The new Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablets announced last night are a lot like the old Galaxy Tabs, with essentially the same hardware specs for processor speed, screen resolution, battery life, and wireless connectivity options. The 7-inch model to be released on April 22 and the 10.1-inch model to be released on May 13 sport two hardware enhancements meant to appeal to home entertainment and digital camera users: a MicroSD slot for easier photo sharing (although it can be used for files of any type) and an infrared port to be able to act as a remote control for home theater equipment such as TVs and stereos. An interim version of the Galaxy Tab 7 gained the IR capability in October 2011, but very few other tablets offer this capability.
Both devices will ship with Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," which has yet to be made available for the previous models. A Samsung spokesman said that Samsung continues to work with Google to get Android 4 released on its existing hardware; the Android industry's migration to the unified smartphone/tablet OS has proceeded very slowly, with no explanation from Google and the Android vendors. Among Android 4's capabilities are improved support for enterprise-class mobile management and security, similar to what an iPad offers.
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The two Galaxy Tab 2 models will cost less than the original Galaxy Tab versions. The 7-inch model will cost $250 and come with Wi-Fi and 8GB of storage; the 10.1-inch model will cost $350 for the same specifications. By contrast, the original 7-inch model cost $400 but came with 16GB of RAM, and the original 10.1-inch model cost $500 but also came with 16GB of RAM. The Galaxy Tab 2 models also have dropped the LED flash on their 3-megapixel rear cameras, and have downgraded the resolution of the front cameras as well. Apple sells the iPad 2 with Wi-Fi and 16GB of RAM, but substandard 0.9-megapixel rear camera, for $400, and the higher-resolution third-gen iPad with LED-equipped 5-megapixel rear camera for $500; cellular versions cost $130 more.
Samsung does not plan to ship an 8.9-inch version of the Galaxy Tab 2, as it had for the previous lineup. A spokesman said the company had not abandoned that screen size, but simply chose not to release a new Galaxy Tab using it at the moment. Also gone from the Galaxy Tab 2 lineup is the option of cellular-equipped models, at least initially.
Samsung also declined to say when it might ship a 10.1-inch version of the Galaxy Note, despite announcing the product in February. The 5-inch Note smartphone shipped earlier this year to mixed reviews but, Samsung says, to strong sales. The Note smartphone boasts a digital pen that the company says should appeal to those wanting to create content on tablets. (InfoWorld's review of the Galaxy Note smartphone faulted its lack of native-resolution apps and OS controls, which resulted in awkward operations, but praised the digital pen capabilities.)
A 10.1-inch tablet version of the Note will be available in some European countries later this year, but Samsung would not say when or whether it plans to bring the device to the United States. A spokesman did say that the specs for the Note tablet shown in February -- essentially the same as for the original Galaxy Tab plus the inclusion of the digital pen -- were not final and might be improved. At a press conference, a spokesman dodged a question as to Samsung has been so coy about releasing a product that both Samsung and many product reviewers call innovative.
Samsung also showed new models of its Galaxy Player devices, essentially clones of Apple's iPod Touch, with the same two color options (black and white) as the iPod Touch. The 3.6- and 4.2-inch models add MicroSD slots, and they include IR beaming to control home stereo equipment. They can also connect directly via Wi-Fi Direct technology (no router needed) to some Samsung digital cameras to display the camera's screen and to control picture-taking remotely. They can also send music to compatible stereos via Bluetooth, as many smartphones, tablets, and the iPod Touch can.
If a Galaxy Tab 2 device is linked to the same network as a higher-end Internet-connected Samsung TV, the TV's screen can be mirrored to it. The tablet's screen can also be mirrored to the TV via Wi-Fi, similar to how an Apple TV device works when connected to a TV. But an Apple TV cannot be used to send the TV's screen to an iPad or other iOS device.
Samsung's remote control app for home theater equipment currently runs only on Samsung Android devices, such as the Galaxy Tab 2 and Galaxy Play series. The company says it is working on an iOS version and an Android version for competing hardware.
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