BlackBerry Passport, Classic to land at AT&T on Feb. 20

Months after its unveiling, the squat smartphone is finally coming to a US carrier.

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Steven Musil
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The squat BlackBerry Passport features a 4.5-inch screen. CNET

Consumers in the US will finally be able to put BlackBerry's Passport to the test next month when it arrives at AT&T, the only US carrier so far slated to offer the unique handset.

The Passport and the BlackBerry Classic will be available for purchase at AT&T online and retail stores beginning February 20, the wireless carrier announced Monday. The Passport had previously been available online at full price for several months.

The BlackBerry Passport, an AT&T exclusive, will sell for $200 under a two-year contract or $650 without a contract. The more traditional Classic will cost $50 with a two-year contract or $420 without a contract. Both handsets are also available on the carrier's various monthly payment plans.

The two smartphones are seen as critical to keeping the embattled BlackBerry in the mobile game. The company, which has fallen from its perch atop the market over the past five years, has gradually shifted its focus toward business-class software and services. But it still needs the smartphones to serve as the lynchpin and driver of those new sources of revenue.

BlackBerry faces numerous challenges in its bid for a comeback. Consumers have written off the company and the smartphones, especially after the debacle that was last year's launch of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system. Most have moved over to an iPhone or Samsung smartphone, putting the company at a disadvantage in the growing trend of businesses letting their employees choose their own devices, with BlackBerry no longer the preferred device.

The squat smartphone, with its 4.5-inch square display and unique triple row of physical keys, was redesigned with more rounded edges exclusively for AT&T. Aside from that cosmetic change, the device is essentially the same. The phone was unveiled in September and drew 200,000 orders early on, but the company went quiet over the last few months.

Old BlackBerry fans will likely gravitate toward the Classic, which has a familiar design and shape, but with BlackBerry's latest operating system. Verizon Wireless has also said it would carry the Classic, but it hasn't provided any detail.