No more hacking PlayBook AIR apps

Published on: July 2, 2011
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Yesterday I received yet another monstrous update for the BlackBerry PlayBook. While on the one hand it is awesome that BlackBerry are investing so much time and effort to make things better, but a 250MB update every 2 weeks or so is a little too much for my taste.

So far, I was quite happy with my PlayBook, but I did have some concerns regarding its functionality. For example, one of the preinstalled software was Bing maps, which uses the GPS to get a fix on your position. However, documentation on the PlayBook stated that it has a GPS on board, but I never could get a lock on any satellites, no matter which geolocation application I was trying. Even testing the GPS availabilty with an Adobe AIR application by checking the GeoLocation.isSupported property gave me a confirmation that the device has a GPS (which I was doubting after all my efforts).

Talking about AIR applications, those of you who tried to get an app on the PlayBook have noticed that up until now the operating system only supports version 2.5, whereas creating mobile AIR applications required AIR 2.6 or higher. That was a problem, but it could be fixed by adding the -forceAIRVersion 2.5 option to the BlackBerry packaging options in Flash Builder. (Or you could of course compile and create the package using the command line tools). Although being solvable, this remained an inconvenience

Now, with the latest update things have changed. First of all, I’m delighted to say that the GPS is finally working properly and I even get a lock when indoors, which cannot be said for most GPS devices. Not that I’m using it that much, since the PlayBook only has WiFi available and no 3G connectivity (well, mine doesn’t have that, but future devices could), which means you cannot use it on the road. But it’s the thought that counts…

Then I noticed the screenshot above and the fact that the operating system now supports AIR 2.7. This is awesome news, because that means that we don’t have to fiddle around with PlayBook specific packaging settings anymore. You can now simply take your AIR application and compile it both for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook without having to worry about the AIR runtime version on the devices. Well, at least until Adobe enforces another higher version of AIR for some reason. But even then, it seems that BlackBerry is keeping up with those releases pretty well.

So, to all that have been postponing BlackBerry PlayBook development using AIR and Flash Builder 4.5 because of the additional hassle you had to go through: go forth and start working on cool AIR apps!

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