Tag Archives | Tablets

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.


5 comments

Kindle Fire: Not A iPad Killer, But…

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is making its mark on the tablet sector, grabbing a 14 percent share of the market and skyrocketing into second place in the market after you-know-what, IHS iSuppli has found. Amazon’s success came at the expense of Apple, whose share of tablets fell to 57 percent, however the company says it was the iPhone 4S that may have put a crimp in iPad sales.

Consumers who may have otherwise snatched up the iPad during the quarter instead opted for the iPhone 4S, causing shipments to fall short of the company’s estimates. “The rollout of the iPhone 4S in October generated intense competition for Apple purchasers’ disposable income, doing more to limit iPad shipment growth than competition from the Kindle Fire and other media tablets”, tablet analyst Rhoda Alexander says.

Continue Reading →


8 comments

What the Heck is a PC?

Over at TIME.com, I did my darndest to do something that seems to be nearly impossible: Define “PC” in a way that makes sense for 2012 and beyond. (The comments are interesting: A couple of folks apparently believe that anything that isn’t a powerful desktop computer is not a PC.)


7 comments

iPad 3, Coming About When You Expected It?

AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski, usually not a spreader of wild rumor, says that Apple will announce the iPad 3 in the first week of March and release it shortly thereafter:

As for the next-generation iPad itself, sources say it will be pretty much what we’ve been led to expect by the innumerable reports leading up to its release: A device similar in form factor to the iPad 2, but running a much faster chip, sporting an improved graphics processing unit, and featuring a 2048×1536 Retina Display — or something close to it.


Be the first to comment

Nomad Brush: Making iPad Painting More Painterly

When I attended Macworld|iWorld last Thursday and Friday, the show floor was bustling with attendees. And in terms of bustle-per-square-foot, the busiest booth I saw probably belonged to Nomad Brush, which makes brushes that can be used for digital painting on the iPad and other tablets. The company provided me with one for review.

The only input device that the iPad was designed to be used with is the human finger, and designing a decent iPad-compatible stylus is tricky–most of them have blunt, squishy tips that don’t feel like a pen point. But with a brush, being blunt and squishy actually works–and the nicely-made Nomad Brush feels like a real art instrument.

It doesn’t feel exactly like one: For one thing, real brushes, dipped in paint, have a fluid feel that you don’t get when you’re dragging a dry brush over a tablet. And while a real brush is the most gloriously pressure-sensitive input device of them all, this one, like standard styluses, isn’t pressure-sensitive. But in art programs like ArtRage, SketchBook Pro, and Brushes, using Nomad Brush feels much more painterly than working with a garden-variety stylus.

I tried the $39 Nomad Compose, a model with a long brush on one end and a stubbier one on the other. The company makes other models, including the Nomad Play, a stubby version designed for kids. If you paint. draw, or doodle on an iPad, check them out.


One comment

A Look at Ice Cream Sandwich for Tablets

Ice Cream Sandwich tablet
I’m still hoping that Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will help make Android tablets interesting to consumers in a way that Honeycomb-based Android tablets have not been. I haven’t tried one for myself yet. But JR Raphael of Computerworld has an Asus Transformer Prime with ICS–and he’s put together a nice walkthrough of the interface.


4 comments

Razer’s Project Fiona: A Tablet From Portable Gaming’s Alternate Future

Unless your head’s in the sand, you know where portable video games are headed: Cheaper to develop, less expensive to sell, easier to pick up and less time consuming to play. Smartphones and tablets are slowly pushing the established games industry in that direction.

Razer is proudly not participating in that version of the future with Project Fiona, a concept Windows-based tablet that plays high-end PC games. The tablet has controller handles on either side of the 10.1-inch display, each with their own thumbsticks, buttons and triggers. Inside, there’s enough processing power to run games like Warhammer 40000: Space Marine and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on high settings.

When Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan was telling me all this a couple weeks before the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, I didn’t entirely believe the company could pull it off. But then I played with Project Fiona myself at Razer’s booth. I don’t know how the company did it–and I dare not fathom at what cost–but the concept actually works.

Continue Reading →


Be the first to comment

Comcast Puts Live TV on Tablets

From CES, a reason not to ditch Comcast: It’s bringing live TV channels to the iPad and other tablets. (The service only works when you’re in range of the Wi-Fi router connected to your Comcast cable broadband at home, and it’s launching only in parts of Nashville and Denver–but it sounds cool.)


Be the first to comment

Toshiba’s Thin Tablet is Coming to the U.S.

20120108-234952.jpg

When I attended IFA in Berlin in September and CEATEC in Tokyo in October, one of my favorite products at both shows was the same item: Toshiba’s 10″ tablet. But back then, Toshiba wasn’t saying anything about plans to bring it to the U.S.

Now it is. In this country, the tablet will be known as the Excite X10, and Toshiba says it will show up in “mid-Q1 2012″. (I guess that most likely means February.) It’s one of the company’s major announcements at CES, which is beginning to get underway in Las Vegas even though the show floor doesn’t open until Tuesday.

Continue Reading →


Be the first to comment