Hoping a cheaper unsubsidized price will bring sales, BlackBerry to sell Passport for $599

If you want to buy a square-screened smartphone for less that most competing flagship handsets, you’re in luck: The BlackBerry Passport is expected to start at $599 off-contract when it launches this week. That’s less expensive than the new Apple iPhone 6 base model which starts at $650 at full-price and rises by $100 for a larger display or more storage.

The move is meant to spark interest in the new [company]BlackBerry[/company]. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Monday, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said “I figure that to try to get the market interested, we’re going to start a little lower than that.”

Chen is spot-on in his assessment as there has been practically no interest in the company’s handsets of late. BlackBerry has watched its once dominant market share evaporate into vapor as phones running [company]Apple[/company] iOS, [company]Google[/company] Android and [company]Microsoft[/company] Windows Phone have taken over. BlackBerry released new phones in 2013 but those did little to change the company’s place in the smartphone market.

The new Passport has a unique display: It’s a 4.5-inch, high-resolution square screen that Chen thinks will be a difference-maker. The phone also has a hardware keyboard that supplements the touchscreen. Here’s an early video of the Passport to illustrate its distinct look:

While a relatively lower cost can only help the Passport, the real selling point will be the handset’s software, security and services. BlackBerry was once the de-facto standard for messaging and enterprise use. Other platforms have invaded that space over the past few years, however, so it’s not clear if the Passport will do much, if anything, to boost hardware sales for the company just yet.