Category Archives: PlayBook

PlayBook Browser rapidly improving

RIM has been rapidly improving the browser in the PlayBook. The recent update of the beta to continues this trend.

Based on the html5 test the new beta scores a 308 while OS scores only a 257. This continued progress is good to see, and shows that RIM has a solid commitment to offering the best browser possible. Now all RIM has to do is finally get around to shipping this update.

As a point of comparison BlackBerry 7 scores a 260, BlackBerry 6 scored a 241, iOS 5 scores a 296, and Android 4.0 scores a surprisingly low 230. Windows Phone (as you might expect) scores a terrible 140.

PlayBook on the Shopping Channel

A few days ago in RIM was selling the BlackBerry PlayBook on the Shopping Channel in Canada. While this is not something that I expected, I am endlessly fascinated by the concept.

This was first brought to my attention by former director of developer relations Mike Kirkup in a Twitter post. CrackBerry then linked to a video. Best guess is that they sold over 2,200 PlayBook bundles over the course of the day at $400 each.

First of all they were not just selling the base model PlayBook. Instead they were selling the 32GB PlayBook with the rapid charger, a case, and a HDMI cable. I understand the bundled items. Markup on things like cables and cases is much higher then it is for electronics so including these allowed RIM to get better margins, and to bump up the retail price of the package (which the sale price is compared to). But why the 32GB version? If RIM wanted to wow with low prices, they could have gone with the 16GB version. If RIM wanted to get the best margins they could have gone with the 64GB version. Instead they took an odd hybrid route. (Maybe they have a greater amount of spare inventory at the 32GB level).

The bill of materials (BOM) on the 32GB PlayBook is estimated to be around $330. Assuming a BOM of about $40 for the accessories, and another $10 for shipping costs RIM probably made a (small) profit on each one of these units. Which is far better then the money they were losing on their black friday sales. And the actual unit sales were significant. 2200 sold in one day is impressive once you consider that in early November (prior to the price drop) the PlayBook was only selling around 3300 units per day.

And then there are the demographics. As someone whose livelihood is based on selling apps the question is what does this demographic think of buying apps? I have no idea. Hopefully people willing to spend $400 to impulsively buy something off the TV won’t think twice about spending $3 to download a game. But really I have no idea.

PlayBook Sales chart

I have been estimating BlackBerry PlayBook sales for a while now based off of downloads of Pixelated. However because Pixelated was updated to version 3.0 at the same time that the PlayBook went on sale for $199 the data for the last half month is a bit muddled.

However the end of November was also the end of RIM’s quarter, and we do know that they have shipped 850,000 PlayBooks so far. Given that the PlayBook is universally out of stock everywhere at the turn of the month we can conclude that they have sold through the vast majority of what was shipped, so about 840,000 so far.

This plus the existing monthly data gives us the chart shown above for monthly PlayBook sales. In short it shows that the sale price has resulted in many more PlayBook’s being sold, but not astronomically high numbers either. It will be interesting to see where the PlayBook’s sales (and price) are in the coming months.

$199 PlayBook is not sustainable

From my post yesterday on BerryReview

“There is no doubt that the bill of materials for the BlackBerry PlayBook is higher then its $199 sale price. Additionally once you consider distribution costs, and some profit for the retailers RIM is losing a significant amount of money on each tablet that is sold. While the idea of positioning a product as a loss leader is not uncommon, there isn’t too much upside for RIM in this case.”

Read the full post at

PlayBook sales estimate

I have made a few estimates of the sales of the BlackBerry PlayBook before. Assuming that 255,000 had been sold by June 14th, and that 504,000 had been sold as of September 16th. After looking at the most recent data I calculate that RIM has sold around 700,000 tablets as of November 15th.

This shows BlackBerry tablets selling at a rate of about 100k a month recently. Sales rebounded unexpectedly in October despite the lack of a timely OS update. Numbers for November, however, are on track to be down once again.

As before this estimation is based off of the number of downloads of the free game Pixelated. While this calculation does rely on a number of assumptions, given that Pixelated has remained one of the most downloaded apps for the PlayBook, I feel that I have better numbers then most to base this estimate upon.

Thoughts on PlayBook 2.0

I should start by pointing out that I expected version 2.0 to be rolled out to everyone by the end of DevCon, and am extremely disappointed that it did not happen. OS updates have not exactly been coming every two weeks like it looked like early after release, and the most recent update is about two months old at this point.

Still RIM did release a developer beta of the update, and it is worth taking a look at that. This is a true beta so there are many apps not included, and there are issues with Bridge but I think it is safe to ignore those things for now. The changes on the OS level are actually pretty limited, and include an overhaul of the homescreen, support for Android Java apps, and AIR 3.0.

The new homescreen is pretty nice, and most usefully now includes folders. Creating folders is pretty awesome one you figure out how to do it, but discovering how to do so is not that intuitive. Most of the other changes relate to an increased preview size for apps in the card view, which I think is just a result of the designers trying to figure out how to make BBX look decent on a phone sizes screen.

Android support is nice, but all of the apps launch in a single ‘Android player’ which means that they multitask differently, and are not quite true first level applications. Unless this is fixed, I think that many users will be disappointed by Android apps on BBX.

Most disappointing is what 2.0 has still not added. Mainly spell check/auto completion. Since launch, Docs to go has included a spell check, and some autocompletion (at least double space for a period) and it is completely unclear why this is not available for all text on a system wide level. More then any other feature this is the one that I really need.

The importance of the PlayBook

Overall sales of the BlackBerry PlayBook have been a bit disappointing. However that does not imply that it is a device that should be ignored. Support for this tablet was added to Version 2.0 of Xploding Boxes in mid September. Bolstered by having a spot in the top 25 free apps (peaked at #8, currently at #22), and by being featured in the carrousel, the game got a good amount of downloads on the device. More importantly though is that it significantly outperformed the BlackBerry phones when it came to users upgrading to the full version of the game. Over the past month, the PlayBook accounted for 5.13% of all downloads of Xploding Boxes, and 9.55% of all purchases of the app. So while the PlayBook makes up a relatively small part of the BlackBerry market, when it comes to purchases, the PlayBook outperforms its market share by almost a factor of two.

PlayBook OS distribution

The PlayBook is seeing very good rates of OS upgrades, with 96% of all users currently running the newest version of the OS. As a developer this is a good trend to see because it implies that less work will need to go towards supporting older versions of the operating system. (For example the 3% of users still running OS 1.0.3 do not have access to in-app purchases).

In the past this has been an issue for RIM. As of just this past month 12.7% of BlackBerry smartphone users were still on OS 4.6 which was released over three years ago now. Historically RIM has had even more trouble getting users to upgrade existing devices. However, by removing the wireless carriers from the process, and including an simpler, and easier way to upgrade on the PlayBook, RIM does not seem to be having these problems anymore.

PlayBook Sales estimate

Last Thursday RIM announced that they have shipped 700,000 PlayBooks as of August 27th. However for developers the more important question is how many of those were actually sold? Based on my calculations the answer is that they have actually sold through most of these with 504,000 PlayBooks sold as of September 16th.

This estimation is based off of the number of downloads of the free game Pixelated. While this calculation does rely on a number of assumptions, given that Pixelated has remained one of the most downloaded apps for the PlayBook, I feel that I have better numbers then most to base this estimate upon.

I have tweaked the formula used to make this estimation, to one that is more conservative then the one I have used in the past. Under the new formula the June 14th estimate would have been revised down to 255,000 tablets sold.

Xploding Boxes version 2.0

Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 2.0 in BlackBerry AppWorld. This new version adds support for the PlayBook, support for Spanish, and 15 new levels.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry 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 215 levels can be accessed by making an in-application payment and requiring no further downloads.

PlayBook Support

New in version 2.0 is support for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. If you have already upgraded to the full version of Xploding Boxes on your phone, you can gain access on the PlayBook as well without having to pay a second time. Instead you can just select “Upgrade” from the swipe down menu, and log in with your BlackBerryID. Unfortunately there is no way to sync your level progress on the phone version of the game, with the tablet version of the game so you will have to replay the levels from the beginning.

New Levels & Español

This new version also adds levels 201-215 to the game, as well as adding support for Spanish. The language can be changed from the option page, and will require the app to be restarted in order to take effect in some places. These additional levels and languages are available on both the phone and tablet versions of the game.

Links & Information

Swipe down menus should also swipe back up

On the BlackBerry PlayBook, the top bezel is reserved for developers in order to create an app specific “swipe-down menu”. While not enough apps make use of this, for those that do there does not yet appear to be any standard behavior on how to close these menus. I propose a simple solution, that the menu should swipe back up off the screen.

Most developers do tween the menu back off the top of the screen after a selection, or a touch outside of the menu area, but like you can swipe down to display the menu, you should also be able to swipe back up in order to hide it again. This is the approach that has been added to version 2.7 of Pixelated and version 1.1 of Black Out.

In order to implement this, when the menu is opened gesture swipe are listened for using the code: stage.addEventListener( TransformGestureEvent.GESTURE_SWIPE, onSwipe) and then if the TransformGestureEvent’s offsetY == -1 (in the up direction), and the localY is less then the menu’s height, a command is then sent to remove the menu from the screen. (Otherwise the swipe is ignored).

This gives a more consistent user interface, as swiping from the top bezel to the screen opens the menu, and swiping from the on screen menu to the top bezel hides it. The more developers that use this, the more customers will know to expect it, and the better their PlayBook experience will be.

Update to PlayBook game ‘Black Out’

The game Black Out has been updated in BlackBerry AppWorld to version 1.2 this past weekend. This new version improves the navigation of the game’s interface.

How to Play

The goal to Black Out is to tap the tiles, so that they all get ‘blacked out’. This is complicated because whenever you tap to flip a tile, it also flips all of the tiles surrounding it. As such it requires a well laid out strategy.

In order to accommodate different difficulties, the game supports board sizes from 3×3 all the way up to a 10×10 grid. Furthermore, there is also a hint button in case you find yourself in need of help.

Links & Information