This morning's BlackBerry PlayBook OS update to version 126.96.36.1998 brought with it a number of updates, including BlackBerry Video Chat!! The Video Chat app allows BlackBerry PlayBook owners to... well.. you know.. chat over video with each other. Gone is the phrase What's your pin? when it comes to adding contacts. Instead, the big question from now on is What's your BBID? Enter in a person's email address tied to their BlackBerry ID account and you can easily call up a contact. There's no availability status at this time, so for it to work you're both going to have to have your PlayBooks turned on and in WiFi coverage (calling somebody not online will result in a Contact Not Available message). The person you're calling doesn't need to be in the Video Chat app though as long as their PlayBook is turned on (it can be sitting with the display off in standby) and WiFi-connected - even with the PlayBook display off and the Video Chat not open it will wake the display and you'll get a notification of the incoming call and can accept it and begin to chat.
With the call connected we've found the video to be really smooth so far. WiFi coverage at BlackBerry World can be pretty spotty with 6,000 people all carrying multiple devices fighting for signal, but out of 10 calls so far we've found it to be more than acceptable in terms of smoothness. Talking to some of the other bloggers and writers in attendance, the word is it's way better than anything video chat on Android and looks to be as good or even better than Facetime on iOS (the PlayBook's video quality is really top notch thanks to the awesome camera and display). I really like the fact you can use either the front facing or rear facing camera during video chat. You can also do audio-only calls (no video), and set yourself to Do Not Disturb if you want to ensure nobody interrupts you. Overall the experience is quite impressive and we're sure it's only going to get better as RIM continues to work on it. We have run into some issues with trying to connect a couple calls where the error message "A firewall is preventing a Video Chat connection." We're not quite sure exactly what the situation is that can cause that to happen but we're going to figure it out. Stay tuned.
Check out the video above to see Adam and I call each other. It's a good ole video chatting time. Awesome stuff RIM. Keep the PlayBook updates coming. This device just keeps getting better and better and better!