Ever since the advent of Android lovers of the mobile OS have been eager to have it not just on their mobile phones, but large-screen devices as well. The open-source, Wild West aura of the platform spurred many early attempts and a slew of commercial products ranging from netbooks to eReaders to tablets. And it’s in this last category that geeks like myself have placed all their hope in non-phone Android awesomeness. And it’s in this category that devices have so often let us down.
However, here at IFA in Berlin that’s all about to change. The story out of this conference is going to be tablets, tablets, tablets (for real this time!), and the one I’m anticipating the most is the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The company announced the international version of this device today, which has me all excited for when it finally makes its way across the pond.
We’ve seen 7-inch Android tablets before, right? What usually stops them from being awesome is sluggish performance, terrible screens, older versions of the OS, and a lack of apps from the manufacturer plus the conspicuous absence of the Google Market. The Galaxy Tab has none of these issues.
In my hands-on time with the device, I was impressed with the speed and smoothness of the Android 2.2 experience, which was similar to what we’ve seen performance-wise on Samsung’s Galaxy S phones. The 1.0-GHz Cortex A8 processor and 512MB of memory ensure that apps and media run fast. And the gorgeous 7-inch WSVGA screen sports capacitive touch, not resistive. While my fingernails keep me from enjoying this to the fullest, it’s certainly far better than many of the resistive implementations we’ve seen recently.
The big news on the software side is that the Galaxy Tab is a Google Certified device, so it will have the Android Market. In my experience many apps developed for phones will work with larger screens, but Samsung is also working with developers to ensure that owners will have a plethora of apps that not only work with, but are designed for the 7-inch form factor.
In addition to the market, Samsung has its own apps on board that they’ve tweaked just for bigger displays. For instance, the company’s email app shows a list of messages similar to phone implementations in portrait mode, but switch to landscape and you get two columns: the message list on one side and the full text of the email on the other. The notes app works similarly, and we love the robust calendar.
Other pre-loaded apps include Thinkfree Office for creating and editing documents and the Swype keyboard. Users will be able to download more in the future from Samsung Apps.
One of the global model’s software offerings I’m excited about is the Reader’s Hub, a unified app that pulls eBook and ePeriodical material from multiple sources: Kobo, PressDisplay, and Zinio. And since users will also be able to download other eBookstore apps via the Android Market, the Tab should make a very powerful reading device.
But of course you’ll want to do more with that beautiful screen. Like watch movies and TV shows. The tablet supports DivX, XviD, MPEG4, H.263, and H.264 formats, amongst others. With up to 32GB of internal memory available plus a media card slot that can handle up to an additional 32GB, most users will be able to carry around a hefty library of video, music, and pictures. Samsung promises up to 7 hours of movie playback as well.
Other specs include two cameras, one facing the back and the front. And in Europe people will be able to use the Tab as a telephony device over 3G HSPA or 802.11n wireless. Video conferencing, voice calls, speakerphone, Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, the works. Globally, Samsung intends to sell the devices via telecom carriers, not directly to consumers. Though a Wi-Fi only version isn’t out of the question, right now they’re focusing strictly on carrier-based sales.
As far as accessories go, Samsung has a few in the works. A keyboard, naturally, though it’s a dock rather than a wireless one. A regular dock, stylus, data cables (including one for TV-Out via RCA), leather and plastic covers, and a car dock.
Overall, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Tab is finally the droid we’ve been looking for. Speedy performance, great UI, a mountain of apps, a great screen, and Google is even on board. We hope this is the shape of things to come in the Android tablet space. The device will be available in Europe in mid-September. Availability for other markets (including the U.S.) haven’t been announced yet, but we’ll let you know when you can start saving your pennies for it.
In the mean time, check out the gallery and specs below.