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RIM announces Facebook and Video Chat apps for BlackBerry PlayBook, updates BlackBerry Bridge to support BBM

Unveiled nearly nine months ago, the BlackBerry Playbook has yet to materialise over here. Having been recently released in the US, we expect a UK date to be announced sometime very soon.

But when it arrives here, the PlayBook will not only be up against not only the super slick iPad 2 but a growing army of Android tablets as well.

So what will it have to offer? RIM has been busy announcing and updating PlayBook-specific apps at its BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida. We’ve done a brief round up on all of the basic apps announced to give you an idea of what to expect from the Playbook once it hits the UK.

Tethering with the BlackBerry Bridge

The PlayBook has been released in the US in Wi-Fi only editions so far. Why no Wi-Fi and 3G? Well, there’s no need. You see, RIM has released the BlackBerry Bridge app – a free app that allows you to tether your PlayBook to your BlackBerry phone and use that phone’s 3G connection. You should be able to tether the PlayBook to an Android 2.2+ device or an iPhone running iOS 4.3 if you wish.

But if you want to get the most out of your PlayBook, then you’ll want to tether via the Bridge app on a BlackBerry phone. As well as providing a tethering solution, Bridge allows you to sync things like your BlackBerry’s calendar, contacts, and most importantly, email.

It’s a pretty cunning move on RIM’s part – as well as saving you from having to fork out for a 3G version of the PlayBook, it also means that you’ll need to have a BlackBerry phone as well in order to use the BlackBerry Bridge.

Bridging the gap(ps) – BBM and Facebook

Yesterday, RIM released an update which brought BlackBerry Messenger (better known as BBM) to the PlayBook. From what we’ve seen here on BlackBerryIn it looks pretty good, but needs some work.

RIM has also officially announced the Facebook app for PlayBook, early versions of which we’ve seen in action before.

The app promises side by side chat conversations, seamless photo and video viewing and direct uploading of pictures and videos taken on the PlayBook to your Facebook profile.

There’s also talk of finding friends by “scanning the new grid view of their profile pictures” which we’re keen to see, as well as the ability to connect to an HD TV (via HDMI) and indulge in a bit of big screen Facebooking.

No mention of whether or not you can upload entire folders of pictures on the official release. We don’t like having to upload pictures one at a time on our iPhones and Android phones, so it’d be nice to see this feature.

Speaking of iPhone and Android, the Facebook for PlayBook app will be the first Facebook app that’s been specifically designed for a tablet. Crazy to think that there’s still no official Facebook for iPad or Facebook HD for Android, but there you go.

Playbook Video Chat app – Facetime anyone?

RIM has also announced the Video Chat app which, as if you couldn’t tell from its unimaginative name, allows you to do video calls over Wi-Fi a la FaceTime on the iPad 2.

From the sounds of the press release, it works a lot like Skype – you can set up DND notices, customise you contacts list and make audio only or full video and audio calls. There’s also a video preview mode, which allows you to see what your face looks like before you answer a video call. Useful if you haven’t realised that you’ve got crumbs or hummus all over your face.

RIM says that the Video Chat app will be demoed live today at its BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida today, so expect to see more soon.

We’ll be updating this piece as we hear/see more about BlackBerry Bridge, BBM, Facebook and Video Chat.

Image source: BlackBerryIn


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