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BlackBerry PlayBook OS Version 1.0.5 Hands On: Better Charging, Louder Audio

RIM has just rolled out a new software update to its PlayBook tablet device. This latest version, 1.0.5, adds some interesting refinements such as better charging and power up options, more languages, plus better audio. Here's a run down of the new features and what we thought of them.

Charging Enhancements

One annoyance with the PlayBook was that, at launch, the device couldn't charge when powered down. With the new update, the tablet can handle this feat. When off, the PlayBook's LED notification light will glow red at first, then pulse green, alerting users it's charging. We did have to, however, unplug and reconnect the cord to get the green LED light going.

Also new is an alert which will tell users they have inserted a regular phone charger that, while it will fit the PlayBook's microUSB port, won't provide enough juice to charge the device. We tried this out by inserting a standard BlackBerry charger. Indeed, we did get a small plug symbol within the battery level indicator compared with the large lightning bolt shown when we used the Playbook's own charger. Oddly, when powered down, the PlayBook will also pulse its green light when the regular BlackBerry charger is connected. We also found that other chargers will work too, like the SonyEricsson Xperia Play and an older HTC adapter we had handy.

New Battery Display Pop Up

Pressing the battery level indicator on the top right of the PlayBook's screen opens a window that lets users view a bigger battery symbol and adjust the screen brightness with a slide control. More importantly it features, buttons for tuning off, restarting, or placing the tablet into standby mode. That's a boon since the PlayBook's physical power button is very small and tough to press.

Facebook app pre-installed

RIM describes its FaceBook app for PlayBook as the first version that's tablet-optimized. We're not really sure what that means. Even so, the app is included with the new OS. Touted functions include the ability to share video, delete messages, and conduct searches. The FaceBook Android app has been doing this for while. Also, we didn't see a way to view Events, Places, or Groups. The app only operates in landscape orientation.

New Languages Added

With PlayBook OS V 1.0.5, more languages have been added. These include French, Italian, Dutch, German, UK English, and Spanish. When Mandarin is slipped in we'll be impressed.

Improved Video Chat

Integrated into the update is a feature called TURN or Traversal Using Relay NAT. This networking protocol, says RIM, will enhance video chat made between public and corporate, firewalled networks. The video chat app only lets fellow PlayBook owners to talk to each other. Once we get hold of two devices, we'll see just how well the feature works. Still, it did look good when saw video chat demoed at BlackBerry World.

Beefed Up Audio for Headphones

This may not sound like a terribly safe feature but the PlayBook now gives the option to pump up the volume while listening to audio via headphones, called Head Set Audio Boost. The idea here is to provide extra volume to power through noisy environs. A disclaimer is given before the function is activated for the first time. Listening to Paper Romance by Groove Armada, we can attest the track boomed a bit more with Boost activated.

Support for In-App Payments

A word to developers, this latest version of the PlayBook OS brings in-app support for payments. Hopefully, soon this will mean more ways to purchase goods on the device. Right now the most immediate ways to buy things on the PlayBook are through the onboard Music Store and the Kobo eBook apps. A quick look in the Online shopping section of the BlackBerry Appworld revealed just three software titles.

PlayBook OS version 1.0.5 brings some welcome editions. It has just whet our appetite for more improvements, which will hopefully include an e-mail client.