I’m a bit of a tablet junkie. I’ve been using an iPad since May 2010 (now upgraded to 3rd generation), I have an Asus TF101 Transformer Prime Android tablet, I bought a Surface RT at launch, and got a Surface Pro for cheap at TechEd. But until last Friday, I did not have a really useful 7-inch tablet, and I really wanted one, primarily for the portability factor and convenience of lightweight one-handed use. I have a Kindle Paperwhite, but that’s more an eReader than a a tablet. I also never got an iPad Mini due to the lack of a Retina Display, and none of the Android 7” tablets really impressed me before (the old Nexus 7 came close). However I did get a BlackBerry PlayBook for free during a promotion for game developers when I attended GDC back in 2012.
I had high hopes that the Playbook would fix my need for a highly portable 7” tablet, but those hopes were crushed when I realized the app selection was so dismal. If you were to load up the top free apps in the iOS App Store, in Google Play or the Windows Store, you’d find a lot of recognizable brands, such as:
- Amazon Kindle
- Hulu Plus
- Popular News Apps: CNN, USA Today, Engadget, Mashable, Associated Press, BBC News, ABC News, etc.
- Official Social Media Apps: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google+, Yammer
- and many more well-known popular apps…
These are all the apps that smartphone and tablet users expect to find. Without them, it doesn’t matter how many apps are in your store, it would just severely cripple what you can do with that tablet. If you fire up the BlackBerry App World, go to top free apps, this is what you are greeted with:
This screenshot was captured yesterday morning (July 29, 2013). Note that the full BlackBerry App World has a bigger selection since it includes BlackBerry 10 apps. The PlayBook has its own app selection, and cannot use BlackBerry 10 apps. There are hacks to port Android apps to the PlayBook, but it’s really not easy and I hate hacks. The point of an App Store is you can download or buy an app with a single tap.
I don’t know about you, but any tablet without Netflix support is DOA in the US. You can’t even stream Netflix from the browser. None of the popular apps are there. You can’t read Kindle books (only Kobo has a reader app) or listen to Audible audio books. To access Dropbox files you’d need to use unofficial apps (which I’m always leery of). The Canadian News apps (CBC, Globe & Mail, Radio-Canada) are there, but none of the American ones are, except for cheap RSS reader knockoffs. Zinio magazines are there, but none of the other apps are officially supported.
The BlackBerry 10 update was originally promised for the PlayBook, and would have fixed some of those missing app issues (but not all), but those plans were later kyboshed, pretty much sealing the deal for the PlayBook and sending it to the tablet graveyard.
Last Friday I bought the new Google Nexus 7 Android tablet, and it rocks! It truly is the portable 7” tablet I’ve been looking for. I’m no Android fan, but this tablet easily makes me overlook any objections I have with Android. I’ll write about it later.
What am I to do with my BlackBerry Playbook? Sure, I could use it for email, browsing the web, watching local media, playing some games, but I can do all these things much better with my Nexus 7 (and all my other tablets too). I started exploring innovative ideas to give a second wind to my poor neglected BlackBerry PlayBook.
Apparently some people didn’t get the memo about the BlackBerry PlayBook, or they don’t read tech news. It seems some people are actually still spending money for the PlayBook, go figure. Looking at eBay auctions in the US, it seems you can get anywhere from $60 to $80 for a 16GB PlayBook. Just use that as a down payment and shell out an extra $170 for a cool new Google Nexus 7. I think I just might go down that route after all, but let’s explore a few more options…
Digital Photo Frame
The WSVGA screen resolution of 1024x600 on the PlayBook makes it quite appropriate for displaying photos, and better than most cheap digital photo frames. Just transfer your favorite photos to the PlayBook, and start a slide show. Since the power adapter microUSB connector is under the PlayBook, you’ll need some kind of easel to prop it up if you want this to last all day.
My wife just gave birth to our first babies last month (yes, twins, see photo frame above) and I’m dreading the day when my kids will ask to play games on my tablets or my phone. You can buy “tablets for kids” but kids know better, they want the real deal daddy is using and it needs to look serious for them to play with it. Just trick them and pass the PlayBook and you won’t have to worry about them smashing your new Nexus 7 or iPad Mini to bits. The selection of games is not ideal, but you’ll find a few classics here and there, like Cut the Rope, Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds (and Space) and others.
Rear-View Office Cam
Many of us work in open areas or cubes. It’s always annoying when people come from behind and surprise you while you work, especially if you have headphones and music on. Since the PlayBook has both front and rear facing cameras, start the camera mode, switch to the front-facing cam, and you’ve got yourself a rear-view camera for the workplace.
Need a coaster for your desk? Just use a PlayBook. Better yet, use the same front-facing camera as above and now you get this cool reflective illusion coaster. Just make sure the condensed water doesn’t make it to the connectors underneath.
That front-facing cam can also double-up as a cool high-tech mirror. Got a big presentation at work and you want to make sure you don’t have any pieces of spinach stuck between your teeth? Want to touch-up on your makeup? Use the PlayBook!
Let’s be honest with ourselves: we all use smartphones and tablets in the bathroom. You might have some reservations when it comes to using your primary device to surf the web, play Angry Birds or check email in there. So if you buy a new tablet to replace your PlayBook, your PlayBook can literally become your “No.2 tablet”. You can even get the free Zinio app and buy a few magazine subscriptions and the bathroom experience is now complete.
Got a wobbly table? Use a PlayBook! The tablet is exactly 9.7mm thick, so if this is what you’re looking for in a shim, you should be fine. I would recommend facing the screen down if you want any hope of using that PlayBook ever again. DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any cracked screens or destroyed PlayBook tablets as a result from this or any of the other suggestions in this post. Use at your own risk!
This is the final resting place for dead technologies. I have a ceiling fan in my home office and sometimes papers can fly about a bit when I turn it on. The PlayBook makes for a nice flat & hefty paperweight that can easily be grabbed and moved with one hand. And better yet, you don’t even need to charge the battery anymore. It’s a sad end for the little Canadian tablet though.
Wrapping Things Up
So what do you think? Which suggestion is the best? Do you have any suggestions of your own? Send me your suggestions and I just might update this post with the best ones. You can post them in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter @ActiveNick.
Do you own a PlayBook? Are you happy with it? What cool apps do you use? And what apps should I try to maybe give my PlayBook a chance? Let me know.
It’s too bad though. I was never a big BlackBerry user, but as a Canadian, I used to take pride in the accomplishments of BlackBerry (formerly known as Research in Motion, or RIM). I was actually looking forward to getting the BlackBerry 10 update on the PlayBook and see if it breathes new life into it. I was even considering testing the waters as a PlayBook app developer, but not on a device that was written off by its manufacturer. If BlackBerry wants to send me one of their shiny new BlackBerry 10 phones, I’ll gladly take a look. In the meantime, I need to take a look at the latest PlayBook prices on eBay…