The Babe’s Blackberry Playbook Review

by Justin Kapahi, Resident Geek

Giving the Blackberry Playbook the middle finger

Blackberry Playbook Review – The Babe’s take
I have to admit that when RIM announced the Playbook many months ago, I got some serious wood. Admittedly, I love my iPad but the thought of having my corporate email and files on an enterprise-class tablet had me salivating. Not to mention the tablet would support Adobe Flash. I was so juiced I actually reserved a Playbook and stood on line at Best Buy for 2 hours before it opened so I could be first to have one. On a side note, I was happy to observe that I was not the only gadget-hound who has an iPad-shaped messenger bag (a.k.a. “man purse”).

But now I have to tell you, The Babe was disappointed.

Pricing
The Playbook has the same pricing tiers as the iPad. $500 nets you a 16GB device. You pay $100 more for 32GB of flash-based disk space, and another $100 will get you 64GB. It’s the exact same pricing model as the non-3G iPad.

Times must be tough at RIM when this is your Blackberry Model

What is the price of the 3G (or dare I say 4G) playbook? Answer: There is no price because the product does not exist. There is no 3G. Apparently the people at RIM live on the moon where there is no cellular reception. RIM does plan to release a 4G model “sometime in the summer.”  I’m not holding my breath.

The Screen
The Playbook has a 7 inch screen. By comparison, the iPad has a 10 inch screen. Since screen measurements are done from corner to corner, those 3 inches actually mean the Playbook’s screen is about half the size of the iPad. You pay the same price, but you get half the screen. That sounds fair.

"Why is yours bigger than mine?" "Genetics, Pee-wee."

Having said that, the screen has a gorgeous display. I tried the HD video sample, and wow, those tigers and lions look pretty sweet. It reminds me of watching DVDs in the back of my buddy’s Cadillac.

What is really interesting is the black bezel around the screen. It is actually a touch-pad that allows the user to use gestures to activate capabilities. Swipe one way and the home screen comes up…Swipe the other way and the options menu pops into action. I don’t know…If I was the designer, I would have put more display in that area. Call me crazy.

Gadgets and Doo-dads
The Playbook has a mini-HDMI output, a micro-USB connector/charger plug, multimedia controls, front and rear-facing cameras, and some weird expansion port that I’ve never seen before. I have 3 clear plastic boxes filled with extra cables and power supplies in my house and none of them fit in the mystery port. I’m not even going to read the manual. If don’t recognize the port, it’s useless.

Doesn't this kinda look like seedy Blackberry porn?

To be fair, I love the fact that I can charge this puppy with the same charger I charge everything not made by Apple. At least one person at RIM can keep their job.

Software
I’m about to go off on a Babe tangent. A while back, RIM bought some company that made an OS called QNX. QNX is supposed to be next-generation mobile operating system. Let’s look at some of the facts:

FACT 1:  There are literally hundreds of millions blackberries out there with RIM OS on it today.
FACT 2: There are literally hundreds of thousands of companies with expensive Blackberry Enterprise Servers already working perfectly with the aforementioned blackberries.
FACT 3:  There are ZERO blackberry phones with QNX running on them today.
FACT 4:  A Blackberry Enterprise Server cannot control a device running QNX

So in light of these facts, some Rhodes Scholar working at RIM decided to scrap the whole thing, buy a new system that nobody has ever used before, and then release a “world-changing” enterprise tablet that is not compatible with anything else that RIM makes (or anything…period).

WTF are they doing in there?

I’m not saying that QNX isn’t a great operating system, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t belong on this tablet. What I am saying is that if you buy a Blackberry Tablet and you leave your Blackberry phone at home (more on this is a moment), you have NO EMAIL. But “hold on” you say, “I use Gmail.” Go ahead, click on the Gmail icon. What happens next? You guessed it, the browser opens and I get mobile Gmail. It DOES NOT download the email to the device. No Internet. No Email. No WiFi? No 3G? No Email.

So basically, the company that has made every red cent of its earnings selling EMAIL DEVICES releases a tablet that sucks at email. FAIL. Could you imagine if you bought a product from Google that didn’t have search? For fucks sake, I bought a Google toilet that can search my ass.

The Blackberry Bridge

When you first turn on a new Playbook, a handy-dandy wizard will walk you through setting up Wi-Fi and a new feature known as “Blackberry Bridge.” I followed all the instructions including an interesting step in which used the camera on my phone to scan a barcode on the playbook’s screen in order to pair the device. When I would get to the last step, my AT&T Blackberry Torch would not install the bridger software.

After some research, I found the answer. Turns out AT&T phones are blocked from downloading the application. ARE YOU F–CKING KIDDING ME? That’s right folks; if you use AT&T you can’t read your Blackberry email on your Blackberry device. Other scenarios this reminds me of:

  • Going to a rub and tug and not getting the “tug” (Mama-San only rubs stinky oil all over your back.)
  • Going to Shake Shack only to learn they are out of shakes
  • Mariano Rivera throwing the ball into the outfield, and Jay Bell advancing to third.
  • Dave Roberts stealing second…(with Rivera on the mound again)
  • Wally World being closed after a rather eventful trip across the country
  • Adibise from OZ quitting the show LOST because he hated Hawaii and causing the writers to abandon some great story lines.

In other words, all significantly shitty moments of my life. But never fear young Padiwan, The Babe hacked it and got the Blackberry Bridge to work. It’s basically a big monitor for your Blackberry. Somebody explain to me why they didn’t just make this app for iPad and just forgo the billions of dollars spent developing this tablet.

"At&T huh? Sorry, but we are not talking."

The Browser

The Playbook comes with supposedly an enterprise-class modern web browser. At first glance, this appears to be true. The browser is fast, and web pages look beautiful. I browse over to my favorite Adobe Flash site, and BAM!, the content plays beautifully. Take that iPad fans! Take that Motorola Zoom fans! They promised Flash, and they delivered.

So imagine my excitement as I’m browsing through all my favorite sites, when all of a sudden I click on a link and the browser immediately crashes. First time, no big deal. I re-open the browser, go back to my site, and the browser crashes again…and again…and again…and again…

Being the tech-geek that I am, I begin my investigation. Turns out, if you click on a link that contains content that the playbook doesn’t support, the browser closes rather than display an error message. What was the offending content? The web site was using Basic Authentication. Have you ever been to a website when a little pop-up window asks for your credentials? I’m sure you have. Websites have been doing this since 1994. I think my Intel-386 and 14.4 modem with the Mosaic browser could handle basic authentication. I’m 99% sure it could. I bet my commodore 64 could it as well.

"If I don't punch in these numbers, your browser will crash."

RIM could have licensed Google Chrome, FireFox, or Opera. They could have gotten really silly and just included the browser that comes with the Blackberry Torch, Bold, or Curve. They could have done many things, but are you really surprised at the company that releases a mobile device that can’t join a mobile network? You shouldn’t be at this point.

The Babe’ Summary
This device simply isn’t ready to be released. Most of the software I tested on the Playbook was buggy. There really isn’t much I’m comfortable doing with this thing. I can only assume that people at RIM have been banned from ever stepping outside their cubicles, because it seems pretty obvious they haven’t ever seen anything made by Apple.

It’s priced exactly the same as an Ipad, but you only get a screen about half the size of an iPad, and if you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can’t do much. If you don’t have a Blackberry, this tablet is completely useless, and even if you do have a Blackberry (not with AT&T) you’re lucky enough to read your email on a screen that isn’t that much larger than your phone.

So now I’m back to thinking about that mystery port. Maybe it unlocks all the cool functionality! I have to try it, here goes…4…8…15…16…23…42. NO!!!!!!!

[browser crash]


2 Comments

  1. Excellent write-up. I’ll stick with the (Ry)Pad.

  2. No playbook for me. I made the mistake of buying a Blackberry phone. Because it’s supposed to be a business tool, I thought it would be first class. What a mistake. It’s a total clunker! RIM really doesn’t appear to have looked at any phones put out by the competition. After my Blackberry phone experience, I bought an ipad instead of a Playbook. RIM is doomed.