The long awaited version 2.1 software update for the BlackBerry PlayBook arrived last week, and updating my unit was a breeze. The update was done Over-The-Air, and I have been using the updated device since. Here are my thoughts based on my usage till date.
Portrait Mode in Email, Calendar and Contacts
One of the most visual changes that OS 2.1 brought is the implementation of portrait view in the Messages, Calendar and Contacts apps. This seems to have been well implemented, and I have enjoyed using these apps that way.
Improved Android Apps Performance
Before the update, Android apps running on the PlayBook shared one common window in the Android Player, making multi-tasking those apps inelegant. Now, all Android apps run in separate windows. It works fine, though I keep noticing the switching (some sort of lag) as I move from one to another. RIM certainly needs to smoothen out the transition when switching between Android apps.
Improved Web Browser
The PlayBook’s already excellent web browser is a better performer now, both in terms of speed and HTML5 compatibility. From an HTML5 score of 373, it has leaped up to 393, further widening the lead it already had over web browsers on other tablets. There is still Flash support, among all the other features that it provided before the update.
There are other new end-user features that I have been unable to test out.
SMS Support in BlackBerry Bridge
For example, because I do not currently have a BlackBerry smartphone, I am unable to test out the new SMS support via BlackBerry Bridge. The idea is that when bridged, the user will be able to send and receive SMS on the PlayBook.
Other such features include:
– Software updates and Wi-Fi setup no longer mandatory during device setup
– Print to Go
– Full device encryption
OS 2.1 has brought significant improvements to an already versatile device. I love the improved Android app support, the portrait support in PIM apps, and the better browser.
I also love the fact that from this OS 2.1, new PlayBook owners no longer need to setup Wi-Fi or run any available software updates before being able to use the tablet. Those old setup requirements have given users reason to want to tear their hair out too many times.
I have been asked what battery life is like with the new update. I haven’t done any scientific testing, but my unit still makes it through a day on a full charge. I have not noticed any drop or improvement in battery life, but going through a day on an active Wi-Fi connection without hunting for a charger is good enough for me.
Moving forward, BlackBerry OS 10 is months away and one can only hope that it delivers on all fronts and is available as an update for the PlayBook too. In the meantime, of you are considering getting a PlayBook, yes; this tablet just got better.