With the release of PlayBook OS 2.0, Research In Motion re-established itself in the tablet market with (finally) native email, calendar and contacts apps, the ability to run ported android apps, and many other improvements over its original tablet OS. These improvements were a long time coming (around ten months after the tablet’s original release) but, they are solid, well done features that add to the value of an already good multi-tasking tablet. Although it definitely leaves things to be desired, like a better populated app store, the PlayBook (with OS 2.0) is far and away the best value tablet for its price ($199 for 16 Gig, $249 for 32, and $299 for a 64 Gigabyte version)
Although it has taken a drastic price-drop (from $499 for the 16, $599 for the 32 Gig, and $699 for the 64 Gigabyte versions to the prices I mentioned above) for the PlayBook to start selling in any significant amount, and a major software update to become critically appreciated, the PlayBook offers compelling features at a near-steal price. For instance, real time “true multi-tasking” capabilities, world-recognized BlackBerry security, an excellent (PIM) Personal Information Management suite (Calendar, Contacts and Email), an outstanding Flash and HTML5 browser that knocks the pants off most other mobile browsers, solid media capabilities, excellent dual cameras (5 Mega-pixel back, and 3 mega-pixel front) and video chatting of quality superior to Apple’s Facetime.
I bought my PlayBook in December, when the PlayBook’s price had dived to $199 for the first time, and I haven’t had an issue or a complaint with it yet, other than the fact that the App World should be far better populated (app numbers are steadily increasing, and there are a large range of High quality games, so in all, it’s not horrible, but definitely not comparable to the Ipad’s App Store.)
RIM has stated that they will not abandon the PlayBook (as HP did with it’s TouchPad tablet), despite initially very poor sales. So, logically, that would suggest that at one point or another, there will be a successor, a second PlayBook. In that spirit, I have compiled a list of what I would like to see in PlayBook 2, including tweaks to the OS, rumors that have been circulating, and physical improvements.
1 – 4-G capability
Many (including the IPad 3, although it was not the first) tablets can now be bought in a 4G cellular data version,which is handy if you travel a lot and you need to do business on-the-go. Although you can tether your smartphone to the PlayBook for mobile browsing, there is not, as of yet, a 3G or 4G PlayBook. I think with a fair data plan from a cellular service provider, BlackBerry could do quite well with this, as I’m sure many business people would appreciate it.
I think there is a very good chance of this making it into the next PlayBook, as it is a no-brainer, and there have been rumours and photos going around for a while now of a 4G PlayBook. This leads me into my next prediction.
2 – Improved Battery
Although the battery life of the current PlayBook is respectable – around 7 hours multi-media (games, movies, apps) and Internet Browsing, and around 11 hours of E-Reading – it would definitely be nice to see it improved in the next PlayBook, especially if there is to be 3G or 4G connectivity, as both of those, especially 4G, are well known battery hogs. Also, battery life has been steadily climbing in newer tablets and it would be nice to see RIM boost it to stay ahead of some of the competition.
I am almost certain that if the next PlayBook includes either 3G or 4G, that it will have a bigger battery, as it would reduce the battery life by more than half if 4G was enabled on the same size battery as the current PlayBook.
3 – Elevated Power Button
The power button has been a huge complaint for some PlayBook users, who find it is too small to push down without using a pen, I don’t have that problem, although it definitely needs to be raised for easier access, I don’t find it to be as big a problem as some users do.
I definitely think this will be improved in the next PlayBook, as many customers were disappointed with the fairly un-accessible power button on the current model. (After doing some more reading up, I believe that RIM may have already in fact implemented this.)
4 – Camera Improvements
Although the camera on the PlayBook is already excellent, it couldn’t hurt to improve it now could it? The two main things I would like to see improved with regard to the camera are, Flash and Autofocus would be nice, oh, and the photos can be a little noisy in dimly lit areas, it would be nice to see that fixed, and the lens sunk a little bit back into (instead of flush with) the back of the PlayBook to protect it.
I would be surprised if any more than one or two (If any) of these changes were incorporated into the next PlayBook, as the camera is already pretty good.
5 – External Memory
There is no micro-SD slot in the PlayBook and I think it would be really nice to have one, to augment the internal storage, especially if you bought a 16 Gigabyte version and (like me) are finding that it’s not quite big enough for all your needs.
I expect that this probably won’t be in the next model of the PlayBook, as much as I would like it to be, many tablet makers don’t include them and I don’t think RIM will in this case either.
6 – Support for Cross-Platform Video Chatting
As I already mentioned, the video chatting on the PlayBook is very high quality and easy to use, so it’s a pity it isn’t cross compatible with Android and iOS devices, Hopefully, this will be changed in the next PlayBook release, or in a software update. At the very least, I fully expect you will be able to video chat with BlackBerry 10 smartphones and superphones when they come out at the end of this year. PlayBook OS 2.0 is, after all the foundation for BlackBerry 10.
Although I would be surprised if the next PlayBook doesn’t support video chatting with BlackBerry 10 phones (when they come out), and hopefully in the future Android phones and tablets, I would be surprised if it ever supports video calling to iOS.
7 – More Advanced File Browser and Search Functionality
The stock file browser (new in OS 2.0) is very basic, merely showing all Videos, Pictures, Audio files, and documents on the PlayBook. It would be nice to see something a little more advanced, perhaps showing the file directories on the Playbook (the option for a basic one and an advanced one would be nice to suit all levels of users.) Also, and this is probably a more reasonable prediction than the last one, at the top of the PlayBook, in the notification bar, probably in the far left should be a search icon, tap it and it should ask you if you want to search the internet or your device. Tap one, and (still in a pop-down bubble that stretches across the top of the screen) enter your search criteria and show the top results. There should also be an option to go full screen. Something like the photo on the right perhaps.
I do not expect to see a file manager the likes of which I described, but still, it would be nice. And although this photo was poorly edited on Microsoft Paint, i wouldn’t be surprised to see a search function of this nature sometime in the future, in the next major PlayBook OS update (possibly BlackBerry 10?) perhaps.
8 – Higher Resolution Screen
The PlayBook has a 1220 by 600 Pixel screen, which, for its 7 inch size is quite good and results in a very respectable 170 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). However, for the sake of improvement, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in the screen resolution. Indeed, after the IPad 3, with higher PPI than anything before it, I believe all devices from now on will have higher resolution screens. (Thanks Apple, for ruining every screen in my house for me with your cursed gorgeous retina display!)
I expect we will see a resolution increase in the next PlayBook, even if it’s not a very large increase, (and it doesn’t need to be, the screen is already very vibrant and sharp). However, for improvement’s sake, I expect we will see an increase here.
9 – Improved CPU and Hardware Specs.
Although the specs that the PlayBook sports are respectable, it’s been almost a full year since the tablet’s launch. That’s a long time as far as technological advancements go. And it is now very common to see tablets touting quad-core processors, which would have been un-heard of just a few years ago. So, although it’s by no means slow as it is, I expect to see some hardware improvements to help the PlayBook stay fairly on top of the game. Perhaps, as rumour has it, a dual core 1.5 gigahertz processor is in order, as opposed to the dual core 1 gigahertz processor that it now uses. (Although thee are just rumours, they do seem to be fairly creditable. And I know it also says 3G plus, so we will see how that turns out.) Maybe, just maybe we may even see a quad core processor? That would be nice, but in the (very nice) 7 inch form of the PlayBook, I doubt it.
I am pretty sure we will see some hardware upgrades, like an improved dual core processor, and possibly more RAM. Remember, this is a multi-tasking tablet, so once you get several apps going at once it uses a lot of memory, which brings us into my next prediction.
10 – Better Memory Management/Application Coding.
Because the PlayBook can run multiple apps at the same time, it seems like there is a limit to the amount of RAM a running app can use. That means, that (some apps more than others) sometimes, an app will take noticeably longer to load than, lets say an Android or iOS device. I’m neither a developer or programmer, so I wont go into any specifics as I would only embarrass myself by talking about things I don’t know about, but it would be nice to have apps open faster. However, if that’s not possible, I would gladly give it up for the awesome true multi-tasking the PlayBook already boasts, so this isn’t a very serious issue. However, what RIM CAN do for sure, is code their apps a little better, I have noticed this especially with the messages and contacts apps, but after using them for a while, they can become slow to the point of un-usability. Although you can just re-load the app to fix this, this definitely needs working on.
I think we will probably see some improvements in the speed with which apps open, quite possibly linked into possible improved hardware in the next PlayBook OS (possibly BlackBerry 10).
11 – Faster Boot-Up
After the release of PlayBook OS 2.0, and the addition of the Android runtime into the OS, Boot-Time increased significantly, from (OS 22.214.171.12467) one minute and 15 seconds to around 2 minutes and forty-six seconds. Although this isn’t as big an issue as it sounds, compared to the IPad 3’s approximately 32 seconds, it needs to be improved.
I expect in the next major Software release there will be some improvements and optimizations to decrease boot-time. Although, considering the fact that it is running Android within its native QNX OS, and the fluid multi-tasking that it has always offered, I’m not too worried about this.
12 – Better PDF Application.
It has long been a complaint of PlayBook users who read lengthy PDF files or books that the Adobe Reader PDR reading app for the PlayBook doesn’t have a bookmark function. Or any functions at all, for that matter. All you can do is open PDF files and change the page(obviously). Although an alternate app, qPDF viewer, is available from the App World, it is far slower that the adobe reader app and that doesn’t support bookmarking either! So, it has been around a year since the PlayBook’s launch, why wasn’t this included in the initial release? And why is it STILL not here?
Although I am hopeful that this will come soon, in a software update or even in the next major OS version, it has taken far too long already. One year is inexcusable for such a basic feature. Shame on you Adobe, and all other complacent developers, PlayBook users are sick and tired of waiting. GET A MOVE ON! Which takes us right into my next wish.
13 – MORE DEVELOPER EFFORT.
I put this one in Caps Lock, and underlined it because I can’t stress how important this is. It is neither a Hardware or Operating system change, so you may be wondering why I included this. Quite simply put, without apps and games, an operating system is virtually useless to the vast majority of people, and to get those apps to an operating system, developers have to either write apps for that operating system, or port them over to it.
The PlayBook App World, is under populated. More apps are coming in, and the problem is slowly being fixed, BUT, big developers need to start porting their apps. For instance, Amazon said, before the PlayBook was even released that they would make a Kindle app for the PlayBook. We are still waiting. There isn’t an official Twitter app either, (although Lemma does a good job replacing it), or Netflix, Skype, or any number of other apps that you can find on iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone 7. This is pretty disappointing from an end-user perspective, and I can only hope that developers will start porting their apps, as there are a lot of PlayBook users out there anxious for more good apps.
I think over time this problem will go away as more aps flow in, but I can only hope that it is sooner rather that the consistent ‘later’ that PlayBook users have become accustomed to, and that big-name apps start coming in in large numbers soon.
14 – BlackBerry 10
Since RIM has recently confirmed that the PlayBook will be upgraded to BlackBerry OS 10 slightly after its release, It may be a reasonable assumption that the next PlayBook will be released after it has been upgraded to OS 10. I am very excited for BB 10, and the huge improvement it will bring to both BlackBerry’s phones and tablets, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see BlackBerry wait until BB 10 is ported to the PlayBook to release the next PlayBook.
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That Concludes my list of predictions for the next BlackBerry PlayBook, Thanks for reading and feel free to comment on this or any other articles on my blog!