A decade long search for the ultimate blogging device may have come to an end.
There has only been three times when my work has been fundamentally disrupted by the acquisition of a new technology. The first time was in 2006 when my mother gave me an Alphasmart Neo, the second time was in 2008 when I got the first generation Asus Eee PC, and the third time may have been last night when I booted up a Blackberry Passport.
It seemed to be exactly what I’d been looking for since I began blogging full time in 2005: a single device that can fit in my pocket and do everything. I have always been on a mission to find the ultimate blogging apparatus, something through which I can write posts, take photos, record interviews, shoot videos, take notes, have online access, make phone calls, and upload content to the internet.
This “dream device” was just that — a dream — until the advent of the smartphone. I picked up a Blackberry Tour in 2009 thinking that I could transform it into what I was after. Even though I had an unlimited global data plan that would allow me to access the internet from anywhere in the world with with cell towers it still wasn’t it. The technology just wasn’t there yet; the connections were inadequate, the necessary apps nonexistent, and the device’s small keys didn’t make typing efficient enough to justify writing anything longer than an email.
When Android first came out I picked up a touchscreen smartphone that was running it, but I found the operating system cumbersome and typing blog post length stories on its virtual keyboard virtually impossible. It was somewhat of a buzzkill, the entire OS seemed to have been designed for how some techie thought users should interact with their devices rather than how they actually do. It was adequate but it wasn’t what I was after. I would continue using Android for the next few years, utilizing my phone as just that — a phone — rather than the powerful publishing device the technology had the potential to be.
While I wouldn’t say at this point that I’d given up on my search for a one all, do all device, I definitely put it on hold for a few years. I would often compromise with a tablet/ Alphasmart combo when traveling light. Most of the time I would just travel with my laptop. Both set ups required the use of multiple devices; I would have the writing/ publishing rig and the photo/ video rig.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was looking for a new smartphone and when I happened to glance upon a photo of a Blackberry Passport the old desire of a super device returned. As soon as I saw it I knew it could be it.
The thing looked funny. It had the exact same dimensions as a passport — something which I must admit I was thematically drawn to. The screen was completely square. Who has ever seen a smartphone shaped like this before? There was something about the odd appearance that I liked. But the advantage of the design was clear: the wider screen would allow for the display of longer lines of text (30% more) as well as for slightly larger keys on Blackberry’s trademark physical keyboard, which I hoped would make for accurate and fast typing. This combined for a device that seemed to be made for reading and writing. Structurally at least this is what I was looking for.
At this is point I had no idea what was inside the phone. I read about it. I wasn’t disappointed. 32 gigs internal memory, 3 gigs RAM, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, Blackberry 10 operating system, a 13 megapixal camera, and a massive 3450 mAH battery. The thing was a beast — as powerful as a smartphone can currently be.
I bought it.
It took about an hour of typing to realize that it measured up to my expectations, and more. It was as easy and efficient as I imagined it could be. While I’m not quite up to the same word per minute rate as I am on a full keyboard I can still type at speaking pace — which is really only as fast as you need to type.
If this thing continues to do what it’s doing right now it is going to change almost all aspects of how I collect information, organize it, and publish it. For the first time I feel as if I am holding a smartphone that can play a fundamental role in how I blog about and report on the world I travel through. This is the first time that I believe a mobile device could replace some of the functions of a laptop. Although many smartphones have been touted as serving these capabilities before, there were always fundamental design and technological hang ups which prevented a seamless substitution.
Work looks a little different now. No longer am I strapped to a desk and laptop — a place that can takes on tortuous attributes after sitting there day after day. I can now casually write from a chair on a front porch, a cafe, a dining room table, a bus, a train, while standing on the side of the road, or where I am now: sprawled out on my stomach in bed. I can walk down the street, snap a couple photos, ask a few questions, go into a cafe, type a little, attach the images, and publish. Blogging, which at root is supposed to be a more direct way of writing about the world, has gotten a little more forthright.
While I’m not going to try to replace the laptop or attempt to write articles or books from this smartphone, it is rendering many of my other standard of journalism tools obsolete — I may finally be able to give up the pencil and pad of paper. . . or the separate camera. . . or the tablet . . . or the voice recorder.
From concept to information collecting to writing to photos/ video to formatting to publishing the Blackberry Passport is probably the closest thing to the ultimate blogging device made yet. I can comfortably and efficiently type with it, the photo quality is adequate, and it runs the WordPress and other Android apps perfectly — not to mention the apps made specially for Blackberry. I can now go out on assignments or on random content gathering trips with only one device — fully obtaining a technological fantasy that I’ve had since I began blogging more than a decade ago.
No, I’m not being paid to say this.