Samsung is hoping to give Apple a real headache with its new tablet. The Galaxy Tab, unveiled early in September, is a smaller, lighter rival for Apple’s highly successful iPad and one of the first of what is expected to be a flood of tablet-style devices to hit the market in coming months.
Yes, 2011 is expected to finally bring about “the year of the tablet” which was was predicted by Microsoft as far back as 2000, and nearly every year since. Of course, in those days the idea of a tablet was more of a small notebook PC with a stylus-driven touchscreen that swivelled around to lay flat on the traditional laptop keypad. The new breed of tablets, such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab, is slimmer, lighter and so far at least, doesn’t run Windows. However, Microsoft is promising a slew of new tablet devices in coming months running Windows 7 mobile from brand names such as ASUS, Dell, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and others.
The new-age tablet is typically a lightweight, one-piece, touchscreen-driven device with Wi-Fi and even 3G for networking and/or phone calls via a Bluetooth earpiece. The iPad uses Apple’s proprietary iOS operating system, but for the others it’s a choice of either Google’s Linux-based Android OS, or Windows 7 mobile.
Android’s popularity is fast-growing on smartphones and this will surely follow on tablets. Apple has proven there is a huge market for tablet devices, with iPads selling around a million a month, other makers are clamouring to get on the bandwagon. You can expect a lot of variety in their offerings, however, as each brand tries to differentiate itself. So much so, in fact, that it brings up the question of what actually constitutes a so-called tablet.
The iPad has a 9.7-inch touchscreen, while the Galaxy comes in at 7-inches. There’s also the Dell Streak, which at 5-inches blurs the line between smartphone and tablet, being around the same size as Samsung’s recent Galaxy S smartphone. At just two inches bigger, the Galaxy Tab is more of a sub-tablet. Samsung considers this improves mobility, but if you’re into reading newspapers, comics and full-colour magazines you’ll find the iPad’s larger screen gives a more realistic experience.
The Galaxy Tab does, however, offer front and rear cameras (1.3 megapixel on the front and 3mp on the back, with LED light). Cameras are noticeably missing from the current iPad line, but expected to be addressed in the next model, largely due to Apple’s introduction of its Face Time video chat system on the iPhone 4 and more recently on the newest iPod Touch.
The Galaxy Tab also has a microSD card slot to complement its 16GB of onboard storage, can view multiple movie formats including the popular DivX and Xvid, and also supports Adobe Flash, which the iPad doesn’t. The iPad, however, has a head start on the market and behind it is Apple’s extensive iTunes media ecosystem of music, movies, books, audiobooks, and of course apps, which now number over 250,000.
Whether the Galaxy Tab is a better tablet than the iPad is a bit of a moot point -- Samsung plans to launch a whole family of similar products in varying shapes and sizes in a bid to capture a large share of the new tablet market. Add in the promised wave of other makes and models and consumers will soon be spoilt for choice as makers rush to take advantage of the usual pre-Christmas buying spree.