Call Me a Fanboy but…
…OS2.0 for the Blackberry Playbook (released today) is a huge improvement over the Operating System that initially shipped with the Playbook. We test a lot of gear at my company and luckily I get to be in on the action. After playing with an iPad (1st gen) for a few months and using it more for games than work I decided to give the Blackberry Playbook a try.
I know a lot of people have given up on Blackberry (or actually Research in Motion). A lot of those same people used to LOVE Blackberry. The company has had its share of setbacks but honestly those issues have not affected me as an end-user. I have a Bold 9930 and I think it’s one of the best phones I’ve ever had (you get the best of both worlds with a touch screen AND a keyboard).
I have nothing against the iPhone or the Android platform. I have an 4th gen iPod Touch and use it daily. I just have not found the need, or had the desire, to change to yet another platform. I’ve already been through several Palm devices and multiple flavors of Windows Mobile. Once I moved to the Blackberry I was a happy man. So if I’m happy I’m not necessarily looking to leave just yet.
Te Playbook was pretty limited in its original version. I did like the tethering feature that kept all of my corporate information on my phone vs. on the actual Playbook. This has its advantages of not having to sync two devices and the data is encrypted throughout its journey from the server to your eyes. Overall it worked well but there were things missing.
One thing that was missing were a large variety of applications. The list was just too limited. That’s ben fixed with OS 2.0. developers were offered a free Playbook if they recompiled their Android apps to the Blackberry platform before a certain date. Call it a desperate move (it may have been) but it definitely fixed the issue with a limited application catalog.
I used my Playbook for casual web surfing (it has a great browser) and for watching video. Movies, TV’s and the 1080p HD videos the Playbook can record. Given the right lighting the recordings are absolutely incredible.
Here the Playbook hardware specs for all the geeks out there (I highlighted the good stuff):
- 7″ LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
- BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
- Texas Instruments OMAP4430 Processor, Dual Core@ 1GHz
- IVA 3 hardware accelerators enable full HD 1080p, multi-standard video encode/decode
- Faster, higher-quality image and video capture with digital SLR-like imaging up to 20 megapixels
- Dual-core ARM® Cortex-A9 MPCore with Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP)
- Integrated POWERVR SGX540 graphics accelerator drives 3D gaming and 3D user interfaces
- 1 GB RAM
- Memory: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB
- 5300mAh battery
- Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
- Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
- Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
- HDMI video output
- GPS and Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, 3.5mm headset port, charging contacts
- Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.2, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
- Ultra thin and portable:
- Measures 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
- Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)
I’m not trying to compare the Playbook to an iPad or any other tabled device. I’m just reporting my experiences with it. Performance is very fast and you can take advantage of true multi-tasking that allows you to run several applications at once and switch between them with a simple finger swipe. In fact, the gestures are very intuitive and allow for a lot of control of the device.
OS 2.0 adds some much-needed software features to a strong hardware platform:
- Integrated email client with a powerful unified inbox (nothing “new” but a different way of doing things)
- Social Integration with Calendar and Contacts apps (links all of your contacts and social media services you use)
- Updated BlackBerry Bridge app (remote control of the Playbook from your Blackberry phone)
- Updated document editing functions (Docs-to-go baked in)
- Print To Go (“print” documents to the Playbook wirelessly)
There are other enhancements as well but a lot of them are subtle (like a revamped keyboard layout) and notification method.
All in all I have been pleased with the playbook and it’s been a very useful tool for work. OS 2.0 adds to that usefulness and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from RIM. If the company eventually fails, it fails (I’m not going to save it by being a happy customer). I’ll then have to move on to another platform. I’m not sure which one though. Maybe something new will come along by then.
Hands On – Blackberry Bold 9930
Having practically grown up with technology (my first computer was an Apple IIc in the mid-80’s) I always get excited when I hear about new or updated products. The mobile phone market, especially the “smart” phone, has exploded over the past few years and manufacturers are pumping out new makes and models at an astounding pace.
Once at the top of the mountain Research in Motion (RIM) has had it’s share of setbacks mainly from the folks at Apple who have found a way to brainwash people into thinking the iPhone is the only phone to have. I don’t want to turn this into a manufacturer bashing as I feel the company’s at the top of the pile are there on their own merits. I just feel like a physical keyboard makes the Blackberry feel more like a tool than a toy… I do, however, love my iPod Touch and use it for all things media (and gaming).
Where was I?… Oh yeah, Blackberry! After a long, and painful to watch, slide out global dominance the brainiac at RIM have a new line of phones rolling out to phone vendors all over the USA. Will these new models help prop up the best thing to come out of the Great White North since Bob and Doug McKenzie and the Kids in the Hall? Let’s find out…
First of all, I have to say the expanded keyboard of the 9930 is unreal. It’s slightly wider than past 9000 series phones and a better fit for my hands than the Bold 9650 that I just retired. Key travel & tactile feedback are exactly as they should be (present but not over done) & I see myself typing longer emails and blog posts with it.
This is the first Blackberry with a full time QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen (if you don’t count the Torch “slider” model). Having used something similar in a last life (i.e. Palm Treo 700x) the idea of keyboard and touch screen is not new. What is new is having the ability to use a track pad, and multi-touch screen that negates the need for a stylus (remember those?).
The Blackberry Bold 9930 is also the thinnest and lightest unit ever made by RIM. The metal wrapped sides is slightly reminiscent of the latest generation iPhone. RIM choose to locate the antenna on the bottom edge of the unit to avoid the dreaded death grip that had been an issue with past smartphone models.
Rounding out all of this Fan Boy praise I need to mention the lightning quick processor speed, OS7, built in compass and the HD video recording capabilities.
So, is there anything wrong with the 9930? In a word, yes. It’s nothing earth shattering and most of it will probably be fixed over time but this phone is not perfect.
One of my first complaints is the reduction of convenience keys to a single button placed awkwardly on the lower right side. These keys on past units could be programmed for many functions including application launch and voice commands. Third party tools extended this capability to allow for multiple functions dictated by the number of sequential presses. One press for the camera, two presses for the calendar, etc.
The 5MP camera has whats called “Extended Depth of Field” and is fixed focus. It’s not a show stopper but your pictures will definitely look a lot different with everything in front and back of the subject in focus.
The 9930 is the first Blackberry to incorporate Near Field communications (NFC). It’s a newer technology that has a lot of potential for simplified transactions, data exchange, and connections with a touch of the phone to a special device or tag. This is all great but Verizon has chosen to DISABLE this feature. This reminds me of the days where they would disable Bluetooth on phones. The good news is the NFC hardware is there and leaked OS upgrades appear to enable the feature so all is not lost. The adoption of NFC is also still in its infancy so I’m not missing much.
Lastly, there are the non-working apps. OS7 requires some modifications on the part of the developers and as of today about 15% of my installed applications are not functioning properly. I’m hoping this is a short-term problem & anxiously await to get Pandora working again! (ha ha).
Specs and pricing for the Blackberry Bold 9930 can be found here. It’s also available on other carriers under the Bold 9900 model number (same phone, different carrier radio type).
I’ll plan on posting a follow-up in a few months after I get some 9930 time under by belt. If it’s anything like the first 48-hours I think I’ll be back here singing it’s praises.
Apple Might Have Missed the Boat
Research in Motion (RIM) acquired The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a Swedish firm who’s known for their incredible User Interface designs. This could mean great things for those of us who are loyal Blackberry users. Only time will tell… This promotional video just scratches the surface of things we could be seeing in the near future.