When I shoved the horrid 2011 out the door, I tried to decide whether I wanted to make any resolutions for 2012. I’ve done this before, and like so many other they’ve been a total failure. What’s the point? I asked myself. Do what needs to be done and leave the annual tradition of failing to keep a resolution out of it. But where is the fun in that? So I decided no resolutions. Instead, at the beginning of every month just set a goal or two for myself. Blogging more often is one of those. You can also follow me on any of the other social networks listed in the sidebar.
I’m a bit of a gadget geek. I’m not as bad as some, but I do love my Apple products. I don’t have cable any longer because I just use iTunes to buy and rent. I’ve got an iPod and an iPhone. But I drew the line at an iPad. I love iOS and the app store can’t be beat, but the size put me off. I liked the size of the Android tablets, but I’m not a huge Android fan (the iPhone replaced my HTC Desire.) Kindle Fire isn’t available here in Canada, and while I enjoy my Kobo WiFi, I’ve had so many problems syncing between apps that I just gave up and started using Adobe Digital Editions for everything.
Without anything in my price range that appealed to me, I decided to just sit and wait to see if Apple eventually caves and brings out a 7-8″ tablet.
Then my boss introduced me to her Blackberry Playbook. She bought it when the price dropped and has been using it to coordinate her daughter’s wedding. I figured for $200 CDN I could afford to give it a shot.
Turns out it’s a pretty decent and inexpensive tool for a gadget loving writer.
When you turn it on, it pretty much looks like any other tablet with an icon grid. There’s no home button like on the Apple devices, you just swipe your way around the screen.
One of the big beefs with the Playbook is the fact that is has no native email or calendar app. This is true and it is tad annoying, but using mobile Gmail or Hotmail gets the job done on the fly. However, there is no option for adding attachments — this could be a dealbreaker for some.
There is an Evernote app. It’s lacking — you can’t create a notebook, just add notes to your existing notebooks. To be fair, this is also missing from the Apple app. I have a personal Evernote account I use to save recipes, grocery lists and so on. For my writer account, this is where I tuck away Calls for Submission so I don’t have to root through my email. I much prefer Evernote to Google Docs.
One thing that was pretty important for me was a decent RSS app. I use Google Reader faithfully at work to keep up on recipe sites and other SFW blogs, but for NSFW blogs I sync with my writer account. On my iPhone I use Flipboard, but it’s a challenge to read on such a small screen. While GeeReader is no Flipboard for iPad, it still looks pretty good. I use the free version to sync with Google Reader to keep up with blogs.
As far as social media goes, the Playbook is totally lacking. No Pinterest, no Tumblr, no Twitter. The Twitter icon on the Playbook actually takes you to the mobile site. Blah. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without social media beckoning me I’m more apt to stay focused on the business at hand. However, I did want Twitter if for no other reason than to share blog posts from GeeReader. Lemma is a pretty basic (and I do mean basic) app for Twitter and is a little better than the mobile app.
Navigating from app to app is pretty simple. Swipe, swipe, swipe. That has always been my gripe about the Android and iOS. Usually when you close an app to answer a text or an email you’re really closing the app. Blackberry made copying stuff from the web and pasting it into Evernote a breeze. Swipe, copy, swipe, paste, and so on.
And now here is the all-important part — writing on the Playbook. Playbook comes pre-installed with Word To Go (you have to buy a word processing app for iPad), and while it takes some getting used to, typing on this sucker using your thumbs like you would a Smartphone is a breeze, and you’ll quickly master jumping back and forth to get to the second keyboard for your quotation marks
Be prepared to have to take a day off once in a while to give your hands a rest tho :p What I like most of all is NO WORD COUNT. Just you and your writing.
The documents save right on the Playbook, which you can mount to your computer to grab at a later time. Or, assuming you want to back up your work to the cloud and spare yourself a heart attack in the event of a lost/broken device, there’s Bluebox, which syncs to your Dropbox account.
Last, but not least, what about reading? It looks like Kobo is it for now as far as official apps go. Android and Apple both have Kindle apps, Nook apps, and so on, and Amazon at least is in no hurry to roll one out for Playbook now that Kindle Fire is available. I buy most of my books through Kobo anyway, but if you are dedicated to your Nook or Sony or Amazon this won’t appeal to you. I haven’t done any nosing around, but there are probably a few other ebook apps that are decent for sideloading.
I should also mention that you can get Angry Birds for the Playbook, because you simply cannot have a mobile device without Angry Birds
My one major beef is the lack of a calendar. Google doesn’t load right and I’m not seeing a decent app, paid or free, that does what I want it to. The closest I have come is the paid GroovyNotes, and even that isn’t all that great (certainly not worth $5.)
Overall, I wouldn’t pay more than $200 for the Playbook. For my part, I’ve gotten more done with this device on the night stand than I ever imagined. Email is perfectly sorted. Notes are up to date. I can lie in bed and read my favourite blogs on the same scale as I read a book. Below is the Playbook next to the iPad and the iPhone.
I haven’t bothered to master converting Android apps to Playbook (and apparently it can be done with some patience and effort), but February 17th is the date that Blackberry plans on rolling out a major update, and rumour has it there are some good changes in the works. I have a few productivity apps on my wishlist, but nothing I can’t live without.
It’s good, but if you’re going to spend more than $200 and want a tablet with all the bells and whistles then just get an iPad.