Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

Summary: Samsung has officially announced its Galaxy Tab tablet computer. I detail its specifications, features and how it fits in the marketplace alongside Apple's iPad.

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I was lucky enough to be in attendance last night for Samsung's announcement of its Galaxy Tab slate tablet computer, and I thought I'd offer my thoughts on how the company positioned its device as it unveiled it to the world from its showroom in New York City.

First, the background: the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a slate-style tablet computer -- think iPad, not ThinkPad -- that appears to directly compete with Apple's "magical" device. We've seen this comparison hinted at before (Dell Streak, I'm looking at you), but in the case of the Galaxy Tab, it appears that Samsung is really going after the successful iPad, and company executives all but mentioned it in name ("unlike a 10-inch tablet...") during last night's festivities.

Samsung confirmed several specifications and features about the device, which I'll list here.

They include:

  • 7-inch TFT touchscreen display (1024 by 600 pixels resolution)
  • Weight of 13 ounces, or "about the weight of an unopened can of soda."
  • Thanks to its lithe figure, it fits into the back pocket of your jeans, or the inside pocket of a blazer.
  • It runs on the Google Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system.
  • Thanks to Android 2.2, it supports Adobe Flash 10.1
  • It has two cameras: a 3-megapixel one on the back (with flash, DVD-quality video) and a 1.3-megapixel one on the front for videoconferencing and chat functionality.
  • It uses a 1GHz Hummingbird processor
  • It has 16 gigabytes of on-board memory. It's also expandable
  • It supports DLNA sharing and streaming among supported devices (TVs, laptops)
  • It carries a battery that's rated for 7 hours of video playback.
  • A Wi-Fi-only model is coming "in the near future."
  • Optional accessories include an external keyboard, docking station with HDMI port and a car dock.
  • Audio and video content comes via Samsung's new Media Hub.
  • It's available on all four U.S. carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

There's a lot to discuss with these details, so I'll try to approach them one by one.

First, the hardware. The Amazon Kindle-like 7-inch size is a diversion from the iPad's established 10-inch standard, and it remains to be seen how users will interact with a device of this size. Samsung stressed the ease in which applications could be formatted for the Tab without lots of additional coding, but the size suggests that the device may be more appropriate for the things users do with smartphones and the iPod touch -- web browsing, game-playing, news reading via apps -- versus the things the iPad hints at doing in the future, such as reading full-bleed magazines, interacting with textbooks and creating content.

As far as I could tell, the device operated with a fair amount of speed, though like Android phones are compared to the iPhone, it wasn't as seamless an experience. (Readers who have used both Android and iOS devices will understand this minor, but noticeable, difference.) Nevertheless, all the trappings of the iPad are there -- widescreen calendar and e-mail inbox, weather, etc. -- along with a few the current iPad model omits, such as videochat, Flash support and DLNA sharing. These features weren't dealbreakers for me with regard to the iPad, but it helps Samsung differentiate its product in the marketplace.

Second, Samsung's Media Hub was the unsung hero during this press conference. Any tech company can commission a shop in China to manufacture a tablet, even a well-designed one. But it's another thing to ensure that a robust ecosystem of content supports the device, such that it's not merely a well-appointed but faceless portal into another company's world. After all, just because a tablet is made to play movies and TV shows doesn't mean it's easy to get them on there.

Samsung has clearly leveraged its corporate largesse in this manner, securing deals with MTV, NBC Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. for television shows and films. It also ensured that you could watch them as you download them, and share them between five Media Hub-enabled devices (count them: tablet, smartphone, laptop, television and a fifth).

This is a savvy move for such a large company, but it only works if you have a large enough user base to ensure that you don't feel locked into a proprietary ecosystem. (Exhibit A: Apple's iTunes.) The good news: Samsung is already quietly expanding its content empire with Android-powered Galaxy smartphones, of which the two millionth unit it expects to ship this week. And it already has a major space carved out in the TV market, which isn't important for most folks now but may soon be in the future.

Which brings us to the third major point about the Tab: it's available on all four U.S. wireless carriers. This is a major move for a few reasons:

  • Non-exclusivity shows that Samsung has a lot of corporate pull among carriers.
  • Non-exclusivity means that Samsung doesn't want the Tab to be the next Palm Pre.
  • Non-exclusivity means that Samsung can offer a tablet to customers who don't want, or don't have available to them, an account with AT&T (and thus the 3G iPad). This doesn't impact the Wi-Fi-only set, but it's a matter of opportunity: at least three of four carriers will proudly market the device.

The question that I wonder is whether consumers are as aware of their tablet carriers as they are their smartphone carriers. For example, AT&T remains a sore point for iPhone owners; do iPad owners really feel the same vitriol for the carrier?

It seems to me that without voice service, the carrier fades into the background. (Same goes for e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook.) So while AT&T remains a hurdle for consumers who want an iPhone, it seems less of one for those who want the iPad.

Perhaps this will change as tablets become more ubiquitous (and people get sick of paying three different companies for access to the same Internet). I'm not sure. But the carrier seems to be the last thing on my mind when weighing whether to buy a tablet.

There is one big catch in all of this: price. Short of declaring the device a "premium" product, Samsung was tight-lipped as to how much the Galaxy Tab would be. That's concerning, because usually when they don't say a price, it ends up being higher than it should be (and rapidly drops after press roundly criticize the figure when it's eventually released).

A few words about this: Samsung can afford to price the Tab high right now, because a tablet is still a novelty item to most, and attracts those who really, really want one. It's far from a commodity, which is why Samsung is saving the Wi-Fi only model for later -- it wants to move the more expensive units, then offer a lower Wi-Fi-only price point when 3G models lose steam. (After that comes an actual price drop, and a new model, etc.)

The pitfall in this strategy is the iPad, which again has first movers' advantage and a stirred consumer that really, really, REALLY wants an iPad. (Just look at the commercials.) Samsung hasn't traditionally been good at pulling consumers' heart strings -- does "Galaxy S" elicit the same emotion as "Droid" or the iPhone 4's FaceTime? -- and it needs a major marketing push to do so.

Otherwise, you'll have the Android thing all over again: consumers choosing the Tab because they can't get the iPad, either because of price or carrier. Samsung will still ship lots of units -- Android smartphones are exhibit A in this regard -- but it will need a very competitive price point to do so.

Fingers crossed.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, iPad, Laptops, Mobility, Samsung, Tablets

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Message has been deleted.

    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

      @Johnny Vegas And you can back this statement up how? Have you ever pwnd an android phone? Have you even ever used linux?
      insuusvenerati
      • Little Johnny Vegas only uses CrApple Products!

        @insuusvenerati He doesn't even know what Android is. This Galaxy Tab really has all the CrApple iNazis scared. A ton more features including full FLASH 10.1 that is impossible to live without and get anything done on the and the CrApple faithful are beginning to find that out with the "iFad". That has inferior GPU and CPU along with this list of inferior features and is why they are so infuriated has to troll every site and video on YouTube showing Galaxy Tab!

        1 - iFad = BlueTooth 2.1 vs Galaxy Tab BlueTooth 3.0 that's 10x faster than iFad.
        2 - iFad = Wifi 2.4ghz only w/o Direct or DLNA Feature vs Galaxy Tab with Dual Band 2.4 and 5.0 speeds along with Wifi Direct (phone to device or another phone direct connect w/o the need of a router)!
        3 - FM Transciever on Galaxy Tab only and you can stream Audio as an mp3 player to your car or home stereo along with receive emergency broadcasts and traffic info with FM Stereo Broadcasts.
        4 - Both Front and rear facing cameras so you can video chat and take video or pictures on Galaxy Tab only.
        5 - Comes with Gmail that you can also Video Chat with right in the program. Download and scale apps for Android plus apps specifically for Slate Tablets.
        6 - Samsung Media Hub comes loaded with movies, music and TV programs for easy fast download directly to your MicroSD card or even stream them to your HDTV via DLNA over either Wifi Direct or Direct Cable or 3G even to another Galaxy phone or Tab Slate device.

        There is a whole lot more you can do including full multitasking, change your battery out for a spare for unlimited use over iFad's limited use. Use it as a remote for your HDTV. Plug in a USB to share files directly with your PC or other device. Increase your storage capacity with a Micro SD card wallet to Unlimited storage if you want with 16gig cards going for around $25 and 32gig going for $45 to $50. I have well over a hundred gigs available for my Phone and they'll work just fine in Galaxy Tab too. But... sorry with an iFad you are stuck with what you got when you bought it along with one miserable non-user replaceable battery. No cameras or USB or ability to simply and quickly transfer or stream files, music or video in any way close to what Galaxy Tab can do.

        Face it CrApple ifantoids you are all stuck with limited web interaction for many reasons not the least is being without FLASH that is still growing in use.... NOT DECLINING like your Steve iHitler Jobs keeps lying to you about!!! haha... bow down to the new King of the Web in Galaxy Tab!!! ;)
        i2fun@...
    • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

      @Johnny Vegas
      Go hit that crack pipe again brother.
      Droid101
    • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

      @Johnny Vegas Poor delusional bastard. It's sad how badly Jobs brainwashed you.
      StupidTechZealots-23432415690276115908309621553360
      • Considering he is a Windows Fanboi troll...

        @Stocklone...
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

      @Johnny Vegas hi troll!
      SkyBon
      • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

        @SkyBon Does this guy do anything BESIDES troll this blog? It's ridiculous.
        Telanis
      • What do you expect from an AppleTard? lol..

        @SkyBon They're like a disease or plaque of Brain Dead Zombies.

        Now to the real news; Galaxy Tab first generation kills iFad on all counts from looks to features. But next generation is going to be a solid gaming device with even better graphics coming in 3 sizes. They will be running their new Dual Core chip with Nvidia's latest graphics monster that will kill any competition now and well into the future and will come with Samsung Next Generation Super AMOLED II screens!!! ...Top model will feature 1080P resolution leaving all things Apple to eat it's dust!!!
        i2fun@...
      • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

        @SkyBon

        I won't dis the iPad. I don't own one but have played with them at the stores and it's a nice machine.

        That said I LOVE my Samsung Epic 4G. It is fast and the AMOLED screen is absolutely beautiful. And although I want to own a Galaxy Tab today I have decided not to buy one until Samsung resolves a few issues.

        First, no AMOLED screen? That's crazy! Doesn't Samsung know that is its Galaxy phones best selling point?

        Second, 1 GHz processor. Can't view NetFlix unless you have at least a 1.2 GHz processor.

        Third, although the portability of a 7" screen is nice, I would much prefer a 9" to 10" screen.

        When they make one with those features, I will buy it!

        Reb
        Texas Reb
    • While I agree with you Johnny that in my humble opinion

      @Johnny Vegas
      Apple is doing it better. Still competition is a good thing and Android is simple an OS you can't blame "Android" for the hardware it is put on at time. Some will be GREAT other times it will be hit or miss depending on the dedication to quality of the given manufacturer and or it's economic health at the time of production. Still one can not deny that the "MS" model worked for MS when it comes to PC's so Google maybe going down a well tread and not very innovative road but still it is a proven successful path nonetheless. At least Samsung is not going with Windows 7. You and I agree on that at least that would be a disaster.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

      @Johnny Vegas I really hate to burst your bubble here but Android is far from sucking - and I say that as an iPhone owner.
      athynz
      • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

        @athynz

        And you say this without those of us on the internet being able to verify if indeed you have an iPhone or not.

        In other words, by saying something like "I know this because I am an iPhone owner" does not increase your credibility at all because like most of us here, we're...get this..ANONYMOUS!!!
        thibaulthalpern
      • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

        @athynz

        If I prefer a 7 inch format, I would prefer waiting for the 7" iPad. Whatever flexibility I might sacrifice with iOS is more than compensated for by the lack of Google spyware that comes with Android.
        jorjitop
      • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

        @athynz

        If I prefer a 7 inch format, I would prefer waiting for the 7" iPad. Whatever flexibility I might sacrifice with iOS is more than compensated for by the lack of Google spyware that comes with Android.
        jorjitop
  • One huge (alleged) problem:

    No App Store. Google refuses to provide or work on adding (official) support for tablets. Because of that, this must be what Google call an "unlicensed Android device" (no support for the Google app marketplace).

    Another not so visible negative is Froyo. Although it is the latest and greatest version of Android, it has garnish the reputation for being a battery hog .... with people reporting up to 70% drop in battery life after updating from a previous version.
    wackoae
    • RE: Samsung Galaxy Tab: Specs and thoughts on an iPad competitor

      @wackoae I put a leaked build of froyo on my Droid X and my battery life increased noticeably. What android device do you have that went from 2.1 to 2.2?
      insuusvenerati
      • 1st hand reports from Incredible and Samsung

        Many other models are also reported as having problems.

        But don't take my word for it. You can just Google it yourself. It is a the #1 complain about Froyo.
        wackoae
      • And iPhone 4 can't hold a call

        [i]But don't take my word for it. You can just Google it yourself. It is a the #1 complain about iPhone.[/i]

        Cue the double standards...
        NonZealot
      • cue the standard reply

        @Zealot ((( "Cue the double standards..." )))

        How is it a "double standard" to say that Froyo reduces battery life? You've gotten to the point where you use that phrase so much that it doesn't even make any sense in the majority of cases. You've become (or, more likely, have always been) a parody.
        buddhistMonkey