Samsung is doubling down on its Galaxy devices, with the announcement that its Galaxy Tab 8.9 tablet will ship Oct. 2. Over the past year, the company has affixed the "Galaxy" brand to a growing number of smartphones and tablets, in a bid to offer an alternative ecosystem to Apple's iOS.
The newest Galaxy Tab, with a screen measuring 8.9 inches on the diagonal (hence the name), doesn't present a radical twist on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 released in June. It runs Android 3.1 (code-named Honeycomb), which Samsung has "skinned" with its proprietary TouchWiz UX interface. The Tab 8.9 also features some Samsung-built features and applications, such as a Social Hub that syncs email delivery to a single in-box and integrates social-networking accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Hardware-wise, the Tab 8.9 includes a 2-megapixel camera in front and a 3-megapixel camera in the rear (with flash and auto-focus). The 1.5GHz dual-core T250S processor powers speedy application loading and Web browsing. Its screen resolution of 1,280x800, with the capability for 1,080p video playback, is more than adequate for e-reading as well as watching movies. To that end, Samsung is including its Music and Media Hubs, along with a Readers Hub for e-books.
Samsung will offer the Galaxy Tab 8.9 in two flavors: 16GB (for $469) and 32GB ($569). It will be WiFi-only, with a metallic-gray backing (in contrast to the Tab 10.1's options of either a gray or white back). For those who want a tablet more capable of sliding into tight spaces, or fitting in one hand, Samsung's newest release might suit better than the Tab 10.1; otherwise, there isn't a lot that separates the two, aside from the whole 1.2 inches' worth of screen.
On paper, the Tab 8.9 overpowers the Tab 10.1, which offers a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor (that's a dual-core chip). In brief side-by-side testing, the differences in application-loading and page-rendering times between the two tablets appeared negligible, but that perception could change following more testing.
Samsung's prime competition, of course, is Apple's own ecosystem, headlined by the iPad and the iPhone. In a bid to position itself as the alternative to the iOS way of life, Samsung is also introducing an Android-based iPod competitor, the Galaxy Player, in the October timeframe. Meanwhile, in courts around the world, the two companies are locked in a vicious legal battle, with each filing claims and counterclaims of patent infringement. For now, Apple's iPad is dominating the tablet market in terms of sales, a situation that Samsung dearly wants to change with its growing Tab family.