Category Archives: PlayBook

PlayBook outperforming for App Sales

In terms of in-market devices, the number of BlackBerry phones being used is much larger then the number of PlayBooks being used. However if you look at app sales, the overall difference is much smaller.

It is unclear if this difference is due to the larger screen size, the different demographics of the userbase, or the ease of use of purchasing and installing apps on the QNX based OS.

Xploding Boxes adds portrait orientation support for PlayBook

Xploding Boxes has been updated in BlackBerry AppWorld and the Nook Bookstore to version 3.4. This new version adds an additional 10 levels while also adding support for multiple orientations on the BlackBerry PlayBook. The level selection page on the tablet has also been reskinned to match the gradients found on the phone version of the game.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry and Nook, where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve. The first 25 levels are free, while the full 300 levels can be accessed by making an in-application payment and requiring no further downloads. This game is available for the PlayBook, most smartphones running OS 5.0 or higher, and the Nook Color and Nook Tablet.

New in Version 3.4

This update adds an additional ten levels, bringing the total number of levels up to 310. Additionally the PlayBook got a visual refresh to the level selection screen, and now supports portrait orientations in addition to landscape.

Links & Information

Problems with the PlayBook Android player

While visiting with family for the weekend, my sister had a complaint about her PlayBook. She told me that sometimes the apps “open on top of each other”, and that then the previous apps “is no longer there”. She noticed that it “only does it to some apps”, and was happy to report that none of my apps did this.

Without knowing it she was, of course, talking about the Android app player. And how despite looking like any other app when on the homescreen, launches within the Android app player and acts very different then all other apps when multitasking.

This is a bit of a serious issue when it comes to user expectations and consistency of the interface. As a developer, I understand why these apps act differently, but for the typical consumer it is utterly baffling. When noticing the bar of app icons at the bottom of the android app play (which slides up from the bottom, after you swipe down from the top bezel) my sister noted that it has “all these things open that I haven’t had open in days, and those shouldn’t be open”. As to if those apps were actually still open or not, is a question that even I don’t know the answer to.

This inconsistent user interface is something that should be addressed in future versions of the OS. Or at the very least, RIM needs to be more upfront about the limitations of Android apps on the PlayBook, and start pushing more native technologies.

Continued rapid adoption of new PlayBook OS versions

The above chart shows the adoption of each version of the BlackBerry PlayBook for each month since June as seen from downloads of the game Pixelated.

Last month saw 95.62% of users running OS 2.0 on the PlayBook. This is despite OS 2.0 launching less then a week before the start of this time frame. At this point you could begin releasing apps that required a minimum OS of 2.0, and it unlikely that anyone would even notice the higher minimum requirements.

March also found 5 users playing Pixelated on devices running either OS 10.0.2 or 10.0.3 which is a good reminder that soon even OS 2.0 will be a thing of the past.

This data was taken from downloads of the popular PlayBook strategy game Pixelated. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of June 2011 through the end of March 2012.

Apps for the left handed

Version 3.1 of Pixelated for the PlayBook added the ability to move the game’s controls to the left side of the screen for easier left handed play. This is something that should have been added much sooner, but addresses an issue that is mostly unique to tablets.

Placing the controls for the PlayBook version on the right side of the screen for the first version on the PlayBook was mostly an accident. On the phones, the controls are always at the bottom, but given the wide screen nature of the PlayBook, there was far more room for them along the side. (The fact that the whole app isn’t in portrait orientation is mostly just an artifact of the limitations of the pre-release simulator.) Still once the game was placed onto actual devices it worked great. All of the controls were in place to be easily reached with your thumb while casually holding the tablet. At least if you were right handed.

Still, most people (myself included) are right handed, so if you had to pick a side to place the controls, the right side of the screen would be the place to do so. I didn’t realize how bad it was for left handed play until I saw my mom playing the game.

To play with your left hand, you need to reach over to the far side of the screen, which is the absolute most reach, and also has the unfortunate side effect of obscuring most of the screen with your hand. After a while, my mom found it easier to just hold the whole device sideways.

As a result Pixelated now has an option on the settings screen to place the controls on either side. However, it still defaults to the right.

This is a problem that is fairly unique to tablets. Phones are small enough, that you can reach any part of the screen, while holding it with just one hand. Desktops are controlled by a mouse, such that there is a complete disconnect between the input, and a control’s location on the screen.

Jon Webb while working on his #PlayBook24 project ran into the same issue, and suggested that “the PlayBook should have a global setting to indicate whether you are left or right-handed”. If such a setting were available for developers to read (similar to default language), it would allow the UI of an app to be better optimized for each user (and to stop just assuming that everyone is right handed).

Number of PlayBooks sold doubled in the past quarter

The above chart shows estimated cumulative PlayBook sales by month based on data from downloads of the free game Pixelated.

Of note is the slope of the graph over the past few months. The past three months (which correspond with RIM’s financial quarter) show more PlayBooks sold over this time frame then all previous months combined. Given how lean inventory was at the end of the last quarter, I think that it is possible that RIM will announce 1M PlayBooks shipped in the past three months.

It looks as if the price cut (and Christmas) has helped drive greater adoption of the PlayBook.

Runaway Trains released for PlayBook

The new strategy game Runaway Trains has now been released in BlackBerry AppWorld. The first 25 levels of the game are free, while you can use an in-app upgrade to get access to the rest of the levels for just $2.99 USD.

Runaway Trains is a colorful strategy game for all ages where you must route the trains to the proper station. Each level progresses in difficulty and presents an unique puzzle which you must solve by finding a way to guide the coloured trains causing a collision or running out of track.

This is done by touching the intersections to toggle the open path of the tracks. If at any time the trains crash or end up at the wrong station, you will have lost and have to try again.

Links & Information

Rapid adoption of PlayBook OS 2.0

After looking at past adoption rates on the PlayBook, it would be expected that the uptake of OS 2.0 on the device would be pretty fast, especially given that this was a major version number update. This turned out to be the case, and even more impressive then I expected.

The chart below shows PlayBook OS versions on February 22nd based on downloads of the game Pixelated.

PlayBook OS 2.0 was released on February 21st. Over 89% of users had already upgraded by February 22nd. By the end of March, I would expect over 99% of users to be running the new operating system.

On the old BlackBerry OS, it took 23 months for 89% of users to be running OS 5.0 (or higher), yet the PlayBook was able to hit this percentage less then 23 hours. So far the BBX operating system is showing itself to be thankfully free from any OS fragmentation issues.

The Media really does hate RIM

I have always been skeptical about the argument that the media intrinsically has it out for RIM, yet when OS 2.0 was released this past Tuesday I couldn’t help but notice the lack of coverage that the release received. Yet whenever there is a reason to criticise RIM there is never such a lack of coverage.

I understand that not every tech blog can cover everything. I realize that in the wide world of tech the release of this update may not be huge news. I never expected it to get covered absolutely everywhere. I did expect the story to get more coverage then something as trivial as RIM including a drawing of superheros on a blog post.

Apparently I was wrong.

With very little effort, it was shockingly easy to find many sources that gave more coverage (as measured by word count) to RIM’s superhero image, then to the release of their newest operating system.

SuperherosPlayBook 2.0
The Loop1812
Computer World4780
Daring Fireball240
PC Magazine681425

If you don’t have anything mean to say, don’t say anything at all.

Rapid adoption of OS updates on the PlayBook

The above chart shows the adoption of each version of the BlackBerry PlayBook each month as seen from downloads of the game Pixelated. Unlike the slow OS adoption on BlackBerry smartphones, the graph shows much steeper slopes for adoption of each new OS version for the PlayBook.

January saw an amazing 99.1% of users running OS 1.0.8 (or higher). These numbers should give us a feel for the adoption of OS 2.0 when it is released later this month. In short there will be no reason to support anything earlier then OS 2.0 pretty much as soon as it is released.

This data was taken from downloads of the popular PlayBook strategy game Pixelated. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of June 2011 through the end of January 2012.

PlayBook OS versions

The above chart shows the breakdown (as of last month) of PlayBook OS versions currently in use. As was the case in September, the vast majority of users are running the latest OS.

Because I feel that it is unreasonable to expect end users to be running a beta version of the software, users of OS 2.0 (and other unreleased versions) were included in the group of OS 1.0.8 users. The percent of people running the beta was in the low single digits.

Data comes from December 2011 downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated.

The Majority of PlayBook users are Canadian

The above chart shows the country of PlayBook users based on downloads of the game Pixelated in the month of December. The game was downloaded in 122 different countries during the month, but more then half of the downloads came from Canada.

The top 10 countries were (in order) Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Australia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Argentina.

There may be some sampling errors due to regional popularity of the game Pixelated, or the fact that the game is only available in English, Spanish, Dutch, French, and Portuguese. Also because data was only used from the month of December, these numbers may be affected by regional promotions and discounts during this time frame.

The PlayBook’s useless keyboard language button

Above is the default keyboard layout for the BlackBerry PlayBook. For the most part it is your standard keyboard. But it has one button that instead of a letter, is a picture of the planet. This button is completely useless.

Technically this button can be used in order to change the keyboard’s language, but nobody every uses it. Instead of this waste I would like to see something useful on this part of the keyboard. Something like @ or $ or ‘ or ” or & or anything else. Screen real estate is already at a premium with a full two pages already being used for additional symbols. Is it really too much to ask to get something useful promoted to the default keyboard?

Changing the language is something that is never done by most users, and is done rarely by those that do need to do so. The option to change the keyboard language should be on either the existing Language options page or the existing Keyboard options page (or both). It should not, however be on the keyboard itself, when something useful could take its place.