Apple Is Enjoying Its Lunch: Tablet Roundup Redux

New Android tablets are here. But it doesn't look like they're ready for prime time yet.

A few months ago, in the article Dude, Where's My Tablet?, I discussed the issue concerning the lack of Android tablets. Well, we're finally starting to see some on the market.

The most anticipated of them all, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, first came to the market on November 10 to mixed reviews. The general consensus has been that the display is sharp, the apps run smoothly, but not everything properly adapts to the higher resolution and the browser is slow and jerky. Construction is solid but feels "plasticky".

My experience attempting to purchase a Samsung Galaxy Tab was a comedy of errors. In my article This Is Why Apple Is Eating Your Lunch, I described my frustrating experience attempting to purchase one through T-Mobile and Verizon.

As you may recall, I ended up ordering the tablet from T-Mobile over the phone. I waited for a week, and then called up T-Mobile to find out where my tablet was; by this time, more units had started to trickle in to the stores. It turns out that someone in the T-Mobile sales division had simply canceled my order without telling me, and without putting down a reason why they did it.

I will reiterate my previous stance: This is why Apple is eating your lunch. The T-Mobile reps informed me that they didn't receive substantial quantities of the tablet device to deliver to all of their stores. And yet somehow Samsung is crowing about how it has sold over 600,000 units so far.

I suppose selling a huge chunk of their inventory overseas first, and then splitting up the remainder amongst the four main mobile providers in the US, plus holding back reserves for stores like Best Buy put a major dent in their supply. Even so, they've had months to prepare for these launch dates. Sales in Europe were brisk and they could have ramped up production to meet demand in the US. But they did not, and the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the US faltered. The sales people at T-Mobile were kept in the dark and had no idea what was going on.

Adding insult to injury, T-Mobile announced a buy one, get one offer for Tab purchasers. Had I known about it, I might have waited another month to get my T-Mobile G2 phone and saved a couple of hundred bucks by purchasing a Tab and getting the phone for free.

Verizon wasn't much better, with ridiculous pricing schemes that affected even unbundled device purchases.

Samsung has also delayed release of the wifi-only version of the Tab, which would be quite useful to people like me that have smartphones capable of being used as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Seeing that my order had been canceled, and considering the less than stellar reviews, I decided at this point that I would wait to buy an Android tablet. I still think that the Samsung is pretty much best of breed at this point, but due to its lackluster performance in certain areas, plus the Android 2.2 operating system not being quite up to the challenge of performing adequately on a higher resolution tablet, I felt it was better to wait.

The Android tablet manufacturers were apparently waiting for Black Friday to start releasing their devices onto the market. The Viewsonic Viewpads are now available in 7 and 10-inch sizes. If Samsung is the device to beat, then it doesn't look like Viewsonic has beaten it; the Viewsonic 7-inch offering has lower screen resolution, lower-powered cameras, a slower CPU and slower Wi-Fi capabilities. The 10-inch Viewsonic tablet has a 1.66GHz Atom CPU, and is supposed to be able to dual boot Windows and Android next year, but its capabilities seem to be equal to or less than those of the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

There have been other offerings. The Toshiba Folio 100 was pulled from the shelves due to customer dissatisfaction and numerous returns. There are junk tablets that should never have even been sent to market, because they are underpowered and laden with problems. The Archos 7 and 10-inch tablets have gone on sale in Europe and have also proven to be disappointing.

The future looks more promising. Dual core Tegra 2-based devices, such as the Acer tablets, are on their way. The Acer tablets are still in pre-production mode and need some of the kinks worked out before they go on sale in April of next year. The Notion Ink Adam is still in development mode. There is no firm release date as of yet, although Notion Ink has said that they will be taking pre-orders in December and shipping in the first quarter of 2011.

The tablet to look for at CES 2011, however, is the Motorola MOTOPAD, the officially sanctioned 7-inch Google tablet running Android 3.0. Since I've decided to wait before I purchase a tablet for personal use, the Motorola device looks like the one to wait for.

There's something else to consider this holiday season. There's been some talk on the Internet about the next generation iPad, possibly arriving some time around CES. No specs have been given, but my guess is 1GB of RAM, 1.2 to 1.5GHz dual core CPU, at least 32GB of storage, front and rear-facing cameras, and a retina display somewhere between 1280 and 1440 pixels wide. It's just a guess, mind you. We won't really know what Apple has planned until they announce it or someone steals a prototype from a bar.

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