We in the U.S. finally got an in-person look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Korean giant’s answer to Apple’s iPad launched at the IFA show in Berlin earlier this month.
So is it the Tab the iPad killer Samsung has promoted it to be?
From a strict spec POV, Tab is an impressive piece of technology — a 7-inch screen with nearly the same resolution as iPad (1024 x 768 for iPad, 1024 x 600 for Tab). It’s half iPad’s weight — .08 pounds vs. 1.6 pounds. Unlike iPad, Tab sports both fore and aft cameras (1.3 and 3 MP, respectively, with a rear flash), and both a proprietary jack and a microSD card expandable slot. Tab also includes Bluetooth 3.0 vs. 2.1 for iPad, which largely increases range.
Tab will run Android 2.2, aka Froyo, which means it runs the latest iteration of Adobe Flash natively, which means all Web multimedia runs like it does on a desktop. Apple famously or infamously and, in some folks’ minds, quixotically eschews Flash. Native Flash means a lot more games can be easily played and ported to the Tab.
iPad remains demonstrably superior in one respect: battery life. Tab can play HD video for up to 7 hours; iPad has a 10-hour battery life, which has been demonstrated to be on the conservative side.
The smaller form factor means Tab fits into a sports jacket inside or flap pocket or in the back pocket of your jeans (assuming you won’t forget it’s there and sit on it). Tab is sartorially front-framed in tuxedo black with a clean white back.
Samsung also will have superior distribution. Like it’s Galaxy S phones, Tab will be available on a staggered basis from all four national cellphone carriers. Tab is 3G only — there’s no 4G version for Sprint; there will be WiFi-only versions “later.” Unlike the different Galaxy S phones for each carrier, Tab hardware will remain consistent with only minor software adjustments.
Still unanswered is price. Like all cellphones, Tab will be priced paired with 3G plans by the carriers and Samsung execs refused to speculate on specifics, including possible subsidization. But Tab includes just 16 GB of built-in memory, so you’ll have to buy and add additional microSD memory to reach iPad’s 32 GB or 64 GB.
But specifications are not going to be enough for any Android tab to threaten iPad, a mistake Android makers are likely to make over and over as they tout their arguable technical superiority over iPad — the apps and a desktop syncing client.
Android’s open nature makes converting apps from smartphone tablet tricky. Samsung execs say 200 of Androids most popular apps will be optimized for Tab, and 85 to 90 percent of the apps in the Android Marketplace is “compatible with the screen,” according to a Samsung executive, a curious bit of technical semantics. For instance, the Qik video chat software found on Sprint’s 4G EVO is optimized for Tab, but like FaceTime on iPhone 4, Qik on Tab works only in WiFi (and the demo video call look a bit herky-jerky).
Samsung has filled any possible immediate app gaps with its own email, calendar and ebook apps, its social networking Daily Briefing, AllShare AirPlay-like streaming multimedia, and Media Hub movie/TV content purchase/rent apps (content can be shared with up to five MediaHub-compatible devices), along with Google apps such as maps and Gmail also have been optimized for Tab. Initially, next-day TV content will be available from MTV, NBC-Universal, Paramount and Warners.
Android tabs are unlikely to keep their supposed tech advantage for long. Odds are, Apple will unveil iPad 2.0 sometime in the next couple of months, a new version rumored to include front and rear cameras with FaceTime video chatting and the multi-tasking Apple iOS 4.2 operating system for iPad.
Android also is missing an iTunes-like desktop client to make syncing your own content — music, photos, non-Google contacts, et al — with Android tablets and smart phones. That gaping Android ecosystem hole is currently being filled by the independent DoubleTwist app. A new Samsung.com site will offer some iTunes Store-like capabilities.
There’ll be 87 key QWERTY keyboard and Tab will come with both a desktop and car dock.
- Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n
- Integrated GPS
- 2GB onboard memory, 16GB microSD card included, with support for up to a 32GB microSD card
- 4,000 mAh battery
- For complete features, head to the product page
There’s no pricing info, but here is the Q&A:
Q: Can we get a price range? In what volume will the device be available?
A: We’re not announcing pricing. Our carrier partners will do that later. [Samsung didn't really answer to the volume question]
Q: Can Samsung Allshare work with Samsung’s Media Hub?
A: Allshare is really for user-generated content, while Media Hub is for commercial content. even if you have the license for content, you’ll have to re-download it for each device. You cannot share commercial content directly from one device to another.
Q: Will we get Samsung’s Media Hub on TVs?
A: We’re not prepared to talk about non-mobile platforms today.
Q: What Galaxy Tab apps is Samsung Working on?
A: We’re helping the developer community to build great apps.
Q: Will the Sprint version be 3G or 4G? What about LTE? What kind of framerate can we get with 3G video streaming?
A: There’s no 4G version. Qik’s video chat works only on WIFI.
Q: Can we place phone calls with the Galaxy Tab?
Q: Will Samsung customize each Galaxy Tab for each carrier?
A: There will be a certain degree of customization for each carrier. The Galaxy Tab that we have on-stage is the international version.
Q: Will carriers subsidize the devices?
A: You will have to wait for the carriers to make their announcement
Q: Can we rent content?
A: Yes, it does support rental, and we will be competitive, pricing-wise.
Article by Stewart Wolpin. Q&A has been transcribed by Hubert Nguyen