The expectations are tremendously high for a tablet to compete properly against the iPad, and Samsung took up the challenge. After seeing their Galaxy S phones (the Fascinate and Epic 4G), we had high expectations for the Galaxy Tablet. What we didn’t foresee was how similar the larger device is to the cellphones which have been dominating the Android phone market.
With the Galaxy Tab, there was an expectation that it would change everything for Android users. Ironically, it does not, just as the iPad didn’t reshape the industry overnight as so many expected. However, unlike the iPad, the Galaxy Tab is far too similar to the Galaxy S phones, mostly due to identical operating systems. The Tab runs on Android 2.2, which was never optimized for tablets. Because of this, the Galaxy Tab is, for all intents and purposes, a larger Android device which cannot make phone calls through a phone carrier.
For someone who doesn’t already own an Android phone, that shouldn’t be a big concern, though until Samsung clearly states that the Galaxy Tab will be receiving the Android 3.0 update, expected sometime this month, there’s no way to know the lifespan of the Galaxy Tab. We expect it to support the update shortly after release, but you should know regardless.
The Galaxy Tab is a 7” tablet, which is significantly smaller than the 9” iPad. As seen in the picture above, the difference is stark. The Galaxy Tab has much less screen real estate, but is also much lighter and much easier to hold one handed. Unlike the iPad, which is a two-handed tablet – that is to say it almost always requires the use of two hands, either both holding the device or one hand holding on strongly while the other is used for navigation – the Galaxy Tab is more like a phone, where one or two hands can be used based on convenience, not on size or weight. That means it’s just as comfortable to type with your thumbs on the Galaxy Tab’s virtual keyboard horizontally as it is vertically. In retrospect, the iPad’s keyboard when held horizontally is made for two hands, and is just a tad too big for thumbs when held vertically.
Size is the key differentiator between the Galaxy Tab and the iPad. In many ways, it keeps them from being directly competing products. On the one hand, the iPad is made as a companion device for two hands, but isn’t necessarily comfortable to hold one-handed for reading or simple web browsing. On the other, the Galaxy Tab is light and small enough to hold one handed while your other hand rests comfortably. They both have the same basic functions, and yet they feel so different that it’s almost like comparing two equally powerful laptops, one 12” and one 17”. The larger one may feel better to use, but the smaller is better for travel. Neither is better, simply different.