Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Favorite PlayBook apps

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a BlackBerry PlayBook that I’ve had for about 2 weeks.  I think it’s the 2nd best tablet out there (although can’t wait to try those Windows 8 tablets!) today.  As I eluded to in my post, the biggest factor holding back the PlayBook is the lack of apps in the App World.  Yes, I have seen posts that RIM is working on this, and I’ve even had RIM employees tell me that it’s coming, it’s coming.  But what’s available today? 

First the non-games/productivity apps, my favorites include:

Weather – I was actually super impressed with the built-in weather application.  It’s powered by AccuWeather.com, which I trust more than the iPhone’s Yahoo supplier, so I didn’t need to replace it.  I have “The Weather Network” on my iPad, which you can find under WeatherEye in the App World, it gives more data and is also a great app, but not as pretty as the built in Weather app.

Bing Maps – another built in app that’s great.  I love Bing, and Bing maps, so it was nice to see this just built in.

GlimpseGlimpse – [view] This is news (or rather RSS) reader that you can connect to Google Reader, or just have separate RSS feeds in it.  The interface is pretty intuitive, and the price is good (free!).  I like it more than GeeReader (also free), which is specifically designed to connect to a Google Reader account.

Poynt – [view] is a great app for finding what’s near you, like businesses, people (phone book), movies, restaurants, Gas and Events.  This one exists in the iTunes store as well, but is for iPhone only, and is probably overshadowed by some of the more popular apps on that platform.  I like this one because it gives the weather for your location as well as stuff that’s local; like events in the area. Also free.

Slacker Radio – [view] This one again came installed.  It’s a music streaming service like Pandora for you American’s, except this one actually works in Canada, and it’s on the PlayBook.  I was happy to see support here as I use SlackerRadio all the time.  Yes it’s Free.

ScoreMobile – [view] This is my second favorite sport tracking app on the iPad (I replaced it with the Canadian TSN/Toronto Sports Network app), so it was nice to see an old favorite in the App World to help me track my hockey, soccer, and football.  Also free.

Blaq – [view] A fantastic Twitter app.  Not quite as good as iPad’s Twitter client or the Tweetbot twitter client, but fully functional and doesn’t look half bad.  The downside of course is you have to pay for this one; it’s $1.99.  But I do use it

imageBlueBox – [view] While I don’t trust DropBox for their Security Issues, it’s a fine way to transfer files to and from your PlayBook without connecting it in, if you’re ok with the files potentially being exposed to the Internet.  I only do fully public stuff on DropBox, so I’m ok with that, because I don’t care about the data.  The data I want secured I use SkyDrive, but of course there is no PlayBook app for that. BlueBox is free.

FaceBook – [view] The PlayBook FaceBook app looks like the old Windows Mobile (not Windows Phone) version of Facebook, it’s at least somewhat functionally, and I included it simply because people like to use Facebook on Tablets.  Honestly, I’d just use the browser though.  This app is free.

Bing – [view] If I lived in the USA, I bet I could get this app too.  The screenshots make it look just like the iPad version.  But alas, Bing can’t seem to get their apps outside of the United States, the same problem exists on the iPhone.  It’s Free.

As far as games go.  I typically don’t play too many games, unless I’m for some reason disconnected from the Internet (ie. stuck in a metal tube at 35,000 feet).  Here are some that I’ve tried and liked:

Berzerk Ball – [view]  A rather stupid, yet addictive game on how far you can smash a geek.  I warn you, it is rather stupid, but addictive.  It’s Free.

People on my LawnPeople on My Lawn – [view] A Spin of plants vs Zombies, were you have to kill the humans on your planet by controlling rockets using magnets.  The graphics are great, and the gameplay is somewhat fun.  Might as well check it out given it’s Free.

Doodle Blast – [view] A Puzzle game that you draw lines to get “doodles” into a jar.  Somewhat simple, but puzzle games are always fun. Especially a drawing one, where your ink is limited!.  It’s free.

RocketStormRocket Storm – [view] Like the 1990’s game made by Atari called “Missile Command”, except updated.  While the graphics aren’t mind-blowing, the game is now 3D as you have to defend a space station! It’s free.

PlayDoom – [view] I have yet to find a platform this classic game has not been ported to.  I can’t even begin to calculate how many hours I’ve spent playing Doom, Doom II, etc.  But this is a great port of the original Doom game.  Get ready for bad graphics and amazing gameplay.  it’s free.

NFS Undercover – [view] For the car/driver junkies out there.  This one came pre-installed with my PlayBook.  It’s big (200mb) but it’s worth it for some fun driving times, and by worth it I mean it’s free.

Those the apps I have and have liked.  I’ve downloaded a lot more, but they were quick to delete.  I will give RIM credit for the purchasing process.  I do like that I can simply authorize the marketplace to charge my PayPal account.  it’s not yet another company that has my credit card information.  Granted I’ve only bought the Blaq twitter app to date.  There has been a few disappointing free apps, which are quickly erased.  If I had paid for those, I’d be irritated.  App world needs more trials.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Apple iPad vs the Blackberry Playbook


So I own an iPad (Hey, the Windows 8 tablet’s aren’t out yet, it’s ok!), and I recently acquired a Blackberry Playbook (thank you, the community, for that!), and I thought it would be great to do a little bit of a comparison now that I’ve played with it for a bit.

So full disclosure here, I’ve played with a Playbook once prior to owning one, for 5 minutes.  Having gone to school at the University of Waterloo, I basically lived in the heart of RIM town.  In fact I have a few friends that work at RIM, one specifically who works on the Playbook [software].  When I saw the Playbook for the first time, I thought “Now here is a tablet that can take Apple off it’s high horse”.  I still think it’s the closest tablet to the iPad (I have not tried a Kindle Fire, but believe it’s in the same ranks).  I have tried a multitude of other Android tablets, and I dislike all of them.

So let’s get down to business, my impressions and comparisons between the iPad (3rd generation) and the Playbook 2.0.  The two latest tablets from these companies that are on the market.  Note that the Playbook hardware was not updated for Playbook 2.0, so technically I should compare it to the iPad2 hardware wise, for it to be fair, although I’m not going to focus in on the hardware all that much, there are plenty of other sites that do hardware comparisons, like this one at PC Magazine.

  iPad PlayBook
Unboxing Experience A Beautiful exiting experience that puts the device front and center, all other accessories under the device and set as background. A similarly great unboxing experience, except the Playbook is in this neoprene case.  I’m glad it came with a case, but it should have been tucked away.
Form factor Has a larger screen which is nice to look at, but after time this can get heavy (reading Kindle for a long time).  It also only has a mono speaker, and I’m not a fan of the dexterity changes between the screen and hardware button Smaller screen, which for me means different purpose.  I was disappointed to see the “Blackberry” brand on the front of the device, as it’s always upside down how I hold it, but it is lighter, and the buttons are off to the side
Battery Life Every time I pick up my iPad, there is plenty of battery to do whatever I want.  I don’t even notice that it runs off of batteries until I see a notification, even after the notification I can use it for a long time before it dies. The PlayBook boasts a 10 hour battery, but I don’t see it.  My first usage of it the battery was drained to 30% and I was barely using it!  Since that first experience, it’s been a little better, but I’m still weary that I won’t get a fully 10 hours out of it.
Operating System Software An app-launching platform that has tacked-on task switching gestures, which I ultimately turn off as they just irritate me and I always do them by mistake. Also an app-launching platform with brilliant task switching. While not intuitive, an introductory video you watch explains all you need to know.  This factor alone makes me think that the PlayBook has a fighting chance against the king.
App Store “There’s an app for that” is actually really true.  The size and support for this app-store is giant.  I have yet to be disappointed when looking for an app. PlayBook’s biggest arch nemesis; getting apps in the app store.  The Playbook comes with some apps pre-installed which I thought was fun, only to find out that those apps are usually among the top 10 apps available on the platform.  RIM needs to incent developers.  Moving to QNX and supporting the Android platform will probably help here, but there is a lot of work to do.

I was also pretty disappointed with the Android side-loading.  I was hoping for another marketplace icon that allowed you to view into the Android marketplace, but instead you have to go into developer mode, and side-load these types of apps.  End Users aren’t going to do this, RIM shouldn’t advertise it outside of developer channels.

I did like that I didn’t have to hand over a credit card for a payment, I can just pay via Paypal, one less company that has their grubby hands on my credit card #.
Build in Applications Apple’s Mail client is beautiful, and makes doing email fun.  The Calendar app is beautiful as well, although less functional when it comes to using against Exchange (don’t touch those series meetings or you’ll just loose data).  PlayBook 2.0 finally has a mail and calendaring client.  I find them functional, but they lack beauty.  They seem to be based on RIM’s attachment to text from the pager days.  I also found the clients slower than on the iPad, but the functionality is at least finally there without the bridge.
Enterprise Use My iPad struggles to connect to Microsoft’s corporate Wi-Fi, it’s always asking me to accept certificates, and such just to get online as I switch buildings. The PlayBook does enterprise Wi-Fi right.  It seems to always be connected, without irritating pop-ups.
Multi-tasking iPad will suspend non-Apple apps when they are not open PlayBook gives you the choice if you want to suspend or keep them running
HDMI Out iPad requires that you have a dongle to get to the HDMI out functionality PlayBook has a mini HDMI out port directly on it.
Blackberry Bridge not available, but I wish I had it for my phone. While this feature was not shown in good light due to the missing built in email and calendaring clients, the Bridge is actually a great feature.  You can share tablets (not that you’d have to at $199) without sharing your personal data.
Connect to a PC I can’t vouch for what it’s like with a MAC, but iTunes pretty much is the worst app ever, and it’s the only way to get things on and off your iPad without using crazy apps like “Buzz Player”.  Getting a video into the built in video player is painful because of iTunes. The device just shows up as a well organized drive on the PC (similar to a thumb drive) and you can just copy what you want onto it.  Videos, pictures, etc.  You can even use it as temporary storage while you travel.
Browser Safari is pretty good, although doesn’t support Flash, and no browser on the iPad does.  Not that huge of a problem, unless you’re shopping for a car. The PlayBook browser is pretty awesome, and does support Flash.
Messaging iMessage is pretty slick, as it’s both on the iPhone and iPad. BBM is obviously missing as far as I can tell.  One of the reasons I wanted a Playbook was to BBM with my buddies who work at RIM and live in that area, and all still have Blackberry’s.

So all in all, I think the PlayBook is a great tablet.  Especially now since I’ve found *some* apps that I like (Update: you can find that post here).  The form factor is pretty convenient, with 2.0 it has the essential mail, calendar, contact syncing to the mail provider of your choice.  If RIM were to be able to ramp up their app world and get some more apps that are mainstream like Skype, Evernote, Words with Friends, Kindle, Rdio, Flixster, etc… I think it would take off more than it has.

I’m also not alone in thinking that this tablet is great.  This article from High-tech Dad talks more specifically about the hardware and why he enjoys his Playbook.

iPadI still favor the iPad for the beautiful screen, mail app, and plethora of apps to launch, and I can’t *wait* to try a Windows 8 tablet!  However as a good friend of mine put it, “for $199, it’s in the price of a toy, so if I don’t like it, that’s ok!”.

Thanks again to the community who voted for me in the SMB 150 community awards, I’m honored to have placed in the top 150, I’m glad my blog and the resources that I share has been beneficial to you.