Our gut reaction to a hands-on experience
We've gotten our first hands-on ride with Samsung's new iPad killer, a 7-inch tablet with Android 2.2 that has a totally sick TFT screen. We walked away impressed but skeptical.
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Samsung officially revealed US details of the Galaxy Tab at a media event in New York last night. At the event, Samsung's head PR guy said the Galaxy Tab "will redefine the tablet market."
The device is coming within "the next few weeks" to all four of the major carriers - Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Each one will be slightly customized but overall Samsung wants it to be a homogeneous product. The first installments of the Galaxy Tab will all be 3G-equipped.
This already gives it a step ahead of the iPad, which forces users who want a 3G connection to sign up for AT&T's tiered data plan which no longer offers unlimited Internet access.
Samsung stressed that a lot of research and customer feedback went into developing the Galaxy Tab.
In no particular order, Samsung's research found the following features as the most important to consumers:
- Long battery life
- One-handed operation
The latter is the most significant, as iPad owners have realized that it's very difficult to operate the device while only using one hand. What's more interesting is that "low cost" apparently didn't make the list. And during a Q&A session, Samsung was very dodgy about pricing details. That leads me to wonder exactly how expensive this thing will be. If it's more than a 3G iPad, it has very little chance of surviving.
If it's not, though, this is potentially a winner. I got to run through a couple programs and demos that Samsung had set up on the handful of Galaxy Tab demo units spread throughout the event area. Immediately, I have to say the most important differentiating factor for the GTab over the iPad is Flash support. Because it runs on Android 2.2, it has unfettered compatibility with Adobe's latest Flash video medium.
Visit any sort of website that requires Flash on an iPad, and you won't be able to access it. Period. Now, Apple will tell you that Flash is dead and the new online media format HTML5 is the standard. That may be a very good projection, for a couple years in the future, but the fact remains that hundreds of the most popular websites in the US do still have Flash content. The iPad has 0% Flash compatibility.
It was great seeing a couple of Flash games running directly on the Galaxy Tab, especially since the device is touch-controlled. So instead of mouse-clicking, I could just touch objects and targets on the screen.
Additionally, Samsung's dominance in mobile displays shines through wth theGalaxy Tab's screen. It's gorgeous.
If you've ever handled an iPad, the GTab will feel very weird at first, especially since the design looks very very similar to an iPad. It feels like an iPad that was washed on warm water and slightly shrunk. But once you get used to that, it should actually be kind of liberating.
I can't tell you the number of times I've been on the subway and I see someone trying to hold their iPad with one hand while holding onto a rail or handle or something. It looks awkward. The Galaxy Tab would fit into that situation much better. That's another differentiating factor. It's very nice to see that Samsung didn't just copy Apple and make the GTab a 10-inch device.
But what about iTunes? It's so easy to just get and watch digital content on the iPad. Well, that's where Samsung's Media Hub comes in. Yes, Samsung has created its own digital content store and will be launching it very soon. This will interact with the GTab in the exact same way as iTunes and the iPad. The Media Hub scores even more points because if you buy a TV show or movie on one Samsung device, it can be re-downloaded on another Samsung device for free. You'll never have to connect the devices to each other or a computer. It's all cloud-based.
Additionally, I actually really liked one of the most basic features on the Galaxy Tab. Standard programs like e-mail and calendars were developed specifically for the Tab. It's not like the iPad which is just a bloated display of the same iPhone programs. The Tab applications change based on whether the device is in portrait or landscape modes, and everything is optimized for the big screen. I really liked the way these everyday organization-centric apps were displayed.
With 16 GB, the capacity is on par with the iPad. It also promises a battery that lasts so long it could play videos nonstop for a full 7 hours without needing a recharge. That's pretty impressive.
All in all, I was impressed with the Galaxy Tab. I think it has a lot of potential and if Samsung is actually able to make consumers aware that this device actually exists, it has a chance. That is, unless Samsung pulls a bone-headed mistake and prices it too high. We'll see the answer to that question in the next week or so.