The BlackBerry PlayBook got a major OS upgrade that made this solid tablet from RIM more complete. When the PlayBook was first launched, the limitations it presented made it only appealing to existing BlackBerry users because it depended a lot on a paired BB smartphone. With the OS 2.0 upgrade though, even non-BlackBerry phone owners can enjoy this tablet almost as much as those who have BlackBerries.
Let’s take a deeper look at what the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 has to offer and see if it’s now really ready for prime time.
Folders and Favorites
First thing I noticed in the main screen was that there are no more Tabs (All, Favorites, Media and Games) which is what I prefer since there’s not much apps to go around anyway. What’s left are six slots which you can customize to hold your favorite apps.
Swipe up and you will see the rest of your apps divided into pages. You can now also create folders to group your apps, similar to what iOS is doing. Press the app until you see it pulsating then drag and drop it on top of another app to create your folder.
One of the first thing you would definitely do once you upgrade to 2.0 is to set up your accounts. You can set up E-mail/Calendar and Contacts accounts, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This will serve as your starting point before you can make use of the other new apps. One thing I noticed though is that you can’t enroll multiple Twitter accounts which is something that RIM should allow on the next update.
One of the major update here is the Messages app which is more than just a native e-mail app. Previously you can only access e-mail from your BlackBerry phone via Bridge. RIM decided on this one for security reasons but it really gave the PlayBook a huge limitation especially for non-BlackBerry users.
With the new Messages app, you can enroll different e-mail accounts including POP emails. I signed my Yahoo! and Gmail accounts without any problem. You can also access, compose, and reply messages from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn via this app.
The app is well-designed with a nice, simple layout that allows you to compose, reply, delete, and all the usual e-mail commands in a single touch. You can view threaded mails and conversations and you can also filter the messages to be displayed by account so as not to be overwhelmed. What it failed to do was get the custom folders from my mail account and also the indications that a message has already been replied to or forwarded.
What I like in this app is that your message can be in rich text format. You can change the fonts, apply basic paragraph formatting, play with colors, the recipient won’t know that you wrote your message from a tablet unless you keep the “œSent from my BlackBerry PlayBook” signature. There’s also predictive input and suggestions built-in on the keyboard.
Aside from a native e-mail app, PlayBook 2.0 has a native calendar app where you can use your own CalDAV account. It can pull calendar entries from your Facebook, and mail accounts that you enrolled such as Gmail and Yahoo!.
The Calendar app looks really polished, simple and easy to navigate. You can easily see dates with events on them and information doesn’t look crowded on its screen. You can create events and store it locally or you can push it to other account such as Gmail.
Like the Calendar app, Contacts will pull contact (CardDAV) info from accounts that you enrolled. It automatically pulled my contact list from Facebook and Gmail, and not from Yahoo! which I specifically told it not to. It will try to link contact info of the same person from separate accounts but more often than not, I had to link them manually.
The Contacts app looks well-thought of. You can search through your list or browse alphabetically. Each contact has its own tab for info, social network status, meetings you share it with, and many more. Basically, it will display all pertinent info of a contact from multiple sources in one clean window.
The browser on PlayBook 2.0 also got an update for the heavy readers out there. Reading View allows you to read an article without any of those unnecessary and distracting banners, navigation menus, sidebars and videos.
Just hit the Reading View icon when you’re reading an article to see it in a more readable font with no backgrounds, menus, and other distractions, links would still be active though. Best viewed in portrait mode.
BlackBerry Bridge Remote Control
A nifty thing they did with the BlackBerry Bridge is to give your BlackBerry smartphone a remote control function for the PlayBook. When in remote control mode, the screen on your phone turns into a touchpad to control the PlayBook. You can also do gestures on your phone which will be reflected to the PlayBook.
You can also project photos from your phone into the PlayBook which in turn is connected to a bigger monitor via HDMI. With this setup, you can control presentations from the PlayBook with your BlackBerry even if you’re far from the screen. You can also use your BlackBerry’s media controls and QWERTY keyboard from the comforts of your couch while manipulating the PlayBook connected to your TV. It’s a really neat feature that can be used by BlackBerries running OS 6 and up which also has a touchscreen. Of coure, you have to mind the battery on both of your devices.
Documents to Go Premium
With the premium version of Documents to Go, you can now create documents and spreadsheets from scratch. Sheets to Go has support of over a hundred formulas that are commonly found in Excel. You won’t be able to create a PowerPoint presentation with this app although you can still view and edit existing ones.
Print to Go
At first, I thought this is a feature that lets you print documents and photos wirelessly which is lame since it’s supposed to be more of a printer feature than device-driven.
But what Print to Go does is allow you to send files from your PC to your PlayBook wirelessly. Sounds good in paper but it’s really cumbersome to use. First you need to have the Print to Go app installed on the PC, then the PC and the PlayBook should both be in the same network which is tricky to setup in one of those public WiFis. RIM should’ve created a native Dropbox app or something like it instead.
The BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 is clearly something what the first PlayBook should’ve been, or at least something they should’ve done within the first few months it was released. Now may be too late but at least these updates made the PlayBook almost complete as a tablet and the next logical move now is to work on the apps.
RIM said that that they made it easier for Android app developers to port their apps for the PlayBook but right now, we’re still only seeing a handful of such apps. What RIM should focus are the critical and official apps that are commonly found in all tablets. Dropbox comes into mind as well as Skype. It’s nice to see popular games (PvZ, Cut the Rope, Angry Birds) already available in the App World and they should aggressively build on that. Temple Run perhaps?