro Portal GamesRadar, IGN, and more. She also works with UK gaming body, UKIE.