A Functional Bezel

The PlayBook supports all of the basic gestures we've come to expect from mobile devices with a capacitive touchscreen. There's flick to scroll, pinch to zoom and pretty much anything else you'll encounter on an iOS or Android based device. What RIM adds with the PlayBook are gestures that originate in the bezel of the device.

Any gestures within the 7-inch LCD area control the currently running app. Any gestures that originate in the bezel around the screen however are a different story. The first is the unlock gesture. Swipe up/down, left/right or the opposite direction when the PlayBook is asleep and you'll wake it up. There's no support for passcode locking and no physical unlock switch (although the power button will work in a pinch) - all you need to do is take one finger starting from a point on the bezel and slide it up or across. I've noticed that you have to be pretty committed when unlocking, anything less than swiping up/across 50% of the screen won't register as an unlock swipe. I suspect this is to ensure that no accidental swipes unlock the PlayBook when in your pocket/purse/othercavity.

Once unlocked, a swipe up from the bottom bezel will do one of two things depending on the state of the PlayBook. If you're at the home screen, swiping up from the bottom bezel brings up the entire app launcher instead of just the top row of apps. If you're in an app, a swipe up will reduce the active app to a thumbnail, expose the webOS-style task switcher and display a part of the home screen.

Swipe from the top bezel downward within an app and you'll either reveal a contextual menu for the app or you'll pull down the system settings page.

What about the left/right bezel? That's what you use to quickly switch between apps of course. Imagine an infinitely wide desktop where your viewport is big enough to hold on full screen app. To get to any active (even paused) app to the left or right of what you're currently looking at, just swipe left (or right) beginning in the bezel and you'll swap apps. If you only have one app running the OS will try to animate your current app sliding away but it'll bounce back, as if to tell you that you've reached the end of the horizontal list.

The bezel gestures don't stop there. Swipe up from the lower left corner and you'll bring up the PlayBook's virtual keyboard, in any app. This is a particularly puzzling gesture because you can bring up the keyboard even in apps that can't use a keyboard. And no, the keyboard shortcuts from the BlackBerry OS don't work on the PlayBook.

The lower right corner doesn't do anything but swipe from either of the upper two corners and you activate what RIM calls the peek gesture. The peek gesture gives you a quick look at the top status bar - including any notifications, date/time and battery status.

The bezel based gestures work well on the PlayBook although I'm not sure how long term of a solution this will be. Users tend to prefer thinner bezels - a direction I ultimately see all tablets going.

Introduction QNX: The PlayBook OS
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  • name99 - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    "I am starting to doubt the iSupply numbers you quoted."

    And I am starting to doubt that your contrary opinions are of much value.

    "Their memory prices are also highly suspect, clinging to $2/GB for what are still really small drives compared where higher performing SSDs already are."

    (a) The price here is for STORAGE, not memory as you call it.

    (b) The issue is that Apple wants flash that is low power, not high performance. This probably means that want flash that works at low voltage.
    This is not trivial --- as evidenced by the fact that pretty much EVERY SSD vendor is incapable of shipping a drive that can write reliably at USB power levels.

    If the market for low power flash is different from the market for high performance (and high peak power) flash, then comparing prices as you are doing makes no sense.
  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    That is kinda sad. I find the tablet market a bit of a mystery still. The hardware is either loaded and expensive, or cheaply made junk. The software is still in limbo. I wanted to try a tablet without much risk, so I ended upgetting a Nook Color and a microSD card and went through the mod community. If all fails, its still a good dreaded, but its actually been a lot of fun trying all the mods. Can't wait to see a good build of HC for it, as the prerelease build isn't too bad already. A prefect tablet? No, but the specs are decent, the screen is great, and the cost was very acceptable. :)
  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    LoL. Dreaded = e reader. Nice spell check android! :D
  • eliotw - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    They are clearly prioritizing the corporate market that is their bread and butter. I'd never buy this for myself but the "too big to fail" bank I work for could deploy these quickly with the bridge features. That wouldn't be possible with iOS or Android. This isolation capability is impressive but I it still seems like they are releasing it with too many things missing.
  • Spivonious - Thursday, April 14, 2011 - link

    For business users yes, but I think most home users (aka non-techies) use web mail and wouldn't be too bothered.
  • PeteH - Thursday, April 14, 2011 - link

    The problem is that RIMM appears to be primarily targeting business users. Maybe their thinking is that business users will have their Blackberry on them anyway, making an application unnecessary, but it seems like a big oversight to me.
  • galuple - Thursday, April 14, 2011 - link

    It's a corporate security thing. Corporate types very serious about security. No email client means that if one of these gets lost, it doesn't have sensitive documents on it since it's all on the blackberry.
  • Kiddo2050 - Thursday, April 14, 2011 - link

    I could care less. This is aimed at Blackberry users as of now, and I am one. With Blackberry Bridge this is a none issue.

    Sorry, but I just can't go for Apple and it's closed app eco system (the AOL of today). I've had numerous apple products (everything except the ipad in fact) and I just got so sick of plugging everything into iTunes. Just tired of that company ripping me off left right and center. Here's the "New" Macbook Pro, yes it's already out of date in terms of specs but you don't care because it's Apple. Sure my Blackberry phone is not cutting edge but the point is no one at RIM pretends it is. The iPad2 was rolled out as the hotest new tablet and they didn't say anything about the RAM which was sub par - "just don't tell our consumers they won't know." No thanks Steve, iPad2 and Apple = FAIL start caring about your customers instead of screwing them every chance you get.
  • zephyros - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    it's true but so wat? apple came out without cut and paste before...why is everyone so surprised? it's how they fix the issue and how fast that matters. at least they know about it and came out mentioning it instead of letting customers find out themselves
  • Ethaniel - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    ... great job, Anand.

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