A tablet that could be the first major competitor to Apple's iPad is now in the game. On Thursday, Samsung announced that its Galaxy Tab will be available through the four largest U.S. carriers -- AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
The first tablet from the electronics giant, the Tab has a TFT seven-inch screen with 1024x600 SVGA resolution, 3G/Wi-Fi, a one-gigahertz Hummingbird Application processor that supports 3-D graphics, a 1.3-megapixel camera on front for video chatting, and a three-megapixel camera on the back for picture taking.
Social Hub, Media Hub
It supports Android 2.2, Flash Player 10.1, video chat clients Qik and Fring, Google Maps, Google's visual-search tool Goggles, and Samsung's Social Hub app.
There's also the new Samsung Media Hub content service, which offers movies and TV shows. A built-in speakerphone and Bluetooth for a headset allow the device to provide that quaint feature wireless carriers used to specialize in -- voice.
Omar Khan, chief strategy officer for Samsung Mobile, pointed out the key use cases for the Tab. He said it is "as comfortable to use standing on a crowded train as it is relaxing on the couch at home." While there are productivity tools, Khan emphasized that the Tab "is perfect for watching a movie, reading an e-book, or catching up with your favorite TV shows or chatting with an old friend."
The built-in productivity apps are designed for this specific form factor. A virtual keyboard can be thumb-typed, or the user can employ the device's Swype technology to type with one hand. Swype allows typing with a single, continuous finger motion on the keyboard, rather than individual key tapping.
The e-mail, calendar and contacts apps rotate with the tablet orientation, an accelerator-based feature that is becoming increasingly common on mobile devices. The Tab runs the more than 80,000 apps now in the Android Market, and those that are not designed for this size screen -- the vast majority, currently -- are framed and centered when opened on the Tab.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, noted Samsung has made sure that "all core applications have been written to take advantage of this screen size." But it remains to be seen, he said, if third-party developers can be induced to write new, or adapt older, apps for this form factor.
He agreed with the company about the Tab's portability, pointing out that the device can "be held in one hand" and, at 13 ounces, is "lighter than the iPad." He said the "hardware is nice, the software is OK," and the user interface "is pretty decent."
But the big question mark that will determine if this could be a successful product, Greengart said, is pricing. "At the moment, we have no idea what the price point is, or whether a service contract with the carriers will be required," he said.