Blackberry Q10 Review

BlackBerry-Q10I wanted to start this review by acknowledging that it is way overdue. I had the intentions of writing this review back in late July, after using the Q10 for several weeks. However, the arrival of my adorable baby Hannah put the brakes on much of my extracurricular activities!

The Blackberry Q10 has been on the market since May 2013 in Canada and the UK, and was released in early June with most major U.S. carriers. When most people think of Blackberry, they think of the iconic keyboard devices which literally changed the way many of us communicate via email and text messaging.

Despite launching several months after the Blackberry Z10 touch screen model (see my Z10 review), the Q10 is seen as the future of Blackberry. The device incorporates that iconic physical QWERTY keyboard along with a 3.1” touch screen, and the new Blackberry 10 operating system.

First Impressions

I have to admit, I was excited to get my hands on the Q10. I have been using the Z10 since January 2013, and I really love it. I remember from the first time I used the Z10, the operating system seemed fast, intuitive and refreshing compared to my previous phone – the Apple iPhone 4S. It had been a number of years since I used a physical keyboard with a previous Blackberry model and I was looking forward to trying a device which combined the best of both worlds.

The moment I picked up the Q10, it just felt so right. It fit perfectly in my hand.  Compared to the Z10 which boasts a 4.2” screen (and I love), the Q10 felt so natural to hold, and admittedly fits better in your pocket than larger smartphones. After using the holster case for several weeks, I opted to go back to just slipping the Q10 in my pocket for safe keeping, and the size really helps.

Hardware

Along with the keyboard and Blackberry 10 OS, the Q10 is packed with some pretty decent hardware including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHZ dual-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16 GB of storage, an 8 MP rear camera and 4G LTE for fast Internet and downloads.

The 3.1” Super AMOLED touch display offers 720 x 720 resolution – big enough to allow a decent web browsing experience, view photos, videos, email and more. Although full touch screen lovers will miss the screen real estate they are used to, the Q10 does a pretty good job of combining touch screen with the physical keyboard. The screen manages to display three rows of icons compared to four rows on the Z10.

One of the biggest attributes of the Q10 is its large 2100mAH removable battery which claims up to 13.5 hours of talk time (3G) and almost 15 days of standby time. This was an important feature for me, as battery life on the Z10 was typically shorter than my average work day.

During everyday use I did notice a significant difference in battery life compared to the Z10. Initially I could get a full day of use out of the Q10, although this has seemed to diminish somewhat over time. The Q10 also seemed to randomly get very warm, and I would sometimes notice the battery life was sucked up quickly – this seems to me to be software related or perhaps a glitch in the operating system. Luckily this didn’t happen very often.

Thanks to the built in removable microSD memory card slot, I was able to plug in the microSD card from my Z10 to take along my photos and music. Although I assumed syncing the Q10 with my PC using the Blackberry Link software would automatically transfer over all of the apps I had downloaded onto my Z10, this did not happen.

I had to manually download apps to the Q10 – which in hindsight was a better option, because I did not want all of the apps and games I had previously downloaded to be on the new device. I avoided many of the games I had enjoyed on the Z10, and stuck to the key apps I use frequently, such as my CIBC banking app, Skype, Stocks, Amazon Kindle, Crackberry news, and Reebee (shopping flyers). Social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare come preloaded on the Q10, along with StoryMaker, Maps, Docs-to-Go and BBM.

Cool Features

There were no surprises for me as the Q10 has the same operating system as the Z10. Therefore the functionality and features were essentially the same, save the larger battery, physical keyboard and size difference.

I have to say though, while using the Q10, it felt more like a business device to me. It is built to be a productivity tool. With this in mind, I wanted to talk about Blackberry Hub – the all-in-one inbox Blackberry has built into the BB10 OS. Blackberry Hub is a killer app if I have ever seen one. While other smartphones have centralized email inboxes which bring all of your email into one inbox, Blackberry Hub is different.

Not only do all of your emails from multiple accounts show up in Blackberry Hub, but you can respond or send new emails from any of your accounts – not just a default account. One of the most fun and time-saving features is how Blackberry Hub incorporates all of your social media accounts.

All of your social media messages or updates show up right in your Hub. And with Blackberry Hub you can respond to social media posts and messages without even having to open Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. Simply respond like you are replying to any email, and the message or post goes directly to your social media account. The same applies to text and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages. Talk about a convenient timesaver!

I have to be honest. Blackberry Hub is one of my favorite tools, and is what sets BB10 devices apart from the competition. It makes Blackberry 10 devices true communication tools.

Overall Impression

After using the Q10 for several months, I can say without a doubt that it is a productivity enhancer. Combining the Blackberry Hub with multitasking abilities and key apps like Docs-to-Go, banking apps, Bloomberg, Skype, Ebay, Maps and social media apps of course allowed me to get work done while keeping in touch and communicating effortlessly with friends and colleagues.

For those of you who love your Blackberry keyboard, I have no doubt you will love the Q10. It combines your favorite keyboard with a fantastic new operating system and better touch screen than past devices. For myself though, I am going back to the Z10 which I truly enjoy…I just can’t give up that beautiful 4.2″ screen!

The Final Verdict

The Good

  • Solid build, attractive design
  • Perfect size in your hand
  • Best physical keyboard bar none
  • 3.1” AMOLED touch screen is a nice compromise for touch device and physical keyboard
  • Blackberry 10.1 OS
  • Blackberry Hub is a killer productivity app
  • Blackberry Balance allows work and personal modes
  • Ability to side-load Android apps
  • Larger removable battery – extends to all day use
  • Expandable memory

 

The Bad

  • Still a limited app selection – but has most of the apps I needed
  • Screen is too small for those used to all touch devices (especially 4-5” devices)
  • Takes time after boot-up to load Blackberry Hub – must wait before you can access contacts or emails
  • Physical keyboard use is best with two hands – not great for one-handed typing which I prefer
  • Unit sometimes got warm and the battery life seemed to diminish

Update

Since I began writing this review, Blackberry has released OS 10.2 which included a number of enhancements. Most notable were Priority Hub which learns how you communicate and which messages are most important, presenting them in their own folder (as well as in the regular Hub), message previews – which show at the top of your screen, improved Copy and Paste functionality and lock screen notifications (shows recent emails and messages without having to unlock your phone).

I also noticed an improved Internet browsing experience. Before OS 10.2, when browsing websites on the Z10 or Q10 I would often have to pinch and zoom in order to actually read the text on the website. I notice now when websites load the text is automatically larger, eliminating the need to zoom in! I still enjoy using the “reader” mode too which removes the images from a webpage – showing only the text in an easy to read format.

There are several other enhancements in OS 10.2 – click here if you’d like to read about all of them.

Open Letter to Blackberry Customers

20130131-163425.jpgAs a member of Team Blackberry Elite, I received the following letter via email today. Blackberry has published this open letter to top newspapers around the globe:

To our valued customers, partners and fans,
You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry®. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.
We have one important message for you:

You can continue to count on BlackBerry.
How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.
We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.

And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.

Best in class productivity tool.
We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry® 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Best in class security.
Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.

Best in class enterprise mobility management.
We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android™ devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.

This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.

And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.

Best in class mobile social network.
We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM™ launch for Android™and iPhone. There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry® smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.

You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own:  You can continue to count on us.

Sincerely,
The BlackBerry Team

Blackberry 10 Launch – My Experience

I attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City last Wednesday. As a new member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was invited by RIM (now Blackberry) to attend the event as well as several other events and activities exclusive to the Elite program.IMG_0406

My first impression of the event was the grand scale of the location, and setup. Walking into the building at pier 36, which looked deceptively unassuming from the outside, I was met by a large crowd of people registering for the event. After obtaining my name tag and checking my coat, I shuffled to another much larger area filled with hundreds of reporters, analysts and other invitees enjoying a nice spread of bagels, pastries  fruit and more.

Surrounding us were large images of the back of new Blackberry, imagery outlining the new features of BB10 and screens showing live Tweets of the event. After having a bite to eat I wandered around taking it all in.

This was a huge day for RIM.  Some would say a “make-or-break” day. BB10, now over a year behind schedule, is in many people’s eyes, RIM’s last hope for survival in an industry it created a decade earlier.

Glancing down at my watch, I realized it was getting close to 10:00AM. I checked my email and had received a message from a RIM staffer who was to seat me that morning. I located Kari and she led me through the crowd into the main venue. An even bigger room, filled with rows and rows of chairs, even more people, and a large stage at the front. As we approached the stage, Kari led me to the 2nd row centre where I took a seat. Wow. What a seat!  The reality of the whole even was starting to hit me.

IMG_0418I removed my camera from its case and began snapping pictures. As people moved into the main hall, the atmosphere began to grow with excitement.

We were moments away from the biggest announcement in the company’s history. The previous year had been one of struggles, layoffs, bad press, the appointment of a new CEO and plenty of nay-sayers calling for the death of RIM.

Some said it was too late for RIM. The Blackberry’s world market share had gone from close to 50% 4-5 years earlier to just over 5% today. Apple’s iPhone and the newer Android phones had changed everything. Each new model stealing more and more of the market away from RIM. As the bring-your-own-device movement has grown, more and more people have gone from having a work phone or carrying two devices, to using just one device of their choice.

But during this time, even with plenty of defections to the competition, RIM had still managed to grow their user base to 80 million. Nothing to sneeze at for sure. But can it hold onto them? If RIM can help it…BB10 will change everything.

Thorsten Heins takes the stage to great applause. CEO for just a year, Thorsten has had his work cut out for him. He begins by welcoming the crowd and acknowledging the difficult year leading up to now. One of the first announcements made is that Rim (Research in Motion) will now become Blackberry, one brand.IMG_0428

The next hour or so are full of announcements,  demonstrations and plenty of cheering from the crowd. As Thorsten introduces BB10, dubbed a “mobile computing platform”, he goes on to explain that BB10 represents a platform for the next ten years.

Capable of running powerful devices, connecting devices like your car, and launching Blackberry into a new era. With growing anticipation, the new Blackberry smartphones are finally introduced to the crowd to great applause. As anticipated, they include a touchscreen model, dubbed the Z10, and a physical keyboard model — the Q10. Both models boasting larger screens than any previous Blackberries. The Z10 features a full 4.2 inch screen with higher resolution than the iPhone 5!

New features are highlighted, like Blackberry Balance — the ability to separate work and personal files and apps,  Timeshift photos, peek, and flow, Blackberry Hub and more. The integration of all social media together with email and instant messaging is RIM’s solution to information overload and the need to open various applications to check for updates on other devices.IMG_0452

Through various demonstrations we preview the new BBM video chat function and BB10’s ability to share a user’s screen with another across the country or across the globe. Next, the subject of apps!  Over 70,000 apps will be available at launch — the largest number of any “new’ platform at launch. Apps like Skype, Amazon Kindle, Angry Birds and over 1,000 of the tops apps for other platforms.

For me personally, a native Amazon Kindle app is absolutely huge and a welcome addition. As an ebook author and reader, the lack of a Kindle app for the Blackberry Playbook tablet had always left a big hole in my user experience. I look forward to trying it out on the Blackberry Z10!

At one point during the presentation, Thorsten pointed out that there were six launches happening around the world simultaneously — New York, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, London and Johannesburg — before pulling up a live screen showing the crowd at each event.  Truly a global launch!

Blackberry also used the launch as an opportunity to announce that Alicia Keys, the singer and performer, will be Blackberry’s new Global Creative Director. Alicia used an analogy about dating to describe how she had been a faithful Blackberry user years before, but began to notice newer, cooler looking devices at the gym and began “seeing other phones”. With the launch of BB10 she was now going steady with Blackberry again because it now met both her work and personal needs and looked sexy again. IMG_0451As one of her first assignments, Alicia will be travelling around the world, talking to customers and Blackberry users — and will document her experiences using her Z10.

When would the new devices be available?  The Z10 will be released first followed by the Q10 in early April.

Due to carrier testing they would not be available in the U.S. until March, but were available the next day in the UK, and on sale in Canada February 5th! Although prices may vary, Thorsten did acknowledge that the Z10 would be priced at $149.95 with a 3-year contract in Canada.

The one month delay for a U.S. release was a disappointment to many and could have a negative  impact on the momentum Blackberry is trying to build around the launch. Both the UK and Canada represent large, important markets for Blackberry and it will be interesting to see what sales look like in the next few weeks.

In his closing remarks, Thorsten told the crowd that everyone would leave with their very own Blackberry Z10 so they could try out all of the exciting new features for themselves. The crowd erupted!  It felt like an Oprah moment when she would give everyone in her audience one of her favorite things!

As things wrapped up, we all made our way to another room to demo the phone for ourselves and get some lunch. The event had left me feeling positive about Blackberry and its future. The devices looked great, and some of the new features were really cool. I was looking forward to trying one out myself!

I have now been using the Z10 for 5 days and I really like it. I am hoping to do a full review next week. Stay tuned.

To watch the live event, you can see it here.

The events didn’t end there for Team Blackberry Elite members. Following lunch we boarded a couple of buses and the Blackberry staff took us on a tour of the city/scavenger hunt type event. It was fun and we got to try out our new phones while seeing incredible NYC. Blackberry really went out of their way to not only show us a great time, but also to meet with all of us and answer our questions. I even met Thorsten Heins.

Later that evening my wife and I attended the Blackberry Fan Event at Milk Studios, where we were treated to free drinks and great music.  The place was packed and when Thorsten arrived he received a rockstar welcome! He even posed for pictures with all of the excited fans. What a fantastic trip, event and experience. Kudos to the Blackberry staff and management for a great day!

Blackberry 10 Launch

Blackberry 10 launchI attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City on Wednesday. As a member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was treated to a day of fun, food, excitement and city tours and ended with a Fan Experience party. I also left the event with a brand new Blackberry Z10 smartphone!

I am still in New York and have been using the phone quite a bit. I hope to do a full review soon. Stay tuned!

Is RIM Finished?

I feel compelled to write something following the most recent quarterly earnings by Research in Motion (RIM).

I have defended RIM over the past couple of years as it has taken its lumps from haters and analysts alike.  The company is going through a significant transition, not only in product lines (BB7 to BB10 platform) but with senior management as well.  With co-CEO’s Balsillie and Lazaridis stepping down in January 2012 due to significant shareholder pressure, and the appointment of Thorsten Heins as new CEO, the company got a bit of relief from the relentless thrashing and death knells in the media.

With new leadership came the hope that the company could make changes and right itself in time — before RIM’s plummeting market share did further damage to the brand and the company’s future.  Many feared it was too late to fix, and BlackBerry would go the way of Palm and Nokia.  Nokia is still with us, although barely — they have partnered with Microsoft and have abandoned their own operating system, Symbian, as it was suddenly outgunned by the Apple iPhone and Android-based smartphones on the market.  Nokia continues to struggle, lose market share and their future is very much uncertain.

Many call for RIM to make similar moves — abandon their BlackBerry platform all together, or sell off pieces of the company, get out the hardware business and just focus on their Blackberry platform and BBM messenger product or even license their platform to other companies like Samsung to produce their own phones.  The company continues to explore all strategic avenues, and cut costs.

But with their earnings report today, the company announced it lost $518 million, it will layoff another 5,000 employees and perhaps most devastating — the company is once again delaying the launch of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone line.  The company was to launch the new platform and phones this fall, but is now pushing the launch back until early 2013.  The company will now be another 6 months behind Apple and Google Android phones. Apple is set to launch the iPhone 5.0 in October — which is rumored to have a 4 inch screen and will sport iOS 6 to boot.

I fear that BlackBerry users and investors will now completely lose faith in this company.  The further delay of BB10 is perhaps the worst thing they could have possibly announced today, and shows that the company cannot execute.  The platform is now more than a year behind schedule, and RIM’s current crop of BB7 phones are growing older and older each day.  The company is only growing in developing markets.  Their market share in the U.S. and even Canada continues to plummet.

It is growing more and more doubtful that RIM can survive.  The company’s value is shrinking and will increasingly become a target of a buyout, which some see as their only hope anyway.  It has been a sad fall from grace for this Canadian icon.  The company created the wireless email and smartphone industries, but has now been overtaken as the industry leader and fights for its very survival.

Only time will tell if RIM can survive as a company.

 

 

 

 

BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Review

By Nevin Buconjic
For www.digitaladventures.ca 

With the recent launch of RIM’s Blackberry PlayBook 2.0 software update, the device now has integrated/improved email, calendar and contacts, Android support and other features.  Were the improvements enough to make the PlayBook a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the NOOK Tablet, and all the other Android tablets on the market?

Since I already own an iPad 2, and a Barnes & Noble NOOK Color (7″ e-reader/tablet) I wanted to compare the PlayBook to my experiences with them.

First Impressions

The PlayBook is sturdy in your hands, and seems to be a good build.  It definitely feels different than the iPad 2 (which I am used to handling).  The PlayBook feels slightly heavier, even though it is a 7″ tablet versus the 9.8″ iPad 2, but the rubber backing allows for a comfortable grip.

While powering on the unit, I noticed it took several minutes to boot up.  I was not sure  if this was a normal occurrence, but I definitely did not expect it.  Being a tablet, I would not expect to have to wait over a minute to boot up — it reminded me of my Windows PC.  After additional tests, I have confirmed that the PlayBook takes over 2 1/2 minutes to boot up.  Compared to the 43 seconds it takes to boot my iPad, this is completely unacceptable.  If this is somehow an anomaly, and not common for other users, please let me know!

The first thing I did upon boot up was entered my email, and social media account information.  This was all accessible from one screen, and I quickly had signed up with each of my accounts.  I found this to be unique, as typically you would login to these accounts through their particular apps or websites.  In this case, the PlayBook used my information to pull in contact info from all of my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

I opened the Contacts application and it was already full of contacts — all from my social media accounts.  I clicked on a few to see what information it had pulled.  It was really quite amazing.  The PlayBook had filled in the email, phone numbers, and birth date, as well as providing a brief bio of each person — including job title, and employer.  There were several icons to the right, which when pressed displayed more information pulled from the social media accounts — including recent status updates, shared meetings and common contacts.

It was both interesting and useful to have all of this information at my finger tips — without having to look for it online.  My only reservation was, the application had pulled in ALL contacts from the various social media services.  The problem clearly being — the majority our social media contacts are friends or acquaintances, whom we do not regularly communicate with, and do not even want to.  I did not want most of these “contacts” on my PlayBook.  I hope there is a way to mass delete or filter out many of the contacts — without having to simply delete the connection to Facebook or Twitter.  I will have to investigate this.

Next I tested out the integrated email.  I quickly drafted a test email and sent it to my other account.  No problems here, and the keyboard was decent — it seemed to display all the necessary characters, including numbers — all on one screen.  I did not have to hit the shift key in order to enter numbers, like I do on my iPad.  This was helpful.  I then set up a few meetings in the calendar for good measure.  Within minutes, the appointment reminder popped up on screen to warn me of an upcoming meeting.

My verdict on the newly integrated email/calendar/contacts applications?  I had no complaints other than that all of them could only be viewed in landscape mode — which I guess made sense here…but I am used to being able to choose either landscape or portrait view.  When receiving a new email, the PlayBook beeped, and a red LED flashed as a notification.  This works well, in case you walk away and miss the beep, when you return you will know there is an email or calendar notification waiting to be checked.

Games and Apps

Next I moved onto the BlackBerry AppWorld.  Like many of you, I have already heard that there are not a lot of apps for the PlayBook.  I was anxious to see exactly what was available.  After briefly reviewing the “featured apps” I clicked on the Games tab.  The first thing I noticed was there were three great games being offered for free!  These were Asphalt 6, Modern Combat 2, and Need for Speed Undercover.  I downloaded each one by one.  With an average size of about 450 MB the games took a while to download over Wi-Fi.  While I waited I began writing this review.

I’m not sure how these game downloads compare to my other devices, as I normally download large apps to my computer (wired Ethernet) which was faster , and then sync to my iPad.  It definitely seemed to take a long time, but this could be related to my relatively slow Internet service.

All three games provided excellent gaming experiences.  The 7″ screen provided enough room for decent game play, the graphics were solid and sound from the unit was also high quality.

I then moved onto free apps.  Since Facebook had already been installed, I moved on down the list.  Not a lot looked familiar.  There is definitely a smaller pool of apps to choose from.  But at the end of the day, of the hundreds of apps on my iPhone and iPad, I only use a handful of them.  So is a huge selection of useless apps really necessary?  I think most apps are a novelty, but there are definitely more useful, creative and fun apps available for other platforms, and part of the fun is finding these new apps.  I think this excitement is currently missing in the BlackBerry AppWorld.  This could change, however, as more Android apps get ported over, and more native apps are developed.

Social Media

Everyone knows that social media is very important to mobile users.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube apps are taken for granted.   And new services like Pinterest are popping up each week.  The PlayBook does have a Facebook and YouTube app available.  I could not however, find a native Twitter app or a LinkedIn app.  No problem right?  Both have mobile sites, easily accessible on the Internet.  I fired up the browser and pointed it at Twitter.com — it would not load!  LinkedIn did work fine, however.

Eventually I did get Twitter to load properly.  I’m not sure if it was a Twitter or a PlayBook problem, but the browser did seem finicky — I seemed to have issues loading certain websites every once in a while.

Perhaps it is unfair to judge the PlayBook for not having native apps for all of the social media services, as I am used to with my iPad.  Hopefully as the number of PlayBook/Blackberry 10 users increase in the future, many of these companies will see the need to develop for the QNX platform.

Ebooks

Reading ebooks and other things is one of my iPad’s main functions.  I have apps for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks as well as other reading apps on my iPad.  I love the variety, and ability to buy books from any of these services (plus I can price shop).  The only official e-reading app for the PlayBook is Kobo (a spin-off of Canadian bookseller Chapters-Indigo).  According to their website, Kobo has over 2.2 million books, newspapers and magazines and because I have purchased books from Kobo before, I know that it is a good service.

But how does the reading experience compare?  I prefer Kobo on my iPad because of the bigger screen, and the page animations — which the PlayBook version does not have.  However, one major advantage of the PlayBook version is the ability to buy books from within the Kobo app.  Apple forced all iOS e-reader apps to pay a percentage of ebook sales to Apple, if purchased within the app — so essentially every company removed their ebook stores from their apps.  Now iPad users must purchase ebooks from each company’s website and then download or sync the to the iPad.  This is somewhat of an inconvenience.

I have already purchased a number of ebooks from Amazon Kindle.  I can read these books on my iPhone, iPad or on my PC.  I assumed I could also read them on the PlayBook, as Amazon offers the ability to read your digital books right on their website.  This should be possible right from the browser on the PlayBook.  Unfortunately, I got an error each time I tried to open a Kindle book!  Not good.

Getting Work Done

The BlackBerry PlayBook is first and foremost geared to the enterprise user, so how well does it do for getting work done?  Well the PlayBook has some advanced features for using it directly with your existing BlackBerry phone — the Blackberry Bridge program allows you to link the devices, share information, use BlackBerry Messenger, and even use your phone as a wireless mouse and keyboard.

With the included Documents-To-Go I was able to create spreadsheets, presentations and Microsoft Word-compatible documents.  You can also edit existing Microsoft Office files.  Adobe Reader allowed me to read PDF files, including books in PDF format.  There were also many work and business type applications available on AppWorld.  I think the PlayBook works as a decent extension of the Blackberry phone, which will be helpful to existing BlackBerry clients.

Overall Impression

So after playing around with the PlayBook for a couple of days, I do think it is a decent tablet.  It is really good at some things, but just ok at others.  I don’t really see it as a fun consumer device.  But then it was initially built for and geared towards existing BlackBerry customers, and mostly business ones at that.

Does it compare to the iPad 2?  Not in my opinion.  There is just so much about the iPad that is better, easier or more fun.  But I think that at current prices — $199 for 16 GB and $249 for 32GB models, the PlayBook is in a different category.  At these prices, the fair comparison should be made to e-readers like the Nook Tablet, Nook Color, Kobo Vox or Kindle Fire.

I can say one thing for sure…the PlayBook blows away my Nook Color.  I got the Nook for Christmas 2010 — just over a year ago.  At the time it was the first affordable color tablet/e-reader — retailing for $250.  You can read my review of the Nook Color here.

The Nook Color, while fun at the time, is quite slow and not very user friendly as a tablet.  A recent OS update for the Nook Color allowed it to use Netflix and other Android apps — but it is still very clunky.  it is simply just really good at being an e-reader.  The Nook Tablet may be another story, but I have not tried one.  My wife now uses our Nook Color exclusively for reading books, and the price has been lowered to $169.

While all of these e-reader competitors are Android-based tablets with 7″ color screens, I think the real difference when compared to the PlayBook is that they are consumer devices made for reading ebooks, and accessing other multimedia like videos, movies and music.  They each have custom interfaces and controlled environments, including limited access to apps.  The PlayBook, on the other hand, is a true tablet — putting work and productivity first, together with media and fun stuff as a bonus.

If ebooks are your thing, you might want to look at the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, and even Kobo Vox before considering the PlayBook.  But if you are looking for a device which you can use for some work and some play, the PlayBook is a solid choice.  If you are already a BlackBerry user, then this is a no brainer.

On the other hand, if you have $500-700 to spend on a tablet, then the Apple iPad should be your choice.  While there are some limitations with the iPad, I simply can’t think of one  reason other than cost that would make you choose another tablet at this time.

The BlackBerry PlayBook cannot compete against the iPad, but neither can any of the other tablets on the market.  I think RIM realized this almost immediately (as HP did), but have persevered as the PlayBook is more than just a product — it represents  RIM’s future OS platform.

While the PlayBook’s discounted prices may not continue forever, I don’t think any 7″ tablets can be priced at more than $300, to compete.  Consumers have overwhelmingly shown that $200 is the sweet spot for any tablet, unless it is an Apple iPad.

Final Verdict

The Good

  • Compact device -easy to handle
  • Decent battery life
  • Great for multitasking
  • Plays music and video files and music/video store
  • New Android support — I will assume the number and variety of apps will increase in the future
  • Current low pricing makes it a good investment
  • Built-in HDMI for connection to your HDTV
  • Integration of social media services

The Bad

  • Not use to the different user interface, it was not always intuitive navigation
  • Browser issues — problems loading Twitter and could not read Kindle books online
  • Very slow boot-up time — over 2 1/2 minutes!
  • Touch screen response slow — sometimes did not register tapping
  • Smaller selection of apps
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