Review: BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Native Calendar
The BlackBerry PlayBook’s Calendar has also been overhauled in the same way as the rest of the PIM apps. This new calendar app leverages the expertise of “Tungle.me”, which RIM has brought on board. The look is completely different and freshened up. On the left side of the screen, you can choose if you want to the view to cover a week or a month. Within the week view, you can choose to view an appointment, or a single day’s agenda. I know, I’m yawning too, it’s fairly standard stuff indeed.
Since I’ve set up my Facebook, Gmail, and Hotmail accounts, I can use those calendars on the Playbook. The PlayBook does have its own local calendar as well if you decide to use that too. There are some welcome subtleties in the calendar, such as the use of larger font in the busier calendar days. This adds some depth to the calendar and lets you know which days to focus on.
There are a few things that bug me though. I can’t seem to find an option to control the default calendar when creating an appointment. I’ll accept that it could be I’m just too lazy to change the appointment type from the “Canadian Holidays” calendar every single time, but on the other hand, I seriously doubt most of my appointments are national holidays, despite how awesome that would be.
My second bone to pick is the lack of synchronization between the BlackBerry smartphone’s calendar and the PlayBook’s native calendar. My appointments tied to my university email address do not show up. Which I guess is understandable. It just would be great if the BlackBerry Bridge could sync the native and Bridge calendars. On the other hand, the Gmail, Hotmail and Facebook appointments do show up beautifully. The combination of Google Sync on a BlackBerry smartphone and PC allow a multiplatform calendar to stay in sync at all times if you use Google’s calendar service.
Swiping down from the top bezel, you can see all the available calendars and choose which calendars to show. Going into the settings, you’ve got no shortage of options. You can choose when you start/end work, the default meeting duration, the default meeting reminder and lots more. Most options are fairly unnecessary, such as the one where you can choose when the first week of the year starts, but I’m not complaining at all. Under the “Calendar Preferences” you can also customize the color of events from different calendars.
There really is no “Day” view in this app. You can simply toggle the view of the highlighted day when in “Week” or “Month” view. When in “Week” view, there is a decent animation when highlighting different days. The day expands and you can view the appointments in detail. The “Week” view is also fixed to start on a Sunday, which I don’t really like so much. You can scroll week by week, or month by month by swiping sideways. If this doesn’t sound impressive, it’s because it isn’t.
When creating an event, you have the options to choose whether it is a normal or private event. You can mark your availability as free, tentative, busy or out of office. You can add a location (but not a real one). What is real, however, is the attendees. The calendar app is synced to your contacts app, allowing you to share the event with another contact.
The contacts integration is probably the strongest aspect of the PlayBook’s calendar. And that honestly isn’t saying much. There isn’t much in terms of eye candy, so the app is not very fun to use. This pretty much goes for all of the native PIM apps here. There are barely any natural UI transitions or animations, and the ones that are there just aren’t good enough. Some transitions are smoother than others and it just feel Even if the app is functional, it’s important for it to be a pleasant experience so people use it more. You also can’t use it in portrait mode (just like all the other native PIM apps), which makes it feel incomplete.
Overall, it’s a great calendar. The interface is professional. The layout is functional and clear. In a calendar, and synchronization is key. This native calendar app tries hard to integrate your messages and contacts to improve the overall experience, and it definitely helps. But that’s where the praises end.
It may be a good calendar, but it’s not a great app. If you compare it to similar offering on iOS, Windows 8 or even Honeycomb, it just has got that old BlackBerry “clunkyness” to it. People may have the tools to get the job done, but what’s the point if they don’t enjoy using them?
The transitions and natural UI response from a tablet is crucial to developing a positive experience with anyone using the app. Like all of the native PIM apps we’ve seen with PlayBook 2.0, productivity and features came before a pleasing experience. This is the opposite approach taken by Apple. And I hope RIM isn’t underestimating its importance. My hope is that in the future, the Cascades UI engine will be used to transform the PlayBook’s calendar, messages and contacts apps into the visually impressive and inspired productivity solutions they should be.