BlackBerry Playbook Review

What kind of BlackBerry Booster (as per my Twitter bio) would I be if I didn’t write about the company’s tablet I picked up over Christmas? A very bad one. So here are a couple thoughts on everyone’s favourite 7 inch tablet.

First things first

We all know BlackBerry had a horrible year last year. However I’m surprised that they didn’t sell a ridiculous number, like 1 million of these Playbooks. And I don’t know why not. The build quality is awesome, it fits nice in your hand, (key for reading in bed or lying on the couch) and the OS (Operating System) is slick.

Furthermore, video looks great on it  and its in black (my favourite colour, which isn’t a moot point because even though I’m not an Apple guy, their old black MacBook looked sick) and the price for a 16GB model at $199 (the model I have) is now changed so all three are priced at $299. It just doesn’t make sense. Ah well, they should sell more because of what’s coming.

What’s coming

The Playbook update in February, OS 2.0, will introduce native e-mail, a video store for downloading content (only available to start in the U.S), more apps via Android, and autocorrect/predictive text. As well,  talking to a fellow student I met on campus, who has this own web development/app company, the Playbook might even have support for Windows apps in the future. For more on OS 2.0, A really good in-depth review courtesy of mobilesyrup.com is available here.

It’s simple

With the attractive price point, great quality, and fluid OS, the Playbook is a nice, powerful tablet. If the update comes on time, with everything working as RIM says it will, it’ll be hard to see why they won’t sell a few more Playbooks, which will require me to do less BlackBerry boosting.

5555

Ottawa-20111205-000645555. My work office is on the 5th floor of the building, and elevator number 5 was not working today on December 5. 555. But there is one more important five to consider: the five people, including myself, who were using BlackBerrys on my bus ride home. 5555.The fourth five of my day and the one which I want to talk about for a bit. (Picture at the right is one of my paintings I bought last summer)

I’ve wanted to write about BlackBerry and its parent company RIM for a while now but wasn’t really sure what to say. RIM has had a horrible year. If you pay any attention to what I call the big 3 in tech (Apple, Google and Microsoft) you would know that RIM this year has fallen far behind. Its share price is at its lowest levels in years and the buzz around the company is almost nil. It’s tough to say where the company will end up, especially while the other 3 are continually pushing new products which have consumer bases that are fanatical/evangelical about them.

But today on the bus showed me that people still care about BlackBerry. To see 3 people on the left of the bus with their BlackBerrys out and 2 others, myself included, with ours out on the right side, it was a telling reminder that the company might still have life. To be honest, the tech space is one of the most emotional spaces, arguably the most emotional place on earth to invest in. People wear their iPhones or BlackBerrys on their sleeves, display their MacBook Pro as the piece that differentiates them in a sea of PC users and their crappy Gateways (I had one which died on me badly).

When looking at my personal investing experience in junior mining small caps, much risker investing, where losses of 20% in a month are not uncommon should the slightest production hiccup occur, investing in the tech space is comparably safer. Also, by investing in companies worth millions rather than billions, you expose yourself to more risk.

So when looking at RIMs dramatic decline, it’s hard to say they have been that bad to dive over 60% this year, from a high of almost $70, to under $18 currently. Because if you go into what the company has been doing, rather than not doing you see a company making a recent $100 million dollar acquisition, having cash on hand, and trying to transition to what everyone believes is their last hope with QNX or BBX or whatever name the operating system for their new phones next year will be, is hardly a resume of a company on its way into oblivion.

With everything considered, whether BlackBerry and RIM get back to being number one in the smartphone game when it debuted or back into a favourable light with consumers and analysts as it was earlier this year, I’m just hoping that the iconic Canadian company gets back on solid footing. It’s hard to fight against the trend and popularity, where Apple and Google are so dominant in the tech space. However, to borrow from what Jim Prentice, a former Federal ministry leader in the Canadian government wrote so well in this piece for the the Globe and Mail said, I’m keeping my BlackBerry and cheering for RIM. And waiting patiently for my ordered PlayBook to arrive as well.

Tech Review: Blackberry Torch 9800

Blackberry has finally joined the smartphone party. That’s the best way to put the arrival of their newest smartphone, the Blackberry Torch 9800. Having had the Blackberry Bold 9000 previously, 3 of them in fact, since I’m really bad with phones, the Torch is a huge upgrade. Honestly, having the Bold 9000 was like being in the Stone Age. Having a touchscreen phone is really that big of a difference. As well, the Torch is more compact, slick, and comes in a nicer form factor (slider) than the Bold, which allows great functionality for both the touchscreen and the iconic Blackberry keyboard.  So thats a little preview. I suggest you take a look at what GSM Arena (top phone review site) had to say about the Torch here. Now onto my review, on what I like, what I don’t so much, and final conclusion.

What I like

The phone is sexy. How about starting there. With a curved shaped body the Torch is stylish, leaving the simple rectangle of the Iphone 4 way behind. In fact if I didnt have this Outter box case on my Torch, you would always be able to notice the smooth lines on this pretty device in all seasons. However phone protection is key. Smartphones don’t come cheap.

Moving on from the looks, the Torch really is a great meld of  keyboard/touch capabilities all in one device. Starting with the keyboard, for longer messaging it is a must. Trying to type really long messages by touch and with T9 prediction can be a disaster. But when you start to look at web browsing, that  is where you really see the advantages of touch.  Simply put, touch was made for web browsing. Being able to minimize or maximize images on your favourite websites gets you really involved on the web on such a tiny device. It’s cool and browsing on the Torch is an enjoyable experience because of touch.

Before phones were made to surf or text, they were made to answer calls. Reception is clear, probably due to the Rogers network but nonetheless no concerns when calls are placed, local or longdistance (best friend in TO remember?).

Finally, the new Blackberry operating system (OS) is a welcome addition. All the top smartphones, the Iphone 4 and Androids for example have their distinctive OS’s. Now Blackberry is no different with Blackberry 6 OS. It does a good job and makes the OS on the Bold 9000 look extremely dated. Probably the best and biggest improvement for Blackberry were changes in the OS. I know owners of Iphones and Androids who rave about their respective OS’s, as they should, but with Blackberry starting from such a behind position, you gotta give them two thumbs up for this improvement in this area with Blackberry 6.

What I don’t like

Things can get a little sluggy. What I mean is when you are navagating through your apps, menus, or going through playlists things can tend to get a bit slow. These are the types of concerns I had with the Bold 9000 as well. Since I have a lot of music and apps on the Torch this is probably why this is the case. Hope things are a little smoother in the next Blackberry.

Lack of apps. Some of the apps that I was able to get on my Bold 9000 , Yahoo Finance and RBC mobile, crucial for a guy like me, aren’t available on the Torch. Sent a tweet to @Blackberry about that. Got no response. I had to use the alternative Bloomberg Finance to track my stocks instead as a replacement. Still awaiting to get RBC mobile on the Torch. Developers get on it!

The charger can get fairly hot when you leave your phone charging for a long time.

Conclusions

The Blackberry Torch 9800 is an improvement over the Bold 9000 or any other Blackberry available. This alone should make you want it and having the touch incorporated with it seals it. It measures out great in all the things that are important: text messaging, browsing, and calling, while still having everyone’s favourite feature and probably the reason they get a Blackberry, BBM. Its slick, compact and stylish so no complaints there. Even different colours such as white and red are available. Overall, grab it if you need a dramatic upgrade and are a lover of the Blackberry brand. You’re missing out if you don’t!