Just ten months after the BlackBerry PlayBook was launched, RIM released an OS update that addresses some of the tablets crucial shortcomings in the form of BlackBerry Playbook OS 2.0. Since it was officially released, weâ€™ve been exploring (and loving) the BlackBerry Playbook’s new features and figured to write something about it.
Before we jump to the review itself, you can look back at our BlackBerry Playbook review here.
The update installation was a smooth as it can get. After going through several prompts, the Playbook downloaded the update and a couple of prompts more and it’s on its way to OS 2. Depending on the internet speed, the whole process should be done in couple of minutes.
The first noticeable change after the Playbook successfully booted to the new OS is the Home Screen UI. The OS 2.0 replaced category pane of the previous OS with a dock that consists of up to 6 (5 by default) static and interchangeable icons. The benefit of this enhancement is that users have more space on the home screen. Multitasking windows appears bigger because of this bigger real estate.
The new UI also features folder creation that enables users to organize their app icons accordingly. This feature can be done by long-tapping an icon and dragging it to another icon. It is also worth mentioning that we noticed less lag while toggling through various apps and multi-tasking.
Native Apps Upgrades
Besides the minor face lift on the UI, OS 2 also provides those much needed features that was lacking on the previous OS. These are, but not limited to, native email app, calendar app and shortage of available app. Weâ€™ll go through each of these after the break.
On the PlayBook’s previous OS, it can only send and receive emails when paired to another BB handset (smartphone) that is linked via BlackBerry Bridge. Although it can still send/receive emails through BlackBerry Bridge, the tablet can now send and receive emails without the help of a BB phone. This is quite a relief for users as it eliminates some of the PlayBook’s dependence on the Bridge and a BB handset. Besides the ability to integrate multiple email account, users can also choose one supported networking site (FB, Twitter or LinkedIn) and sync it to the Messages App. Users can now view FB messages and upcoming events and Twitter DMs inside one app.
Other than the functionality upgrade, the Message app’s UI was also updated. Options that were previously found on the bottom are now on the left and the right side. Scrolling downwards from the top bezel, users will have more options as compared to the previous OS.
The Calendar app was also given some minor modifications that gave it more functionality and usability. The UI of the Calendar app has similarities with the Message app in terms of the location of the selection.
The calendar view is much more refined in the sense that users can toggle through different dates and time, look at the agenda and people who are attending the event while still having an unobstructed view of the calendar. Not having to go back to the calendar view makes navigating through a busy schedule much easier and faster.
Not much has changed on this app besides the addition of letter scroll on the left hand side of the screen. This helps a bit in searching your contacts using the first letter of their first name. Just like the previous two apps mentioned, options are now found on the sides.
The new OS promised a better browsing experience using the native Browser app. I must agree that it is much better than the previous version of the browser. Pages loads a little bit quicker and the responsiveness is little bit smoother. There are still lags here and there but the total experience is much improved.
Another cool feature of the upgraded browser is the Reader Mode. This makes the reading experience on a website much more pleasant as it opens another window that only contains words and pictures of the chosen article. This is labeled by an open book icon that can be found on the left hand of the screen just below the back icon.
As mentioned a while ago, the PlayBook is not too dependent on the Bridge App as compared to it running the previous OS. And although previous functionalities can still be used, RIM has added some neat features to this app to make it more efficient while being paired to a phone.
One of the new features of the Bridge app is the Remote Control. This feature lets a paired handset to control some of the PlayBook’s functionalities. Navigation can be made easy by using the phone’s touch screen or track pad. This is especially helpful when the tablet is connected to a TV or used for presentations as the phone is turned into an fancy wireless clicker. And for some users who prefers typing using a physical keyboard, users can also use the phone’s keyboard to type instead of the virtual keyboard. Some of the other feature of the Bridge is that it let’s users to project a website from the phone to the PlayBook by selecting the option on phone’s browser menu.
Android Apps on App World
One of the key reasons why some people forgo the PlayBook for other tablets is App availability. To address this, RIM planned to make Android apps available to the App World. Though still on its early stage, some ad-free Android apps are now available for the PlayBook. I Like the idea of making some apps available in App World and I’m certain that consumers will also like it too. However this will be a tall order for RIM in terms of app compatibility especially now that they are brewing the OS 10. Let’s wait and see how these will all turn out and hopefully it’s for the best.
Additional Software Upgrades
The very useful app (especially for a blogger like me) has some new incremental features and support to make it more purposeful. One of the welcome additions is the support for PowerPoint presentation. User can now view, edit and create PowerPoint presentations using their PlayBook. Moreover, the PowerPoint also has the Presenter Mode that enables users to toggle through the presentation while the tablet is projecting it on a screen via HDMI.
If you like to roam around while discussing your presentation, you can always use your willing BlackBerry smart phone to flip through the slides via BlackBerry Bridge. And if you prefer typing using a physical keyboard, Docs-To-Go also provides support for Bluetooth keyboards or your phone’s keyboard also through Bridge app.
The PlayBook OS 2.0 now supports video calling. As good as it may sound; it’s still on its early stage. Disappointingly, you are only limited to placing a call with your other buddies with BlackBerry PlayBook. But it’s definitely a start. We hope to see improvements in this area in the next updates.
This eco-friendly app lets users send their documents from their PC to your BlackBerry PlayBook and check to see how it looks before printing it. Users can also sort and organize their files by categorizing them as Home or Work document.
In addition, users can see how many files were shared to the tablet and when it was shared.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is without a doubt one of the coolest and sturdiest looking tablet in the 7â€ division. It definitely has the looks, but fell way short on its contents as compared to other tablets. It’s quite surprising that when it was released last year, people were not talking about its features but rather what it lacked which proved crucial to the marketability of this tablet. It also proves that in the tech world, just being good looking will definitely not win you buyers. That’s why in opinion, the new BlackBerry OS 2.0 unleashed some of the PlayBook’s potentials which was nowhere to be found on the previous OS.
It heaves a sigh of relief to PlayBook users and gives a more valid reason for those who are still not. Although there are still some critical apps and features that are missing or with limited functionalities like the native BBM app, I really think that RIM is getting off on the right foot this time. And with BlackBerry OS 10 already brewing, we can definitely expect good things to come our way in the next OS update. Let’s just hope that it wonâ€™t turn out as a disappointment.