OS 2.0 for the BlackBerry PlayBook launched on February 21st. It’s a major update to the tablet device bringing some much needed function as well as some welcome novel features. OS 2.0’s main new feature is it’s integrated Android app player. Essentially BlackBerry have added a player that allows Android apps to work on the playbook. RIM have been doing their utmost to get Android developers to port their apps for the QNX (BB10) software by offering them a free PlayBook if they sign up and add an app. Pretty good deal to be honest.
Appworld and Android Player
The new Android apps can be found in BlackBerry Appworld but you are also able to sideload them from a computer (which we’ll go into in another article). RIM have said that currently over 6000 Android developers have signed up which should bring a needed boost to the number of apps on offer in BlackBerry Appworld. Personally I believe it’s more about quality then quantity in relation to apps but it’s also no harm to have more options. Appworld has also had a slight re design to better show off the apps it has.
The second most notable change in the OS is the inclusion of a native email application (somewhat equivalent to Microsoft Outlook). Previously email work over a Bridge if you had a BlackBerry mobile device, or you logged into your email account using the web browser. A lot of people complained about the lack of inclusion of a native email app. Well it’s here now and it does so much more. You can sync email, calendar and contacts for each email account you have if it’s supported. Not only can you add your email accounts to it but also your social feeds such as FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can only send and receive direct messages to and from individuals from your social feeds rather then seeing everything posted. But there are plenty of paid and free apps in Appworld to handle your normal view of your social feeds.
The contacts function on the PlayBook has been heavily upgraded. It allows you to link contacts who have Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter accounts to the contacts primary details which is a great way to organise them.
The new touch screen keyboard now offers predictive functions. As you type it tries to guess the word from a list it displays just above the keyboard. I’ve tried this and if you get used to it it’s nearly possible to write sentences without using the keyboard much at all except to type an initial letter or two.
The browser for me is a lot faster and smoother then the one in OS 1. It still supports all the flash you can eat but it can become unstable if you open more than 3 tabs at a time. The power of the multi tasking aspect of the new OS is still amazing. You can have lots of apps open and fully functioning in the background with out any loss to performance. Something many other tablets cannot do despite having similar specs. This is the power of the new BB10 OS coming at the end of this year to BlackBerry mobile devices.
A couple of new apps have appeared too. While we wait for Zinio to launch it’s app (due in March) for the PlayBook there’s also new RSS feed app from BlackBerry and a nice little app called PressReader which allows you to buy and download newspapers from all over the world (including Ireland). The app itself is very neat and easy to use. It comes with 7 free credits for you to try the system but I for one will be using after these have gone, it’s just that handy. Especially on long journeys.
For UI we now have folder possibilities where you can add apps to a single folder to better organise them. There’s a new “Printtogo” feature which many think “what’s the point” until you actually use it. Printtogo works by allowing you to install a virtual printer on your PC which you can then print any file to. The virtual printer converts the file to a PDF and sends it instantly to your BlackBerry. Sure why not email it? Well emailing means I have to convert the file my self to a pdf, open my email client, compose a new email, attache the file and click send, then wait for the email to arrive to my PlayBook, open the email and then download the file…etc… you get my point. The printtogo function allows for lots of time saving. Very handy for meetings or travel (maps and tickets, confirmations of bookings etc…)
One of the coolest new functions, which is only available to BlackBerry mobile users, is the bridge function. The bridge function previously allowed users to access files, email, browser, calendar and contacts on their BlackBerry smartphone. There was a separate folder on the PlayBook which showed these options when it was connected via bluetooth to the mobile device. Now the power of the bridge function has been extended to allow you to control your playbook via your smartphone. You can open and close apps, move around, basically do anything you want on your PlayBook right from your BlackBerry smartphone. You can open links or pictures from your smartphone on your PlayBook to take advantage of its larger screen with one click. If you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation on your PlayBook while it’s connected to a projector, you can control the presentation remotely from your mobile device. The power of bridge is still being uncovered with people reporting they can use it to control other devices too such as their PS3.
Overall OS2 is a welcome arrival and adds considerable value to the Playbook (which itself is a bargain at 219 in PCworld Ireland for 16GB model). It gives us a glimpse at what might be coming later this year in the form of the new BB10 powered BlackBerry smartphone. Let us know what you think and if you were tempted into buying one. We’ll put up some how to’s in a while for the OS so stay tuned to Irish Tech News