Date: Feb 15, 2011
The Day of the Tablets has arrived! Just seven months after the iPad's introduction, Samsung has entered the market with an impressive new device that's already sold more than 1 million units: the Galaxy Tab. James Kelly introduces you to the Galaxy Tab and explains how it works, shows you some of its core features, and demonstrates why you should give it serious consideration as an iPad competitor.
Tablets are nothing newthese devices made their first attempt at gaining ground back in the mid-nineties. The problem back then, however, was that the devices were little more than a laptop with a touchscreen substituted in place of the LCD screen.
These early tablets were heavy, bloated with an operating system that took forever to boot up, and often brought with them technical problems that could only be solved at the highest levels of tech support. It should come as no surprise that tablet sales were less than spectacular and mostly disappeared from shelvescustomers simply weren't interested.
The Tablet Makes a Comeback
But all that changed in April 2010 when Apple released the iPad. With sales averaging around one million units per month at the end of 2010 and customers raving about the new device (owners raved, non-owners poked and nitpicked), it was no surprise when competitors started releasing statements about their own upcoming tablets.
The tablet race had started, and Apple was way ahead, but competitors weren't going to let that fact get in the way of potential profits. Consumers had shown that they were willing to give money to Apple for a smaller, lightweight device with longer battery power, a touch-controlled operating system with a simpler user interface, and apps…let's not forget the thousands and thousands of applications that could be purchased for an average of $0.99 from Apple's App Store. The iPad was a success and the money was pouring in like mad. Apple was happy…consumers were happy.
Competitors saw Happine$$ everywhere. And if Apple could do it? Well, so could others.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab
In November 2010, Samsung released the Galaxy Tab (see Figure 1). While most consider it to be a competitor to the iPad, there are enough differences to argue that it's a bit like comparing apples to oranges. What kinds of differences? Let's take a look at some of the more obvious ones:
- It's smallerthe Tab has a 7" screen versus the iPad's 10" screen. (But there is a 10" version of the Galaxy Tab on its way, so this difference will disappear.)
- It runs Androidthe Tab runs the Android operating system, complete with its own app store (called the Android Market) and a unique operating system. More on this later.
- It's got two camerasone of the biggest gripes with the iPad was its lack of camera (for taking pictures) and its lack of webcam (for video chat). The Tab has both.
- It's expandablethe Tab comes with a Micro SD slot that supports up to an extra 64GB of storage. The iPad doesn't offer that (or at least not yet).
My intention with this article isn't to stir up trouble between iPad and Tab userstrust me…there are plenty of websites out there with endless debates and flame wars erupting between fan(atics) of both devices. I happen to own both, and I find that each device has its pluses and minuses, all depending on what I wish to do with the device.
Instead, my goals with this article are to simply introduce you to the Galaxy Tab, show you how it works, and give you a glimpse of some of the great little features the device offers (see Figure 1).
Ultimately, the choice between an iPad, a Galaxy Tab, or other tablet (and they're coming in droves!) is a personal one, based on your own research, tastes, and needs.
The Galaxy Tab has already sold over one million units in its first month, so there are users out there who have decided that this little device is suitable for their needs. But if you want a bit more information about the Galaxy Tab, keep reading. (I've also completed a book for Pearson titled Teach Yourself Galaxy Tab in 10 Minutes that provides even more detailed walkthroughs for using many of the Galaxy Tab's features and apps.)
The Galaxy Tab has a multi-touch touchscreenthis simply means that you can tap on the screen in multiple locations at the same time to perform tasks. (Multi-touch screens are a favorite among gamers where controlling the action on the screen can often be done using virtual "joysticks" that are displayed on the screen and controlled with a user's thumbs.)
The Tab also supports gestures, small movements of the fingers that act as shortcuts to buttons and menus. For example, when viewing a photo on a computer, you must often click on a Zoom In button to enlarge the image (and a Zoom Out button to shrink the image).
But with gestures, you simply place your thumb and pointer finger together and touch the screenwhile still touching the screen, you move the two fingers apart and an on-screen photo or image will enlarge. Reversing the gestureplacing a finger and thumb on the screen and pinching them togetherforces the onscreen image to shrink.
And rather than using a mouse, you simply tap on the screen to click on buttons, checkboxes, and similar items. You tap and hold an icon (such as for an app) to drag it around the screen, and double-tapping often opens up sub-menus or other options that would require a left mouse click.
Typing and Swyping
The size of the Galaxy Tab eliminates the possibility of a real keyboard, but the Android operating system provides an onscreen keyboard that is amazingly easy to use. Clicking a key gives a subtle clicking noise (that can be disabled), and the keys are large enough that mistakes are rare.
While the onscreen keyboard is useful, the Tab comes with a built-in feature called Swype that you might also like. Rather than lifting your finger from the keyboard to click on other letters when spelling a word, you leave your finger on the keypad and simply drag it to the next letter.
There are even Swype shortcuts such as circling a letter to capitalize it. It takes some training and practice to use (I'm not very good at it yet), but I've been told by other Android users (Android can be found on many mobile phones) that it's the only way to type onscreen. Figure 2 shows Swype in action.
The Android Market
Most tablets, including the iPad and the Galaxy Tab, come with preinstalled apps. These apps include things like a calendar app, a contacts database, and an email app for sending and receiving. Other apps may include video and music players, an e-book reader, and a web browser.
These preinstalled apps are useful and typically provide the most basic of services that users require. But what makes a tablet stand out is the capability to download and install third-party appsgames, productivity software, educational programs, and more.
The Galaxy Tab offers you the ability to find and download apps via the Android Market. Some apps are free…others will cost you a small amount. The number of apps being added to the Android Market each day is staggering, but all that means is that you're very likely to find exactly what you're looking for in a third-party app.
And the Android Market, fortunately, offers you a great search tool as seen in Figure 3. You can search by category, search by price, and even view the latest additions.
If an app is free, it's a simple matter to download and install it. And if it costs a bit of money, a single click on the Buy button walks you through the online purchase using Google Checkout. You're even given 15 minutes to reverse the purchasesometimes that's all the time you need to try out an app and decide whether you like it or not.
I recommend a good review of all the feedback comments provided by other usersthis is often very helpful when trying to determine the quality of an app.
Directions and Navigation
One of my favorite features of the Galaxy Tab is the integration of the built-in GPS feature and Google Maps (and Google Navigation). Forget getting lost now!
With my Galaxy Tab, I can now access both driving and walking instructions from Point A to Point B. I get satellite views (see Figure 4) and traffic reports; and I can even get real-time ATM, gas station, hotel, and restaurant listings displayed on the maps as well.
Another nice feature is the ability to access directions from place to place even when there's no WiFi or 3G data servicethe apps are able to work offline and are surprisingly accurate! And if you're driving, the Navigation app even allows you to speak your destination…leaving your hands on the steering wheel and offering you verbal directions (that can also be turned off).
Movies, Movies, Movies
The Galaxy Tab offers the Media Hub app that allows you to rent or purchase movies (see Figure 5). These movies are downloaded to the Tab for viewing anytime, anywhere. In addition to movies, you'll also find your favorite TV show episodes that can be purchased individually. And the next time you're on an airplane or stuck in the dentist's waiting room, you can pull out your Galaxy Tab and watch a movie or television show instead of flipping through a 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated.
By the way, you'll also find a YouTube app that is designed to display YouTube videos on the Galaxy Tab screen and allows you to search the site for videos of interest. This, of course, does require a WiFi or 3G data connection.
I love ebooks, but I didn't buy a Kindle. And I'm happy about that decision because my Galaxy Tab allows me to purchase digital books from Amazon.com and read them using the Kindle app (see Figure 6 that shows Teach Yourself Flickr in 10 Minutes). What's even better is that I also have the Kindle app on my iPad and laptop, so I only have to purchase the ebook once, but I can pick up reading where I left off reading on any of my devices.
There's also an app for Nook for Android that will allow you to read ebooks purchased from Barnes & Noble (its ebook reader is called the Nook).
There's so much more you can do with the Galaxy Tab but I'm almost out of time (well…words, actually). What else can I tell you about the Galaxy Tab? Well, let me just go down the list of things I'm using it for on a daily basis:
- FoursquareThis fun little app allows me to "check in" at restaurants and other locations that I frequentI earn points and badges for various activities (such as frequenting a favorite restaurant) and even get appointed "mayor" when I'm the person showing up the most often.
- LatitudeAnother social app that allows me to share with a close circle of friends my current location (requires the GPS to be activated), making it easy for them to find me during the day.
- Angry BirdsAbsolutely one of the most addictive games around…and it's free. Don't download it unless you're willing to lose some serious time and become frustrated at the higher levels.
- DropboxThis free app allows me to create a "cloud folder" that sits out there on the Internet and holds files I might want to open and view from my Tab. Any computer that has the Dropbox app installed (and is logged in with my username and password) can provide access to these files, making it a great tool for accessing important files on my Tab from anywhere.
- ShopSavvyI love this app! If I'm out shopping, I simply run this app and snap a photo of the barcode; the app then finds me the best prices for the item both locally and online. It makes haggling with a store manager much easier when you show them you can drive five minutes down the road to save $10 or $20.
The list doesn't stop…I'm finding new apps every day that make my life easier…or at least more fun.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab has made a nice entrance into the tablet market. It's lightweight, has a decent battery life, a bright screen, and enough apps to make it something I carry with me now at all times. Don't get me wrongI still love my iPad (and so does my 3-year-old who has figured out how to use it for playing games). But my iPad isn't a device that slips into a coat pocket easily…my Galaxy Tab is small, easy to carry, and simple to use.
Until something better comes along (and it likely will, to my wife's displeasure), I've found a new tablet that offers up something new every day.