First up is the latest PlayBook OS, version 188.8.131.528. Launched only a few days after our full review went live, we’ve had plenty of time to give the OS a thorough look. The biggest change with the latest OS is BBM over Bridge, which we think is fantastic. The BBM client on the PlayBook is excellent and really takes advantage of the larger screen size. We can’t wait until BBM can run on its own with the PlayBook, if RIM ever gets around to enabling that functionality. The ability to add browser bookmarks on the home screen was also introduced, which is another welcome addition.
Unfortunately, battery life has taken a turn for the worse with this latest OS, something which we’ve seen many others echo on Twitter. But while the battery life isn’t great, our PlayBook’s battery meter now correctly goes to 100% while charging. Unfortunately you still can’t charge with the PlayBook turned off, which we still find quite annoying.
Next up is the launch of RIM’s own Facebook app for the PlayBook, which is built on Adobe’s Air platform. We think the app is excellently done and really shows up what an Air-built app can do with the PlayBook’s OS. The app loads quickly, looks excellent (seriously – the UI is awesome), and every major piece of Facebook functionality is present, including the ability to chat with your friends. We hope RIM builds a native Twitter client, which we suspect would be very awesome going by the Facebook app.
Last, and most certainly the least, is the launch of a native video calling app from RIM. We were fortunate enough to receive two PlayBooks from RIM so we had a chance to try out the app. Unfortunately the trial didn’t go so well… Adding contacts is very straightforward, and starting calls is very easy. But once you’re in a call, the problems are numerous. Video and audio would be crystal clear on both ends of the call for about a minute before video would completely freeze. Audio would continue to work, but video was frozen. Switching cameras sometimes resolved the problem, but we would almost always get stuck on the rear camera with no ability to switch back to the front-facing camera.
Quiting the app completely was the only way to end a call most of the time. Upon relaunching the app, we would not be able to actually do anything. Rebooting the PlayBook would solve that issue, but is extremely annoying. The video calling app is also a huge battery hog, more so than we ever expected.
So, do we think different about the PlayBook almost a month after fire reviewing it? No, not really. We do appreciate the addition of BBM over Bridge, as well as an official Facebook app, but both of these items are really things which should have been included in the launch OS. RIM is still playing catch up. There is still no native email/contacts/calendar solution, and we are still weeks away from the launch of the PlayBook NDK. App World is still generally bare of good apps, and we don’t see that changing until RIM drums up more developer support – which we hope the NDK launch later in the summer will do. Unfortunately, we still can’t recommend the PlayBook to anyone big the biggest BlackBerry fans. At this point, HP/Palm’s TouchPad tablet may very well launch before PlayBook owners see native email, BBM, or an App World filled with great apps. And that says a lot about the state of RIM and their BlackBerry brand, we think.