For the last year or so, I’ve been using a Blackberry Playbook and for the most part since it only cost me slightly more than $100 for it, it’s a solid device for e-mail and web surfing. The hardware fit and finish can’t be beat at this price point which is probably why in Canada it has around 19% of the market. What is driving me insane is that appears that RIM isn’t testing their official accessories in real world conditions!
I have 3 accessories don’t quite all work:
- The Official Convertible Case
- The Official Charging Dock
- The Official Rapid Charger
The Convertible Case and Charging Dock
For the most part the convertible case works well. It fits the Playbook snugly and works pretty well as a stand for watching videos. I actually like the case as it protects the tablet well without sacrificing portability and accessibility.
The Playbook charging dock is nice looking accessory. It’s glossy surface and it’s minimalist design highlights the tablet when cradled. Charging through the dock takes about half as long as
using the micro USB port, but it still takes around 2 hours which in my opinion is still way to long to be considered a rapid (which some advertisements call the accessory a Rapid Charging Dock).
The case and the dock work well by themselves but if you’re like me and have both the design of each will drive you insane as it’s obvious that these official accessories were never intended to work together. When the Playbook is in the case the rubber encasement is just thick enough to prevent it from making contact with the to the charging connector on the dock! You’re forced to remove the tablet from its case to use the dock which is insane due to the amount of effort it takes to put it inside in the first place. I ended up cutting out a section of the case with an X-Acto knife to avoid this inconvenience.
Lesson #1: Test your accessories together! Obviously you want customers to buy more than one and the expectation that they should work well together is not a stretch of the imagination. Apple understands this and although their accessories are overpriced, I bet they all work well together.
Playbook Official Rapid Travel Charger
During boxing day this year I picked up the rapid travel charger for under $10. This accessory usually costs around $30 and if it makes charging the playbook quicker when I’m travelling on vacation or business it’s a worthwhile investment. It uses the same type of connector as the dock and charging times are about the same – when the tablet registers about 6% of power, it takes approximately 2 hours to completely charge it.
From the photo you see that there is power brick and cord that extends and connects with the Playbook, but did you notice that you don’t see the complete length of the cable. What’s funny is that seems to be 99% of all the photos of rapid travel charger – you never see the complete length of the cable. I think this was done on purpose as it’s very short – so short that it barely reaches the top of a table when plugged into a wall outlet. When you’re connecting the playbook to the charger, the power brick is almost floating off the ground and your tablet is sitting precariously close to the edge of the table. The connection isn’t even snug with the Playbook – all it takes is a very slight tug and it pops off; the pull of gravity on the power brick could cause the connection to come loose! What you also don’t see in the official photos is the amount of chord that goes from the power brick to the outlet – it’s ridiculously long to the point where I think someone interpreted the design incorrectly and got the length of cabling backwards! Short cable should be from the outlet to the brick and the long one from the brick to the tablet – that would have made sense. What amazes me is that no one uncovered this during the initial designs and corrected it – I encountered it the first time I tried to use charger! Either no one at RIM uses their own accessories, or they decided to live with it and make their customers frustrated.
Lesson #2: Blackberry official accessories are an extension of your brand. When they are not properly thought through customers may believe your product may not be completely baked. Try them out yourself and correct issues before ending up with millions in inventory and have to liquidate them at below cost… now it makes sense how why I managed to get it at $10.
RIM has Blackberry 10 coming out in the next 30 days and what they cannot afford is having a spectacular hardware launch marred by ill-fitting and slightly under designed accessories. They will be judged by their entire ecosystem from their operating system, number of A-List titles in their app store (aka AppWorld) and by the quality of their accessories. With their extended delays in launching BB10 they have no excuses – everything needs to work well together.