How to Make the BlackBerry Playbook Actually Useable

By Chris Mills on at

By killing off the rumoured BB10 update for the Playbook, BlackBerry basically stabbed its 7-inch tablet in the heart and lungs. As a result, though, new Playbooks can be had for around £80. Given the hardware isn't terrible, that's a bit of a bargain. And it's even better when you mod it to do actually-useful things.


Android Apps

First-up, we're going to get some Android apps on the Playbook. To get an Android app running on the Playbook is fairly simple.

- First, you need an app in the .bar format. Normally, Android apps are in the .apk format; they can be re-packaged by this handy converter. Alternatively, there's already a good list of re-packaged apps here.

- Next, you'll need to download DDPB, which is an app that allows you to essentially sideload apps. It can be found here.

- While the file's downloading, fire up your Playbook, and go to Settings-->Options-->Development Mode, and turn it on. Enter a simple password.

- Using the web browser on your Playbook (ugh), navigate to the .bar files you want to install (probably from the website links above), and download them.

- Fire up DDPB (which is Windows-only, by the way -- sorry). Plug your Playbook into your PC, and hit Scan. (If you Playbook doesn't show up straight away, you can manually enter the IP address, which should show up in an icon on your home screen.) Connect to it, and it'll ask for a password -- use the same one you entered when turning on Developer Mode.

- Once you've connected to your Playbook, click add, and navigate to the .bar files you downloaded (by default, they'll be in /downloads). Voila, your apps should be installed.


Using Your Playbook as a Giant Novelty Remote

Ok, so aside from being a cheap way of running Android apps, there aren't a huge number of other things you can do with a Playbook. That said, the BlackBerry Bridge function lets you use the Playbook as a remote for all sorts of things, thanks to to the open Bluetooth interface. Probably the most useful is the PS3. To connect:

- Turn on Bluetooth on your Playbook, and make sure your device is set to be discoverable.

- On the PS3, open Accessory Settings, then Manage Bluetooth Devices

- On the Playbook, open the BlackBerry Bridge app

- On the PS3, hit 'Register New Device', and then scan for your Playbook. When (fingers and toes crossed) it finds the Playbook, it'll ask for a passcode. Enter any passcode -- your Playbook should now prompt you for a passcode. Enter the same one.

- The PS3 may well now give you an error, and not show up; but despite what you see, it should hopefully be paired. You can now use yoru Playbook to navigate around, and even type (thank God).