Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Arriving With Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Samsung's newest 7-inch Galaxy Tab will start rolling out in March. The main changes are to software, most notably with the inclusion of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich.

Samsung Galaxy devices had a stellar 2011, and with the Feb. 13 introduction of the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), it says it's officially kicking off is 2012 lineup.

Ice Cream Sandwich, Google's Android 4.0, is on board out of the box, making clear that software changes are what's to take note of in this new incarnation. Samsung's newest 7-inch tablet will come in two versions, with WiFi or Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) 21M bps connectivity€”which Samsung calls 3G in a press release announcing that its March launch will kick off in the United Kingdom.

Samsung calls the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) a personal device, making no assertion of enterprise use, instead emphasizing "improved Android OS features" and strong multimedia and communication experiences. The Touchwiz user interface has been tweaked to include the ability to "swipe-control applications," the app gallery has been redesigned to make it easier to share content, and more commonly used Google applications have been embedded to get users to sites more quickly.

The tablet also includes a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, and there's a VGA camera up front and a 3-megapixel camera on the back. A-GPS and Bluetooth 3.0 are reportedly also included.

For the first time, Samsung has also included "S Suggest," a service that, on the home screen, will recommend apps users might like from the Android Market's 400,000-plus options.

What else? Also for the first time on a Samsung device is AllShare Play, which lets users play or live-stream multimedia content to PCs, other Samsung smart devices or third-party Web storage.

There's face-recognition software, so you can smile for the camera instead of typing in a password, and various Samsung Hub services€”a Readers Hub, for accessing ebooks, magazines and newspapers, a Music Hub, with access to more than 17 million songs, and a Video Hub with, you guessed it, access to lots of films and things.

Finally, regarding its improved communication capabilities, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) offers the ability to place a call "as easily as a phone," plus the ability to quickly arrange multi-party video calls. There's also ChatON, Samsung's cross-platform service that uses phone numbers to connect users via messaging, video or image-sharing.

Pricing hasn't officially been announced, but says it's learned of pricing for the Scandinavian countries€”in Sweden, for example, the WiFi model is expected to sell for $450 and the 3G for $556.

Samsung earlier this year introduced the Galaxy Note, unique for re-initiating the 5-inch tablet form factor, otherwise known as the "phablet"€”half phone, half tablet. On Feb. 8, LG Electronics released a teaser video showing off its own phablet, the LG Optimus VU.

Research firm Canalys, which folds tablet sales into PC shipment totals, reported Jan. 31 that tablet sales helped the global PC market grow 16 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011; without the inclusion of tablets, the market would have declined year-over-year by 0.4 percent.

"This year will be a pivotal year for those vendors that were slow to launch [tablets]," said Canalys analyst Tim Coulling. "It is not just the product that they need to get right; business models are equally important€”driving revenues from content delivery can help vendors reach lower price points in a market that is incredibly price-sensitive."