Samsung Galaxy Tab Doesn't Have to Be an iPad Killer to Succeed

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-11-13

Samsung Galaxy Tab Doesn't Have to Be an iPad Killer to Succeed

Samsung's Galaxy Tab landed in stores with a lot of fanfare, and a lot of speculation as to whether this device will be the long anticipated "iPad Killer," and if it is, to what degree. So having spent time looking at these devices (along with some others) let me say right up front that it's not an iPad Killer. But that's kind of like saying that a BMW 328 isn't a Dodge Minivan killer. In both cases these aren't the same kind of device; they're not aimed at the same markets and while they seem similar, they really aren't. 

Because of this, the Galaxy Tab can be successful even if it doesn't dent the iPad's sales at all. They're two different devices, aimed at different types of users. It's unlikely that someone seriously thinking of buying an iPad will be diverted to the Galaxy Tab. The same thing is true for people seriously considering the Samsung device. In this the situation is somewhat different from what it is in the smartphone world. 

When people shop for smartphones there are several factors that matter. They care about the applications that the device runs, of course. But in the case of iOS and Android devices, there are lots of applications for both. They care about the carrier, but it's unlikely that anyone is buying an iPhone just so they can get AT&T service. With tablets, it's a different story.  

When people are thinking about tablets, applications matter a lot, and those applications have to meet their needs while also functioning usefully in a tablet form factor. Both the Android tablets and the iOS tablets have such applications, although the iPad has a lot more that are designed for that device because it's been around longer. But people also buy a tablet because they find the device comfortable to use, and they find that it meets their needs in other ways, such as by having a data plan that makes sense. And they choose because they like the form factor

Setting aside the Android vs. iOS battle for a moment, mainly because it's not that relevant for anyone but the fanatics on either side, the two devices are about as different as they can be for two lightweight tablets. The Galaxy Tab is relatively small-about the size of an Amazon Kindle. It's about half the weight of the iPad. It has two cameras, one of which points at the user so they can do video conferencing. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Doesn't Have to Be an iPad Killer to Succeed

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The Apple iPad, on the other hand, has a fairly large screen, it weighs about a pound and a half, and for now it's camera-free. Both devices can be had with both WiFi and 3G connectivity. But only the iPad has WiFi without 3G. On the other hand, the data plans being offered for the Galaxy Tab have a wider array of options, and some plans can be implemented for very short periods of time for relatively little money.  

So if you're trying to use your tablet as an e-reader, then there's something to be said about access to brief periods of 3G. If you're going to be spending a lot of time streaming music or video, they you're going to need a real data plan regardless of which device you decide you want. 

Now, I have to confess that I've been looking at these devices lately because I have some international travel planned and carrying a tablet is a lot easier than carrying a briefcase full of books. My experience looking at the Galaxy Tab is that it's smaller, lighter and the screen is small enough that it's probably kind of hard to use for reading a book. I also have no idea whether it's reliable enough to depend on for a long trip, and whether the battery life will really last through a flight and the related time in airports, on trains and the like. I don't want to find myself two hours from my destination without battery power. 

But when I looked at the iPad, its weight was the first thing I noticed. It weighs as much as the books I'm trying not to carry. It seems to have good battery life, however, and you don't have to use the 3G capability if you don't want to run up huge bills when abroad. Of course you can turn off the 3G in the Samsung device as well. But if you depend on WiFi, then you're forced to pay something like 12 Euros a day for WiFi, which is probably worse than paying for 3G. 

I also looked at the other tablet-like devices including the Kindle and the Nook. Both of these are better for reading, but they're not tablets like the Samsung or the Apple devices. So it seems like this market is breaking down into segments that don't really compete with each other. The Samsung is small, light and equipped with Android so you can get lots of software. Unfortunately, nearly all of the software is designed for phones rather than tablets.  

The Apple iPad is larger and heavier, but at least there are a lot of applications designed for that platform. There will be people who like the iPad for what it is and those who like the Samsung Tab. But I don't think they're going to be the same people. Then there will be the e-reader buyers who aren't really looking for a tablet as much as they are looking for a replacement for paper. They'll go for the Kindle or the Nook which do compete with each other.

Unfortunately, what I've found is that I don't think any of these choices really works for extended travel. Maybe the thing to take for that isn't a tablet computer. Maybe it's an Ambien. 

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