Skip to main content

5 BlackBerry PlayBook apps that deserve their own recalls

BlackBerry Playbook AppThe BlackBerry PlayBook launch hasn’t gone as smoothly as RIM had hoped. Upon launch, it was plagued by mediocre reviews because of its BlackBerry Bridge tethering and lack of native email, and now 1,000 PlayBooks are being recalled from Staples due to a manufacturing issue that sounds suspiciously similar to the problem we encountered with our first PlayBook review unit.

I like the PlayBook and love how quickly RIM is putting out updates (biweekly), but the apps coming from RIM are, well, unfinished. They show signs of good design, but we’ve noticed a lot of small bugs and big problems with them so far. I don’t think RIM is wrong to push out apps quickly, but I think they might need to do bug and usability testing before releasing major apps. A little transparency would help as well.

Here are five apps and problems with the PlayBook that could really use a fix.

Facebook

blackberry-playbook-screen-facebook-app
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While I’m happy to have a native Facebook app on the PlayBook, RIM’s home-baked app is missing a lot of features. If you try to edit your account or settings, you get a message saying “This page cannot yet be viewed in this app” with a link to a browser page. Casual use has led me to discover that there is also no way to see or accept pokes, no way to upload multiple pictures, no way to filter news feeds, and no way to see full profile pages with likes and dislikes. Worse, posting a comment or anything on the site is a pain because the app’s textbox doesn’t auto capitalize, add apostrophes, or do any sort of punctuation. This may sound trivial, but computers do more auto correcting for us than we realize, especially on mobile devices like the PlayBook. Users on BlackBerry App World have also complained that the app lacks a lot of functionality surrounding “likes” and needs greater support for languages other than English. RIM has improved the app since rushing it out two weeks ago after its grand BlackBerry World announcement. When it first arrived, it was nearly unusable. Let’s hope the work doesn’t stop here.

Video Chat

blackberry-playbook-screen-video-chat
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Two weeks ago, RIM made a big deal out of its Video Chat app, going so far as to issue a press release and everything. If I were them, I would have kept quiet. Video chat doesn’t have the bugs and missing features that RIM’s Facebook app has… it’s just so useless that it might as well not exist at all. Video chat on Apple’s iPad 2 is limited to those who have FaceTime for iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. That’s annoying. The PlayBook’s Video Chat is more limited than that. It only works between PlayBooks. So, unless you and your friends all went out and bought PlayBooks together, you aren’t going to be doing much video chatting. I can’t tell you if the chat works because I don’t know anyone else who owns a PlayBook.

Podcasts

blackberry-playbook-screen-podcasts-app
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I was excited about RIM’s podcasting app when I got the PlayBook. Though it doesn’t connect or sync to any other podcasting services, I was able to find most podcasts I wanted to listen to. The problem: It doesn’t run in the background (or maybe it can’t). The chief job of a podcasting app is to download new episodes so that I can listen to them when I’m ready. The PlayBook doesn’t do this. If you don’t manually open the app and let it sit, you’ll never download a thing. It doesn’t seem to refresh podcast lists without handholding either. Very disappointing and mostly useless.

App World

blackberry-playbook-screen-app-world-aqualux
Image used with permission by copyright holder

RIM’s app store is functional enough, but has some odd quirks that still need fixing. For instance, if you choose to download an app, there is no way to return to the category or search field you were in before you chose to install. So if you’re looking to install more than one app or just want to keep browsing, you have to retype in your search or go through the extensive categories to find your place again. There’s also no way to launch a newly installed app from inside App World, and there’s no way to know if you have app updates unless you manually check for them by opening App World. Google’s Android Market has had both of these features for some time.

I’ve also had some issues with certain app updates. My favorite PlayBook game, Aqualux, recently released an update. However, when I installed the update, it created a duplicate copy of the app on my system. So now I can choose to run a buggy, old version of the game or a new one that has none of my saved levels. This happened with one other app as well. Come on, guys! I’d like to play Aqualux, bug free.

App menus & alignment

blackberry-playbook-screen-screen-orientation
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This is a general complaint. While most PlayBook apps are looking very nice, they aren’t all following the same rules, including RIM’s apps. Not all apps use the downward swipe for menus and settings. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be a standard way to go “back” in an application. Some apps have a “back” button while others don’t. These issues aren’t major, but as RIM adds Android apps to its market, a set of intuitive interface standards would be nice.

Finally, a lot of apps seem to be locked into one orientation (landscape or horizontal). This isn’t such a bad thing, but the PlayBook needs to recognize which way a user is actually holding the PlayBook. Often, the unit confuses a bottom swipe (minimize) for a side swipe (hot swap between open apps). If I’m following the PlayBook’s rules, it should know how I’m holding the unit and understand my intentions. It’s confusing and a bit jarring when it doesn’t.

It’s getting better

As much as I’ve complained, RIM does appear to be updating the device as fast as it can. Still, I can’t help but feel like a beta tester for a product that is supposed to be finished. I have little doubt that the PlayBook will evolve into a stellar tablet throughout the course of the summer, but this first month has been a rocky road. A good part of the problem is with RIM itself, which is constantly pushing updates to users, but never explains what a single update is fixing or adding to the tablet.

A little communication would go a long way.

Jeffrey Van Camp
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Deputy Editor, Jeff helps oversee editorial operations at Digital Trends. Previously, he ran the site's…
One of the best budget phones just got even better
Google Pixel 7a in Snow showing home screen.

Phone deals feel extra sweet when they involve a discount on an already great value phone. That’s the case with the Google Pixel 7a which is currently on sale at Amazon for just $349. Usually priced at $499, it’s even better value while it’s $150 off. It’s unlikely to stay this price for too long and it’s already proving popular, so if you want to get in on the action, do so now. If you’re not certain, take a look at what we have to say about it below.

Why you should buy the Google Pixel 7a
The Google Pixel 7a is a big upgrade from its predecessor and while our review pointed out that its increased price was an issue, that’s no longer something to worry about while it’s on sale. One of the best cheap phones, it offers a lot of great features. One immediate thing to notice is its 6.1-inch OLED display. It’s a full HD screen with a 1080 x 2400 resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for durability. It also has a 90Hz adaptive refresh rate so you get smoother scrolling and a generally better experience when watching videos or playing a game.

Read more
Samsung Galaxy Ring: news, rumored price, release date, and more
Three sizes of the Samsung Galaxy Ring, sitting on top of a white display case.

The smart ring market has been dominated by the Oura Ring so far, but that is about to change with the upcoming launch of the Samsung Galaxy Ring. The ring was teased at Samsung's Unpacked event in January and then again at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February.

The Galaxy Ring is expected to come with various health sensors to help you track your physical fitness and daily activities — all with the backing of Samsung Health. It's one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, and this is everything we know about it (so far).
Samsung Galaxy Ring: release date

Read more
Motorola just announced three new phones, and I need them right now
Renders of the Motorola Edge 50 Pro and Edge 50 Ultra smartphones.

We're barely four months into the year, and Motorola has already had a busy 2024. After launching multiple new Moto G phones this year, the company has now announced its new Motorola Edge 50 series.

There are three phones in total, and they look like formidable alternatives to some of the best Android phones available today — including the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24 series. Here's what you need to know.
Motorola Edge 50 Ultra

Read more