Saturday, April 30, 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook has the bells, not all the whistles

Well, I'd been waiting and following the release of BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet for months and finally it was released April 19.

Why PlayBook and not ipad? Mostly because I wanted 3G connection without having to buy another monthly data plan. Both come with WiFi, but that's not always available when travelling or meeting outside the home or office. So PlayBook tethers wirelessly through bluetooth to my BlackBerry Torch, drawing off the dataplan I already pay for monthly. The Bridge feature means I can turn the link on when I want. This also provides two layers of privacy. A password for those who want to powerup and play with my PlayBook, and another password to open the bridge which opens links to my calendar, email, contacts etc. So I can let anyone play games or surf the 'net without letting them have access to my personal or business data. Smart, that PlayBook.

So the playbook has awesome video and sound quality playback with hard and soft controls, it's responsive to the touch, small enough to fit in a jacket pocket or purse, downloads podcasts, games, books, and music easily, has front and back facing cameras for videoconferencing/Skype, a "numbers" key pad stays up (a basic yet missing piece on BlackBerry smartphones), and ports for more connectivity.

However, and here's the big But, the PlayBook is missing some key features that I hope will be fixed with future software upgrades. For example, wouldn't it be nice to be able to look at pictures taken and sorted on my tethered Blackberry? Doesn't do that now. Secondly, BBM (proprietary messenger) is apparently still 4-6 weeks away which means my bbry has to be right beside me all the time even when I'm working with the PlayBook. Also, not sure if MMS and SMS text messages are ever scheduled to come through the smartphone to the playbook. Probably not, since tablets are not mobile phones actually. Another annoyance: I'm not sure why, but my hands-free bluetooth device, while found by the PlayBook, couldn't pick up and stream audio through the device to the car FM system. I'll have to spend more time making that work. And one last item on the wish list: I'd like to see my Torch's Password Keeper open on the PlayBook as well. When managing multiple accounts and accessing website accounts, I use this password keeper a half-dozen times a day at least. Another reason to keep my smart phone close.

So if you don't have a BlackBerry is the PlayBook good value? At this point, it can do what any tablet can do: get Facebook, apps, gmail, online calendars, websurfing etc. Compare prices and quality to determine the best one for your situation. For BlackBerry owners, there's a lot more value in the PlayBook than we early adopters are getting right now. Bring it on, RIM.