We’ve always been impressed with the basic ideas behind the PlayBook OS — it’s a lot like webOS, and that’s a very good thing from a usability standpoint. The OS is elegant and smart, relying largely on bezel-based gestures that can quickly become second nature and generally work really well. The card-based interface is smoother than ever as you manage applications — though it’s still so heavily animated that things take a while to happen, whether they’re running smoothly or not. but the first version was sluggish and occasionally confusing, and there were bugs almost everywhere you turned.
With PlayBook 2.0, the whole OS feels more stable, without many of the hangs and lags that marred the original operating system. many of its quirks still remain, though: you’ll still constantly flip past the card you’re hunting for because scrolling is too elastic, and you’ll occasionally mash repeatedly on the same button trying to get it to respond. Little things like the volume buttons are also still off: the volume buttons press satisfyingly, but the device rarely responds, and when it does, it’s only to increase or decrease the volume a single notch. To go from zero to full sound took me 21 presses of the volume button, and many more head shakes and curse words. There’s still a long list of things wrong with this interface, even in its second version.
On the PlayBook’s home screen, there’s now a single application dock instead of the category sorting that existed before. you can drag and drop apps in and out of the dock (up to six live there at once), or drag one app on top of another to create a folder. If both of those things sound like they’re lifted from iOS, it’s because the PlayBook’s home screen now seems eerily reminiscent of an iPhone or iPad’s.
Speaking of iOS-style enhancements, there’s a new Reader Mode in the PlayBook’s browser that strips out all the formatting and clutter on a web page, and tries to present a more readable version of the page. it doesn’t work very well, though: it does a good job of parsing simple pages, but anything long, complex, or heavily formatted gets disorganized, and often whole sections of text get skipped. I like the idea of a Reader mode, but frankly, if it only works with very simple pages, what’s the point? The browser’s otherwise fairly similar, which is a good thing — it’s a great browser, even though scrolling continues to be the same awkward, too-fast or too-slow experience as the OS itself.
The keyboard’s been upgraded considerably, with an improved layout and autocorrection, and prediction added to the experience. I hate that it will automatically correct a word unless you actively choose the word you typed, but that’s not unique to the PlayBook. in general, the PlayBook’s keyboard is really excellent, proving that RIM can make an on-screen keyboard as well as it can make a hardware one.
Before PlayBook 2.0, the only way to manage email and the like on a PlayBook was through a BlackBerry smartphone, using the BlackBerry Bridge app. That app is now much less important, since the PlayBook functions much better as a standalone device, but there are still some cool things you can do by connecting your handset to your tablet. you can easily send files from BlackBerry to PlayBook, or open a URL on your tablet that you had running on your phone. as mentioned before, you can also use your phone as a remote for your Docs To Go presentations, or use it as a mouse and keyboard for your tablet — the latter feature is pretty great if you love your BlackBerry’s hardware keyboard but want to use the bigger screen of the PlayBook.
BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 review
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