The PlayBook hardware rules but the software still needs work. The Video Chat app is a perfect example of this. The hardware is all there, with a front and back HD camera, but the app itself lacks the features needed for it to really be useful. There are five main features that need to be implemented in order for the PlayBook Video Chat app to actually work like you need it to. Here they are:
1. See when contacts are online/offline: A tablet isn’t something that’s “always on”. In fact, the tablet is off a lot of the time. Especially because it requires a WiFi connection. Since you never know when your contacts are online or offline, calling your contacts is really hit or miss. There must be a way for RIM to implement an “Online/Offline” mode for contacts, so that I won’t waste my time calling people who aren’t there.
2. Adding contacts needs to be easier: Currently, you have to add someone by their BlackBerry ID. The problem is, getting that BlackBerry ID is a pain and especially for new users, it’s not easy for them to figure it out to tell people. When someone calls you, you can add them from the “Recent” tab but it’s not automatic. Generally, the friend discovery process should be based on BBM, Facebook and Twitter. It should search for all instances where you might have a friend with a PlayBook and allow you to send them a friend request. Also, it should pull in their avatars. There’s no reason why I should be hunting for a picture of my contact’s face.
3. More consistency – The recent PlayBook update has done a lot for making the experience more consistent but sometimes you still get disconnected or an error. It would be great if there were settings that could help you optimize the experience based on the available connections. For example, if your WiFi is strong, you can do high quality but if it’s shoddy, it should bump you to a low quality. Perhaps it already does this but it could still use a bit of performance tweaking.
4. More reasons to use it – Ok, so video chat is cool, but what’s the point? I find with all my contacts so far, I’ve done the usual “WHOA HEY THIS IS COOL!” and that’s it. We never did video chat again. What we need are some features that would give the Video Chat app some purpose. For example, being able to bring other windows into the discussion would really empower the users. It would be like you’re both working on the same computer screen. There are probably a lot of other things you could do, but generally, there needs to be a better value prop for Video Chat.
5. Video Voicemail - I would say 99% of the time I try to cold call someone with the Video Chat app they don’t answer. Why not let me leave a video voicemail (or videomail)? I’m usually calling because I have something funny to show them, like the can of coke that exploded in the freezer, so why not let me leave them that in their Video Chat Voicemail box? Also, Video VoiceMail aka VideoMail is patent patending as of 30 seconds ago. Huge cash buyout from RIM is a possibility but they will have to compete with Skype/Microsoft.