So the playbook has arrived in India and we got our hands on it. The 7 inch device easily fits in one hand and hence makes it easy to carry around. On booting up the device for the first time we were prompted download an update to the OS and enter our blackberry id. The interface that greets the user upon launch is very similar to the latest blackberry phone OS. We would skip listing the specs and instead let you know our experience with the playbook.
The playbook’s bezel is touch sensitive and accepts gestures. Swiping up from bottom brings up a card like interface of all running apps. Swiping from left or right when an app is running allows you to quickly switch between apps just by sliding to navigate between open apps and then tapping to make the app go full screen. Swiping from top is a gesture available for applications, so developers can bring a settings view or a search field for the app in response to that gesture.
This is one area where the playbook trounces the iPad. Given the raw power the playbook has thanks to its dual core CPU the multitasking is a no-compromise desktop like experience. This coupled with the bezel gestures offers a smooth switching mechanism between apps. For instance, when you’re playing NFS undercover (which comes pre installed) and you go to the app switching view through the bottom-up swipe gesture, you can still play the game in the “card” view. Whether this will be of any actual benefit to users is totally upto developers depending on how they use the card switching view.
This is one area where RIM could be left behind in the tablet war. The playbook comes preloaded with a lot of apps like the Documents to go suite, Facebook, Adobe Reader, Bing Maps, etc. Unlike Keynote, Apple’s app for presentations, the Slideshow to go app doesn’t allow you to create new presentations, though you can create documents and excel sheets through the other two apps. Other than these there is the App World through which you can get more apps onto your device. We have learnt that EA’s partnership with RIM is not just restricted to one game, it will be releasing more games in the future. To catch up with its competitors RIM has given developers a variety of tools to develop apps for the playbook. Through an update in the future it will also gain the ability to run the existing 3,00,000+ apps on the Android market.
This is something which is gaining a lot of importance in the marketing campaigns of non-iPad tablets but does it actually work is a big question. A lot of Android tablets and phones have delivered dismal performance when using flash. Does the playbook offer a bug free flash experience? Apart from scrolling suffering a bit we didn’t encounter any other problems while playing Plants Vs Zombies on the browser. Apart from manually pinching and zooming we didn’t find a way to let the game run full screen, but that I guess is an issue with the game developers and not flash.
Video Playback and Camera
High definition video playback on the playbook is stunning. It allows you to capture videos in 1080p through its 5 mega pixel back camera. HD Youtube videos can be played through the youtube app on the device. The photos app in addition to viewing captured pictures also lets you set any of those pictures as a wallpaper. There is also a video chat app which uses your Blackberry id however we weren’t able try it out. The fact that RIM failed to integrate the Video chat app with its existing messaging platform is a big letdown.
Since this is a first impression post we might have missed out on a lot of things. Overall we were quite impressed with the whole experience. Bezel gestures, multitasking, 1080p video capture and playback all stand out as big positives. However email, calendar and even Blackberry’s loved messaging app BBM are all absent unless you have a Blackberry phone to pair with the playbook. Apparently, the reason native email is missing because Blackberry’s widely used enterprise servers currently cannot handle the same account on two or more devices. RIM claims its next update to the OS would solve a lot of these issues. For now this device will satisfy the needs of all blackberry lovers or users who just want a device to view videos and listen to music (the existence of the the latter is doubtful).