The BlackBerry PlayBook - One fine in-flight companion

By Simon Sage on 27 Nov 2012 06:01 am EST

After 19 hours of travel, I'm finally in Bangkok, Thailand for the BlackBerry Jam Asia 2012 developers conference. It was a long trip from Ottawa, Ontario, but thanks to the BlackBerry PlayBook, the time flew right by.

I figured since there are plenty of PlayBook owners crossing criss-crossing the world daily, they would appreciate a few tips on how to while away the hours on a plane.

I started off on my way from Ottawa to Toronto by learning a few simple Thai words with the ThaiVocab app. It was really nice in that it provided a full audio pronunciation guide and a phonetic pronunciation section for every word.  

While in the air, I definitely used my PlayBook to snap a couple of pictures. For most of my trip, the DSLR is packed deep in my carry-on, but since the PlayBook is always in front on the tray table, it's perfect for those window-seat opportunities that pop up every once in awhile. If you've got the time, there are some pretty impressive sights to be captured at airports, too. 

As you might have heard, Kevin wasn't able to make it to the show, which meant that I had to brush up in hurry on the presentation he was going to be giving on how developers should speak with bloggers. Docs to Go handled the PowerPoint for the most part, though there was one graphic in the .PPTX that didn't translate over. If I was really smart, I would have used TubeMate to download the YouTube video of Kevin's talk from BlackBerry Jam Americas so I could incorporate any of the talking points that weren't on the slides.  

Of course, I couldn't go the full 24 hours of travel without my gaming fix. ShadowGun has been out for awhile now, but I never had much of a chance to sit down and finish it, so it was nice to have the opportunity to pour an hour or two into the richly-detailed 3D shooter. I'm thinking Dead Space may be what's on the menu for the trip back.  

I was determined to get through the trip without zonking out on sleeping pills, so I loaded up some easy, slow music, put it on loop, and relied on that to put me to sleep well before my usual bedtime. The 13 hour time difference is still killing me, but hopefully everything will be made right before the show starts.  

It was hard to come to Bangkok and not have everyone make Hangover 2 references at me. The worst part of all is that I hadn't seen it yet, so the flight over seemed like a good time to see just how horrible this city could possibly be to me. I used the relatively new PlayBook Video Store to pick up the movie for twenty bucks, but I definitely didn't give myself enough time to download it - airport Wi-Fi wasn't nearly good enough, and tethering during my one short, local layover didn't help. I could still watch what had been downloaded through the PlayBook's media app, and even though when I landed, I couldn't make any purchases, it would still wrap up the download for movies I had already bought. I'm thinking Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak for the return flight.  

There were a few things that I just plum didn't have the opportunity to try out. My layovers were only about an hour each, but it would have been handy to have the PlayBook while shopping in airports abroad, if only to compare prices with what was available back home. The lack of any in-flight Wi-Fi also stopped me from bragging to friends about my first business class flight on Facebook. That's fine, they'd probably just sneer at me anyway.  I would have liked to have some time to shop around on Kobo for e-books on Bangkok, Thailand, and muay thai before leaving, but I guess I'll just have to catch up on that stuff on the way home.   

Overall, I found the PlayBook really indispensible for long flights. It's got a smaller footprint than most tablets and laptops, meaning more room on your tray table for meals or anything else. The local, built-in productivity tools ensured that the time wasn't a complete write-off, while a smattering of entertainment options kept me from going crazy in the flying skycan. 

Enough about me - how do you guys spend your flights with a BlackBerry PlayBook? 

Reader comments

The BlackBerry PlayBook - One fine in-flight companion


people often ask me what I do with my playbook.... my response "I haven't used my laptop since I got it"

I travel a couple times a month for work.
I haven't brought my laptop with me in over a year.
The PlayBook and 9900 really is a great combination... gonna be even better with BB10!

I totally agree. I mainly use my playbook and if I need something of my laptop I use Remote Desktop app and log in.

I travel to and from Europe and the Middle East a lot, and find on a 7-9 hour flight the PB is fantastic. Just one issue, games tends to blitz the battery - does anyone have any hints and tips for this? I know the usual ones, but I'm not always lucky enough to be in Business and near a plug.

It is a gem of a device though - especially when it fits in the inside breast pocket of my jacket.

it happens with native games too. I once played a good round of PLANTS vs ZOMBIES and it was dead in a few hours on 2.0. OS 2.1 seems to be quite a bit better for battery life and games.

I purchased one of the portable 12000mAh rechargable power packs from TeckNet, this should work very nicely for you.

Wow, I'm surprised you didn't experience the Alec Baldwin effect! Getting kicked off the plane for not turning off your electronic devices during take-off/landing. ;-)

During my last flight to New York I used my PlayBook to watch some movies, series and play a little game. With great battery life and it's portable size it was a very good companion :)

I loaded the playbook with movies before my last trip to Sydney (from Edmonton) and was able to stay entertained. Plus it fit perfectly in my inside jacket pocket.

I took my father on a trip across Canada via rail, and it was great for all of those times he slept! LOL

Movies, email, pictures etc., it is a great device to have.

The other thing I use it for is while out on the boat. We have full internet via Bridging and it is perfect for that!! Next thing to do is use it for PB to PB voice and video communications, cool! What a steal these things are.

Can you get in trouble having movies and music you downloaded illegally, or semi-legally in Canada, on these devices?

I guess you could download them legally from the video store, or whatever it is called. They you can watch it from there.

at least in my pb, after the 2.1 update, i am not able to charge it from a computer usb nor the usb port of the airplanes... i understand this is because the power coming from these plugs is just too weak to charge the pb... does everybody else have this situation, or it depends on the update size (some were heavier than others)?

It will depend upon how deeply discharged your battery is and how much brightness you have set on your screen. The USB 1.0 and 2.0 standards ALLOW up to 100mA for unrecognized devices and up to 500mA for configured devices. This is why when you plug a completely discharged PlayBook (i.e. one without the flashing lights and where the processor is below 2.67V) it will take forever to charge. Even once the battery gets above 2.67V, the processor (and screen)start to run and this can overwhelm even the 500mA that the host device can provide.

USB 3.0 allows up to 150 and 900mA respectively... but this is still way less than the 1700mA the standard PlayBook charger provides. I have no idea what the seat back USB ports provide but I suspect it isn't USB 3.0.

Some devices can accept up to 1800mA charge from USB 3.0 but they do that by shorting together the two data pins. This doesn't allow them to use the USB for anything but charging obviously as the information is transmitted on the D-/D+ pins (2 & 3 respectively). If you ever were really stuck and needed to get your PlayBook to charge from a computer, you could potentially MacGyver a USB cable that shorted the white (D-) and green (D+) wires together but I wouldn't recommend it unless the fate of the world depended upon it. :-) Note also that any other USB device you have plugged into your computer is dragging down the available current.

The moral of this soliloquy is that you really should use the Native PlayBook charger or better yet the Rapid Chargers to charge your PlayBook. If your battery is above 2.67Volts (you get flashing lights and or a screen), it is very likely that the PlayBook can suck up all the available power - things like running applications, screen brightness, wireless/GPS/Bluetooth running all affect how much power it needs. If you were absolutely stuck, I'd plug it in to the USB socket and let it "trickle" charge without turning it on. You'll get some charge into it likely. Of course it doesn't hurt to have it plugged in anyway even when your battery is near fully charged as it will lessen the amount of charge being sucked out of your battery.

Happy flights and make sure the pilot keeps the wheel side down.

PlayBook is a tablet. Any tablet can do the same things as a PlayBook. Doesn't have to be a PlayBook.

Besides, I would rather read magazines or a newspaper anyway.

OK the battery isn't going to last the entire flight so how about tips on the BEST EXTERNAL BATTERY PACK with a small foot print that you can use as a back up........................????????????????????

Tell Delta Air that then. Flew to Vegas from Norfolk and back last year...3-6 different planes, no USBs on them at all! Playbook survived, but I turned the screen brightness all the way down, and turned the volume off. Really was a boon to have on the flight though.

I use it to read, mostly using either Kobo or Overdrive. I love the size. I have both those apps on my iPhone (too small - I'm flipping pages too frequently), and my wife uses her iPad for them (slightly big and unwieldy), but I find the Playbook is the perfect size for it.

I used mine while flying to and from Orlando in October. Was the best experience ever. Had a few shows loaded on it, as well as my huge game selection. Made the flight seem like half the actual flight time.

I took two of them around the world with my family for almost 11 months including to Malaysia... na, na, na, boo, boo. :-)

Screen brightness down, turn the wireless/bluetooth (and GPS) off. Run only one application at a time (take it out of showcase mode) and you won't have any problem reading ebooks or watching movies on the longest flights. We had a couple of 14 hour ones.

P.S. We loved Malaysian Airlines... and they are dirt cheap too (less than $500 from Johannesburg to Singapore (through Kuala Lumpur) and the same from Hanoi to Paris (again through KL).

I love my Playbook for flying. The airline I mostly travel on in the states usally has GOGO and usb plugs. That makes it nice as you have no battery worries. I like to use flight tracker to see where we are and if any problems lie ahead. Also play some games. Love it.

Great post. And while you are in Bangkok you can use "Money Plus for PlayBook" to keep track of your expenses. ;-) Cheers

One flight I was on was giving GOGO internet free on you smartphone as a "teaser", but you had to pay if you wanted it on your tablet or laptop. Well, thanks to BlackBerry Bridge I had it free on my PlayBook. Yes, I know I was violating the rules about using Bluetooth in flight, but the plane didn't crash...

Use a proxy to a Canadian server to continue downloading the movie.
Hehe, it is a good movie, although the original was better!

Would be good to see a comparison of Android tablets, Windows tablets, Ipad and Playbook on a long flight. Get the whole mobile nations team on a long flight and compare battery life, gaming, movies, and productivity.

I use my Playbook to carry flight publications for quick reference/backup during flight and absolutely love the size. After I land, Bridge with my Bold is perfect for getting an updated look at weather, etc before taking off to fly again. The PB doesn't have all of the aviation apps that could be nice, but I appreciate it's size, durability, and the amazing functionality when paired over the Bridge.

Same; I travel from Atlantic Canada to Whistler or Banff for business a few times a year and every time my Playbook has been a great companion. I use the Android Kindle app to read kindle books... Great device; hoping that BB10 will make it that much better and that the app following will increase substantially post-BB10 launch...

I'm just back from a trip to Tokyo. 1.5 hours from Dublin to Amsterdam and another 13 to Tokyo. I didn't bother using it on the short hop to Amsterdam, but on the Tokyo leg, I watched various movies, played ShadowGun, Need For Speed and Pool Break Lite.

Like Simon, I too loaded up with some music too and fell asleep to it.

When I landed in Tokyo, I had about 30% battery life left. On the plane I obviously had it in Flight Mode and turned the screen brightness down (cabin was dark anyway).

On the way back to Ireland, I pretty much did the same thing. All in all, it worked out well and proved a valuable tool on the trip.

I didn't have a playbook when I was with the band going to Mexico, just the netbook without the battery I left at home. The plug on the seat in was using kept shorting out every 9 minutes. Next time I'm on a plane, this playbook, my camcorder and blackberry will be in use the entire time. :D Oh and my digital camera that has the optics of a real low end DSLR, well almost.