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PlayBook tablet gets second update that lacks native email

RIM adds Facebook app improvements, in-app payment feature and battery fixes to PlayBook

June 7, 2011 09:46 AM ET

Computerworld - The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet Tuesday got a minor update that adds several new features and performance enhancements, but users will apparanty have to wait until later this year for native email capabilities.

The latest free update, BlackBerry Tablet v1.0.5, will be released over-the-air to current owners in the coming days and will be included in new models starting this week, according to the official Research in Motion blog.

Among several new items, the updates add video upload, message deletion and other features to the Facebook for BlackBerry Playbook app, according to the blog post.

Important to developers and users is a new in-app payment support feature that is already available in other vendors' tablets and smartphones. It allows a game user or app user to add recent improvements while actually in the app, instead of having to return to the BlackBerry App World for the latest version of the app.

New battery charging features allow the tablet to be charged when fully powered down. Users can now touch the battery indicator on the home screen for a pop-up menu that lets users either restart the tablet, turn it off, put it in standby or even adjust the screen brightness.

Seven new languages are added as well as automatic Wi-Fi hotspot detection, RIM said.

RIM announced a PlayBook v1.0.3 update on May 2 that had also added many new features, including video chat.

The 7-in. PlayBook has experienced a number of ups and downs since its April 19 launch. It was announced last fall, but wasn't released for several months, putting it far behind other tablets, including the Apple's popular iPad and iPad 2 as well as some Android models.

Analysts and reviewers criticized PlayBook early on for missing features such as video chat. The most criticism was aimed at the PlayBook's lack of a native email client. At the time, RIM said the email feature would be added "this summer."

RIM officials could not be reached Tuesday to say when precisely an email client update is coming.

PlayBook users still can rely on Web-based email or a Bluetooth tether to a BlackBerry smartphone already connected to push-based corporate email through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

About a month after its launch, RIM recalled about 1,000 PlayBook tablets mainly in stores and warehouses, because they could not properly load software at setup.

RIM has also seen some broader corporate problems recently, warning in April that its first quarter financial results would be lower than expected and that smartphone launches would be later than expected.

RIM's first quarter results will be reported June 16.

RIM was also hit on Monday with news that ComScore has seen a recent 12% decline in BlackBerry smartphones used in the U.S. at the same time that overall smartphone usage has increased by 13%. Its overall ranking dropped from second to third in the ComScore survey, putting it behind Android and iPhone.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter@matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed Hamblen RSS. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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