BlackBerry Passport phone on tap for September launch

BlackBerry CEO John Chen leaks news of a new BlackBerry device that is set to launch in September at an event in London.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

A concept design of BlackBerry's upcoming Passport smartphone, code-named Windermere. CrackBerry.com

BlackBerry's newest smartphone is set to launch in September at a special event in London, the company's CEO John Chen said Thursday.

Chen leaked news of the new device during the company's fiscal first quarter 2015 conference call. The new device, called the Passport, has been rumored for several months under the code-name Windermere, according to the blog CrackBerry. The new phone is expected to have the traditional BlackBerry keyboard, but little else is known about its specifications.

BlackBerry has been losing ground to Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market for some time now, and sales of its devices have dropped to a trickle. During its conference call, BlackBerry executives said the company sold 1.6 million smartphones during the quarter. This is an increase over the 1.3 million it sold the previous quarter, but a sharp decline from a year ago, when it sold 6.8 million devices during the same quarter.

BlackBerry device sales are also a far cry from the 43.7 million iPhones Apple sold in the first quarter of 2014 or the 85 million that Samsung shipped in the first quarter. But at least BlackBerry is improving its margins, thanks in large part to the fact that it now outsources the manufacturing of its devices. As part of his overall strategy to focus BlackBerry's efforts on enterprise customers and monetizing its software, CEO John Chen struck a deal with the Taiwanese company Foxconn to manufacture all future BlackBerry devices.

Chen was brought into the company in November to turn things around. Since then, he has been busy refocusing the company's business on its core enterprise customers in the US as well as growing its software business. While the company has pretty much abandoned the consumer smartphone market in the US and other developed markets, it's still making phones for developing markets. Chen said the company is seeing modest success with the launch of its Z3 BlackBerry in Indonesia. The Z3 is a touchscreen device that is targeted at budget conscious customers. Chen said the company is expanding sales of the device to other parts of Asia, such as Vietnam and India.