updated 01:45 pm EDT, Tue May 3, 2011
Feature compares to FaceTime and Android tablets
After reaffirming plans to add video chat functionality to the BlackBerry PlayBook, RIM quickly released an update that brings the feature to its tablets. Electronista tried out the new utility, which can be used with either of the tablet's cameras. We have taken a closer look at how the feature compares with equivalent options on the iPad and Android-based tablets.
After installing the over-the-air update, setting up video chats is simple and straightforward. Users are required to enter a BlackBerry ID e-mail address of each person to be called, though the software saves the contact information for subsequent chats. Virtual buttons can be used to initiate a chat, revert to voice-only communication, or switch between the front- or rear-facing cameras.
Video chat on the PlayBook is limited to Wi-Fi connections, matching the requirements that Apple dictates with FaceTime. We found the video to be slightly choppy when testing at BlackBerry World, however the Wi-Fi connections at expos are typically strained by hundreds of users. Frame rates are likely to improve on home Wi-Fi or corporate networks.
The PlayBook video-chat experience appears to be comparable to FaceTime or Android, however its reach is currently limited to other PlayBook tablets. FaceTime and Android video chats can be established between different devices or computers, but RIM has yet to announce a desktop client that works with the system. Even the company's upcoming flagship smartphones, the Bold 9900 series, will not have front-facing cameras when they arrive on the market this summer.