The long-awaited Samsung Electronics’ first tablet computer, the Galaxy Tab, will go on sale in two weeks, it said on Thursday, turning up the heat on Apple’s iPad.
Global handset vendors and PC makers including Nokia, LG Electronics and Hewlett-Packard Co are moving into the new category of devices, between traditional PCs and smartphones, taking a cue from Apple.
“We see huge potential for this kind of product,” said YH Lee, head of marketing at Samsung Mobile, at the sidelines of the IFA consumer electronics fair.
The Galaxy Tab, with a 7-inch screen, will go on sale in European markets in mid-September. The device, which uses Google’s Android software, offers access to books, films and music.
“Samsung is betting big on the tablet category with this device,” said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight, adding the success of Galaxy Tab, which is clearly smaller than iPad, which has a 9.7-inch screen, will depend on pricing.
The device, officially called the GT-P1000, is powered by Google’s Android 2.2 operating system and makes an explicit pitch for the market staked out by the iPad, say analytics.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab with its seven inch touchscreen is smaller than the iPad, however it matches the Apple device in virtually all other functions. Initial details suggest some aspects of the Tablet are even more sophisticated than the Apple’s creation.
The iPad has been a phenomenal success, selling three million units within the first 80 days of its launch earlier this year despite its high starting price of £429.
Representing a new category of mobile products for Samsung, the Galazy Tab, unlike the iPad, can be used as a phone. Multitouch web browsing, including HTML5 and Adobe Flash, email, voice and video calling is joined by the Android Market for additional apps.
Duncan Bell, Operations Editor at T3 magazine said: “With its support for Flash video and cameras front and back – both key features for a lot of punters, missing from the iPad – and iPad-like easy access to music, book and app stores the Samsung Galaxy S matches or surpasses the iPad in most areas.”
“My only reservations are on battery life and screen size. The camera and Flash video mean it will almost certainly have significantly shorter battery life than the iPad. I also feel Apple got it pretty much bang on with a screen size of 10 inches. The Galaxy’s seven inches isn’t small as such but you’ll miss that extra space when browsing or watching video.”
“Pricing will also be key, but it’s hard to envisage a Samsung product costing more than an equivalent Apple one. The Galaxy is the first real competition for the iPad. If tablets are going to be anything more than an Apple-dominated niche market, a product as good as this really should fly.”
Weighing 380g, the device is based on Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone and is designed to be used in one hand. It will launch in the UK in October, and will be available on the Vodafone network. Pricing details will be announced nearer to the launch date.
“Samsung recognises the tremendous growth potential in this newly created market and we believe that the Samsung Galaxy Tab brings a unique and open proposition to market,” said Simon Stanford, head of mobile for Samsung in the UK and Ireland.
Like the iPad, the Tab also includes an ebook reading application, call the “Readers Hub”. Powered by Kobo, PressDisplay, Zinio and others, Samsung claims more than 2 million books, over 2,500 magazines in 20 languages and more than 1,600 newspapers in 47 languages will be available at launch. A Social Hub also combines social networking information with contacts information.
Wifi, including DLNA, and 3G connectivity come as standard on the tab, which is powered by a Cortex A8 1.0GHz processor. A front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera is used for video calls, which can be made over 3G, and there is also a rear-facing three-megapixel camera. Samsung will also offer music and video stores for the full high-definition Tab.
The device also includes the new Swype input method, allowing users to drag their finger over each letter, rather than tapping each letter individually to input text. Some mobile operators will offer a second SIM card so customers can use the Tab and their mobile phone from a single account.
One Samsung product executive said the new tablet will probably sell for between $200 and $300. It is likely to be sold as part of a package incorporating a mobile phone contract. [Samsung Mobile via Reuters and BBC]