Regarded as being a “professional grade” tablet, it’s rather disconcerting to find that the PlayBook isn’t a dedicated device on its own – which is due to the stringent requirement of needing to connect it with a BlackBerry smartphone to unlock some of its features. In essence, you’re locked out of being able to manage contacts on the PlayBook without using BlackBerry Bridge, but if you happen to be fortunate, you’ll find that the contacts management system isn’t anything different from what is out there.
Yes, it relies on a familiar two-paneled interface – the left being your scrollable listing of contacts, while the right displays the detailed information of the selected person. Honestly, its appearance and functionality is a good indication that RIM simply didn’t spend much time on it. Much like most things out there, you can add a new contact and input all their associated information, which syncs up directly to your Blackberry smartphone’s address book, but it’s unfortunate that you can’t assign a photo with each person directly through the PlayBook. Even more, we can see that RIM didn’t do anything different with its portrait style layout because it’s merely a linear layout that displays the scrollable list at first, then the detail information once a contact is selected.
Messaging and Email:
Undeniably, the PlayBook’s 7” display might not be the most ideal thing to use when it comes down to inputting text – especially if you happen to have larger sized fingers. In our experience, the general typing experience is still ultimately left as a one-at-a-time inputting process that requires a great deal of concentration. Even though the PlayBook exhibits a responsive feel when it comes to keeping up pace with the fastest of typers, buttons are remarkably small in size, and adding to its reduced input options, there are only a few punctuations offered from the main keyboard. Moreover, you’ll have to tap the numbers and symbols button on the keyboard in order to input additional characters – thus limiting your overall speed.
Interestingly enough, we actually prefer the portrait style keyboard seeing that the experience is somehow similar to any smartphone out there. Generally relying on your thumbs, the layout is narrow enough to allow your thumbs to completely encompass the entire space – which obviously makes for a better experience. Still, we find ourselves a bit limited in speed primarily because of its lack of additional numbers and symbols directly on the main keyboard.
For a second there, you’d think that the “Messages” app would allow you to compose SMS or MMS message, but it’s only reserved for emails – nothing more. Fittingly, the layout is once again familiar seeing that it divides the screen into two sections when it’s in landscape. First, the left panel breaks down the contents of your folders, while the right panel will obviously display the selected email. Conversely, the portrait layout of the Messages app is identically the same with the Contacts app with its linear presentation.
Not surprisingly, we’re presented with some basic functions to get you somewhat productive with emails – like being able to search for specific messages, flagging, and the ability to select multiple messages. In all honesty, there isn’t much to differentiate the experience from a smartphone – and it’s frustrating to see it handling only the most basic of operations.
Continuing the theme of requiring you to use the PlayBook with a BlackBerry smartphone, the Calendar app is only unlocked when the two are connected together via BlackBerry Bridge. And once again, we see the common trend of only providing the most generic experience with its Calendar app. Naturally, it’s rather difficult move outside the box in offering a refreshing experience with this aspect, but it still would’ve been gracious to see RIM do just that. Instead, they decide to stick it out with their all too plain looking, yet functional calendar.
The calendar has the usual set of three views: month, week, and day, with appointments being appropriately noted in all of them, but it’s only with the month view that we’re presented with a distinguishable green color. Not only can you specify the timing of the appointment, but you’ll also be able to set reminders and add attendees to it as well. As we’ve seen thus far, there’s nothing really out of the ordinary with this one – and in the way, it’s a little disheartening. And finally, there’s nothing different with its portrait layout seeing that it simply adjusts to fit correctly.
Even up until now, we have yet to see some marginally decent clock apps that do more than just sitting pretty displaying the time. Unfortunately though, the same boring experience is evident with the PlayBook’s clock app. Running the program, we’re instantly presented with an analog clock that displays the time, a stop watch, and timer – all of which work like they’re made out to do. And even though the PlayBook lacks a world clock, you can seemingly find the clock app to run like one seeing that you have the option to make a new clock and set its proper time. Generic and bland for the most part, it would’ve been nice to see some other elements added to it – potentially like some weather details or being able to run a slideshow.
And then there is the Calculator app, developed by the recently acquired TAT (The Astonishing Tribe) company, which interestingly provides a useful take on a classic app. Besides having the ability to quickly calculate something, we like how the virtual tape on the left side of the interface allows us to keep track of our calculation history. Moreover, swiping down from the top bezel provides us access to the scientific calculator, unit converter, and tip calculator.
Undoubtedly unoriginal with its interface, the Voice Notes app allows you to record notes on the fly. Greeted with a rather super-sized microphone on the left side, you press the distinguishable red button to start recoding. Once done, it’s saved to the listing panel on the right side – while deleting them is accomplished by executing a swipe gesture from the top bezel to reveal its edit mode.