Just Try Bending Our Phone, BlackBerry CEO Says in Apple Jab

BlackBerry Ltd. couldn’t resist taking a jab at the world’s most popular phone.

Over the past seven years, Apple Inc.’s iPhone has wrested the smartphone market from BlackBerry, reducing the once-dominant device maker to less than 1 percent of global shipments as of March. Yet BlackBerry, introducing its new Passport device for business customers today, saw an opening emerge from user complaints that the newest iPhones get bent and warped in people’s pockets.

“I would challenge you guys to bend our Passport,” John Chen, Blackberry’s chief executive officer, said at an event today in Toronto.

The reports of bending iPhones follow record demand for the devices, with more than 10 million sold in their debut last weekend. At the fan site MacRumors, a member named hanzoh wrote this week that the phone was “slightly bent after 2 days” in a front suit pocket. Numerous other iPhone owners reported similar concerns on the site.

Apple’s press office didn’t respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

The bending complaints were the talk of the Internet today, inspiring a hashtag on Twitter: #bendgate. One user, Karsten Schmehl, posted a mock screen grab of Apple’s website with an “iPhone 6 Plus Repair Kit” -- a rolling pin.

Nestle SA’s Kit Kat brand also got into the act, tweeting a picture of a chocolate bar snapped in two, with the one-liner, “We don’t bend, we break.”

BlackBerry unveiled the square-screened Passport phone -- aimed more at business users than at the iPhone’s general consumer base -- at events around the world today. The Passport is BlackBerry’s first major new device slated for a global introduction since Chen was named CEO in November, the same day that a planned buyout of the company collapsed. Gearing the Passport toward professionals is part of Chen’s plan to move away from the consumer market and concentrate on more profitable services for corporations.

The Passport’s innards include a complete steel frame, Chen said today in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

“Bending that needs a little effort,” he said.

(Updates with Twitter jokes in sixth paragraph.)
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