Got a PlayBook... For fun... A few features I would like to see on the iPad...
As you may have heard, the PlayBook was available for 200$... Since my sister had one, and I wanted to explore other things than Apple Products, it was a good opportunity to get "another" device to learn about mobile development.
Yes, I could do the learning on the iPad, but the initial investment is higher: need to buy a Mac, need to get an annual license from Apple... It's cheaper to start with the PlayBook, and the SDK do work with Linux natively (Ubuntu is my main desktop)...
Anyway, as a long time iPad user, I could not resists comparing both devices from a user point of view. I'm not into specs and numbers. I do consider the experience as my first criteria with any product I buy...
First of all, I must say that the Playbook is an amazing device. The general experience in hand is quite good, and there are some features I wish would be on the iPad.
Second: there is ... Let's be frank... About a hundred apps. I'm not kidding, in about an hour I had viewed all the free apps available in the market. Overall, there is around 200 apps. And there is a lot of "clocks" in there... But let's talk about comparable features, those that I found interesting enough to make a post here...
It's a 7" tablet. So when you hold it with both hands, you can access the whole screen area with your 2 thumbs. That makes it convenient in a way for some quick browsing or games. I never thought that I would like that size, but I do. The navigation between the apps is interesting. You can swipe between apps, you have a top menu when the apps supports it and there is no home button.
The implementation of the navigation is really smart. The edges around the screen are touch sensitive, just like the screen. So you have specific gestures available by using the edges. To close an app, you slide your finger from the bottom edge and up. To access the menu, you slide your finger from the top edge and down. To switch to another opened app, slide your finger from left/right edge. I must admit, this is way better than using 4/5 fingers on the iPad.
Another thing that is interesting is you can configure how your apps will behave when in the background. This is a global setting, but you can choose between Suspended, Running or Running until another app is opened... Pretty neat. Also, when "closing" an app, you can really close it by touching the "X" at the bottom of the small preview. Imagine that the delete would be available in the iPad task bar without having to touch'n giggle to close the app for real.
Even if there is an iTunes equivalent for the PlayBook, it's not really needed. Upgrades are done OTA like iOS5, but the best feature is the sharing of the "documents" folder over wifi or USB. Just drop music in the music folder, a document in the document folder or a movie in the movie folder. The wifi sharing is using SMB protocol (Windows sharing) making it easier to mount a local drive on a computer. And security can be applied on the access from the Playbook configuration.
Current OS1.0.7 shows the apps by using categories in tabs. I've installed the OS2.0Beta, and the apps are now shown like in iOS, even with the folders... So on that level, both devices are on par.
Text selection is another thing that the Playbook is doing better than the iPad. You still touch and hold where you want your cursor to be, but a small marker will show below the text, big enough to be easy to use. If this is a selection, you'll see two markers at each end. The marker looks like a small arrow pointing at your cursor location in the text.
Another thing that the Playbook has better is it has 2 speakers, one on each side of the screen making it sound way better than the iPad.
Give it more apps, and it would be a great alternative. There is only one Playbook format, only one OS flavor, making this little devil consistent as the iPad with one format, one OS (a few version, but always iOS from Apple).
The reality for now: "there's not an app for that!". This is an interesting market segment that I will use to learn more about mobile development. And who knows, I may make a little money out of it ;)
My iPad is the "main" tool that I don't want to screw up. My Playbook will be a nice little toy to experiment my developer's skills.
Hope you enjoyed that little comparison.