Tag Archives | Samsung Galaxy Tab

With the Galaxy Tab S, Samsung Does Everything in Its Power to Build a Great Android Tablet

...but only Google can fix its weakest point.
Samsung's Ryan Bidan presides over the Galaxy Tab S launch event at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 12, 2014

Samsung’s Ryan Bidan presides over the Galaxy Tab S launch event at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 12, 2014

There are several different ways that a hardware maker can try to build a tablet that’s better than the model which defined the category and continues to lead it, Apple’s iPad. It can make one which is a lot cheaper, or a lot different. Or can build something that’s conceptually similar to the iPad, but attempt to make it better.

Samsung being Samsung, it’s tried all of these approaches with its Android tablets. And the Galaxy Tab S, which it announced at an event I attended at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, is that last sort of tablet: one which attempts to beat the iPad at its own game.

Starting in July, it’ll be available in two screen sizes, 10.5″ and 8.4″, which will start at the same prices as the 9.7″ iPad Air and 7.9″ iPad Mini With Retina Display–$499 and $399, respectively. That’s with Wi-Fi; versions which also pack LTE wireless broadband will arrive at a later date.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

The 10.5″ Samsung Galaxy Tab S

From an industrial-design standpoint, both Galaxy Tab S models have the same bedimpled plastic back as the the Galaxy S5 phone, in two color choices: white or bronze. By almost anybody’s standards, that isn’t as classy as the iPad’s aluminum chassis. But these new Samsungs are pleasing tablets to hold and use: They weigh about the same as their iPad equivalents even though they have bigger screens, which makes them among the lightest tablets on the market. And at about .29″ thick, they’re even thinner than iPads.

The Galaxy Tab S’s most notable feature–and its most striking selling point compared to the iPad–is its display. Instead of an LCD, both versions of the tablet sport Super AMOLED screens, a familiar technology on phones such as the Galaxy S5 but a rarity on tablets. The resolution is 2560-by-1600 at an aspect ratio of 16:9; these are the highest-resolution, largest-screen AMOLED tablets to date.

Samsung spent much of its presentation going over the virtues of Super AMOLED as the company has implemented it: vivid colors; a broader color gamut than LCD, resulting in greater color accuracy; better legibility in sunlight; and adaptive technology which dynamically tweaks the image for the lighting environment and for text, still images, photos, and other content types, even if more than one of them is on screen at a time.

I got to spend some up-close time with Galaxy Tab S units after the presentation, and the screen did look awfully good; as usual with Super AMOLED, the colors were so rich that if anything, I worried about the possibility of them being unrealistically intense. But it’s not tough at all to imagine someone comparing the Galaxy Tab S screens to those on the current iPads and preferring Samsung.

Both Galaxy Tab S models have one other significant hardware feature not available in any current iPad: a home button which doubles as a fingerprint scanner. Among other things, they use it to unlock privacy and multiuser modes which Samsung has added to Android’s stock functionality. I hope it works better than the scanner on the Galaxy S5, which is nowhere near as elegant as the iPhone 5s’s TouchID.

Neither Galaxy Tab S is an iPad-slaughtering Great Leap Forward, but they’re both really nice pieces of hardware. Which brings up the aspect of these tablets which Samsung has the least control over: software and services.

As usual, the company hasn’t been shy about reworking aspects of Android and slathering on its own features. The Tab S models can display two apps on screen at once. Scratching the same general itch as the Continuity features which Apple announced last week at WWDC, they have SideSync 3.0, which lets you use Wi-Fi to project a Galaxy S5′s screen onto the tablet’s display, make and receive calls, and transfer files back and forth; and a similar feature for tablet-PC integration called Remote PC.

Samsung also isn’t satisfied to offer Google’s content stores on its tablets and leave it at that. It has its own music service, Milk, which is powered by Slacker. And it’s introducing Pagegarden, a magazine store which offers interactive titles from publishers such as Conde Nast and National Geographic, customized for the Galaxy Tab S display.

Modifications and additions such as these are dangerous; even if they’re useful, as some of Samsung’s tweaks appear to be, they introduce the risk of bloat and inconsistency. But the thing is, no matter how capably Samsung customizes Android, it can’t do anything about the most glaring weak spot of any competent Android tablet: the paucity of third-party apps designed to work well on a tablet.

I happen to think that iOS has won the mobile app wars, but the selection of apps for Android smartphones, even if it’s in second place, is more than good enough. That’s not true for tablets: More than three years after Google first got serious about tablets with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, it’s not even in the league next door to the league inhabited by the iPad, which now has more than a half-million apps designed especially for it.

Samsung, of course, would never concede that. Still, I got the sense that the company understands it’s an issue. Its presentation on Thursday night emphasized that web browsing has long been the most popular tablet application, but that video has surged into a virtual tie for first place. For browsing the web and watching videos, both Galaxy Tab S models do look like they’d be outstanding.

But because of its massive third-party app advantage, the iPad retains a formidable advantage as an overall experience, over the Galaxy Tab S and every other Android model.

There’s never been any evidence that Google sees this situation as a crisis which demands an ambitious, ongoing response on its part. Too bad for Samsung; too bad for Android fans; too bad for the general state of tablet competition.


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Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

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On Friday morning here in Berlin, I headed to the IFA electronics show. My first stop was Samsung’ ginormous exhibition, where one of the biggest sections was devoted to the upcoming Galaxy Tab 7.7. I played with one, admired the amazingly vivid Super AMOLED Plus screen, and snapped the photo above. Then I left.

Turns out that I was lucky. Samsung later removed all the Tab 7.7s from the show, presumably for reasons relating to Apple’s ongoing patent case over the Galaxy Tab. Here’s FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller with some details. (In Germany, Apple has an injunction against Samsung that prevents it from selling the Tab 10.1 here.)

Samsung apparently doesn’t plan to sell the 7.7 in the U.S., a move that Mueller speculates could be spurred by the Galaxy Tab line’s legal woes. I’m not a patent lawyer and am not taking a stance on the case, but I’ll be sorry if the 7.7 can’t make it into the market. From a hardware standpoint, at least, it’s the nicest 7″ (or thereabouts) tablet I’ve seen. I’d like to see consumers get the chance to embrace it or reject it as they see fit.

[Full disclosure: I spoke on a panel at IFA, and the conference organizers covered my travel costs.]


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Samsung’s Galaxy Note: The Return of the PDA

“If you see a stylus,” Steve Jobs famously said at the original iPhone launch, “they blew it.” Here at the IFA show in Berlin, Samsung just announced the Galaxy Note, a new device that’s got a stylus–and which revels in that fact. Samsung is calling it “a new category of device,” but to me, it feels like a 2011 take on an old idea: the PalmPilot-style Personal Digital Assistant.
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DisplayMate’s Latest Tablet Display Shoot-Out

Some people review phones and tablets. My friend Ray Soneira, the display guru who runs DisplayMate, reviews phone displays and tablet displays–and he just published an update to his ongoing review of tablet screens. Executive summary: He thinks that Apple’s iPad 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 are both really good, and very close–and that, even though the Tab’s colors are oversaturated, it’s slightly better than the iPad overall. None of the other tablets he tried rival the iPad and the Tab.

Ray also points out an important fact that many of us trip up on: Android tablets with 10.1″ screens don’t give you more real estate than the 9.7″ iPad 2.


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The Case for the Galaxy Tab 10.1″

My friend Seth Weintraub of 9to5 Google (and 9to5 Mac) makes a coherent case for choosing Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1″ over the iPad 2. (Sure, there are at least as many arguments for choosing the iPad 2, the biggest by far of which is LOTS OF GREAT TABLET APPS–but Seth does a much better job than most of summarizing why you might opt to choose a non-Apple tablet.)


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Hoo Boy, Here We Go Yet Again: Apple Sues Samsung

Do Samsung products such as its Galaxy S phones and Galaxy Tab tablets imitate Apple’s iPhone and iPad? Yes, of course they do. So, to greater and lesser extents, do nearly every smartphone and slate-type computing device on the market today. Is that legal? I guess we’ll find out: Apple is suing Samsung, saying that it’s violating multiple patents and trademarks.

I haven’t seen Apple’s suit, but it sounds like it relates to look-and-feel issues more than do most of the umpteen lawsuits that tech companies have filed against each other recently.  In a statement to All Things Digital’s Ina Fried, an Apple spokesperson even complained about the boxes that Samsung products come in being too Apple-esque:

It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,. This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.

If Apple has a case, you gotta wonder who else it’ll sue and where all this ends. HP’s upcoming TouchPad tablet, for instance, is promising–but it’s even more strikingly iPad-like than Samsung’s tablets to date. Is it vulnerable? And given that Archos is just about the only company that can honestly say it would be making tablets even if the iPad had never existed, does Apple have a legally-justified beef against the entire category?

I’ve always been made uneasy when one company unimaginatively cribs another’s designs–when I attended Mobile World Congress 2009 it felt like a blur of faux iPhones–but I don’t like the idea of one company essentially having a monopoly on a product category or a form factor. More thoughts to come as details emerge, but for now, what’s your take?


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Samsung’s Fake Real People Remind Me of Microsoft’s Real Fake People

AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger has posted a follow-up to my story of Samsung’s “true-life” Galaxy Tab fans who happen to be actors. To put things in perspective, he mentions Lauren, the star of a 2009 Microsoft “real person” ad who also had acting experience. (To be fair to Microsoft, the same ad campaign included other ads with non-thespian real people.) He also goes way back to a 2002 item on Microsoft’s site that seemed to be a true-life story of a Mac user being lured to Windows XP, but was really done by a freelance writer and illustrated with a stock photo.

But my favorite you-can’t-be-serious example of Microsoft marketing–and one which reminds me of the vibe of Samsung’s video–is the 2009 video explaining how to hold a Windows 7 launch party at your home. I don’t think Microsoft intended anyone to believe that its Windows 7 fans were anything but paid performers, but I’m pretty sure that Samsung’s Joan Hess and Joe Kolinski live the same planned community as these people…


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Samsung’s Fake Galaxy Tab Interviews: Hey, Those Words Sound Familiar!

When I watched the video interviews with three “true-life” Galaxy Tab users that Samsung showed at its CTIA event, I was observant enough to figure out (with the help of about six minutes of Google research) that two of the users were actors and the other one works for a film-production company that counts Samsung among its clients. But I didn’t notice or detail every oddity about  them. Folks who are discussing my story on all this, both in the comments and elsewhere on the Web, are having fun pointing out other curious things about the interviews, such as the fact that “leading New York real-estate CEO Joseph Kolinski” raves about the 8.9″ Galaxy Tab even though the only 8.9″ Tabs that Samsung itself had on hand at CTIA were non-working models.

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Is Samsung’s New Galaxy Tab Fibbing About Its Figure? And About Those Galaxy Tab Fans…

At CTIA Wireless earlier this week, Samsung announced a new 10.1″ Galaxy Tab tablet–one with specs that made it thinner and lighter than the iPad 2, with the same starting price of $499. After the press event, I scurried over to the Samsung booth in hopes of getting some hands-on time with the new Tab.

When I got there, I found that the 10.1″ Tabs out on tables were the older, relatively portly version announced last month at Mobile World Congress. The new 10.1-incher (and its 8.9″ sibling) were inside glass cases, and they weren’t powered on. I also discovered that my friend Fritz Nelson of InformationWeek had beat me to the booth–and he told me that he was trying to get Samsung to give him a Tab he could hold and judge.

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Samsung’s New Galaxy Tabs: The iPad 2 Gets Well-Priced Competition

Greetings from the CTIA Wireless show in Orlando, where Samsung just announced two new Galaxy Tab tablets running Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb. The new version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a 10.1″ display at 1280 by 800, a 1-GHz dual-core CPU, dual-antenna Wi-Fi, a 3-megapixel camera in the back and a 2-megapixel one up front. And at 8.6mm and 595 grams, it’s slightly thinner and slightly lighter than the surprisingly thin and light iPad 2. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 is a similar tablet with a screen that’s a bit smaller than the one on the iPad 2 rather than a bit larger.

Both Tabs will run a custom version of Honeycomb topped off with a new tablet-specific edition of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface and a bunch of Samsung services–and as usual with modified versions of Android, I wanna try it in person before I come to any conclusions about whether it makes the experience better or worse.

The most interesting thing about these new Tabs aren’t the specs–which look like what you might expect from a thoroughly modern Android-based tablet–but the pricing. The 10.1 will be available in a 16GB version for $499 and a 32GB one for $599 and will be available on June 8th; the 8.9″ will cost $469 for 16GB and $569 for 32GB and will arrive in “early summer.” Assuming no price cuts from Apple in the interim, the Tabs will provide the iPad 2 with real competition at similar price points for the first time. It’ll be fascinating to see how an Android tablet competes when the discussion is all about software, services, hardware, and the integration thereof, rather than about pricetags.

 

 


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