In what may be a perfect “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” maneuver, Samsung has just revealed its answer to the iPad 2–a new set of Galaxy Tab tablets. In terms of specs, they’re pretty much clones of Apple’s offering.
Apple‘s iPad created the new tablet PC market, and the company just revealed a brand new iPad 2 version that upped its game even before competing devices were really arriving on the market in meaningful numbers. The biggest challenger to Apple yet is Korea’s Samsung, whose Galaxy Tab 7-inch Android tablet was touted as the most successful rival to the original iPad (although it may not have sold in huge numbers).
The Galaxy Tab is getting a new 8.9-inch edition and a 10-inch version because, as the company’s Omar Khan remarked at the unveiling at the CTIA show, Samsung “doesn’t believe in the one-size-fits-all” strategy (a completely overt stab at Apple’s single tablet offering, somewhat confusingly sharp since Apple’s defined the market with this plan).
The “new and improved” 10-inch version (seemingly adjusted since its limited debut at the Mobile World Congress because the company deemed it an unsuitable rival to the new Apple device) supports HSPA+ tech for up to 21 Mbps mobile Net speeds, with an LTE and WiMAX version in the future. Inside there’s a 1GHz dual-core CPU, dual Wi-Fi antennas, a rear-facing 3-megapixel camera and front-facing 2-megapixel unit, and it’s in a super-thin chassis that’s just 8.6mm deep and weighing in at 595 grams. A quoted 10 hours of battery life, plus a custom TouchWiz UI on top of Android 3.0, an e-book “reader’s hub,” 1080p video playback, a dual speaker solution for “surround sound” and Flash 10.2 support. Samsung’s positioning it as the “thinnest, lightest and most full-featured large-screen tablet” there is. The 10-inch version will be priced at $499 for a 16GB version with Wi-Fi connection only, and the 32GB edition costs $599. It will hit shelves June 8th in the U.S.
The 8.9 Tab has a similar design, battery life, 8.6mm depth, an 8.9-inch WXGA screen, and comes with a plug-in accessory that adds USB and SD card-reader support. The 8.9-inch version will cost $469 for the 16GB edition and $569 for the 32GB, but its launch date has merely been confirmed as “Summer” 2011.
Compare these specs to the iPad 2: Starting at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only version, the iPad 2 has a 9.7-inch screen, a 8.8mm-deep metal chassis, a weight of 601 grams, “up to ten hours” of battery life, up to 1080p video playback, 1GHz dual-core CPU, dual “HD” resolution video cameras, a built-in e-reader app … and so on.
Although Samsung has released two tablets for people chasing two different use-cases, the actual sizes aren’t extremely different to the iPad 2, and though there’s support for Adobe Flash tech and a few bells and whistles like the pre-loaded Readers Hub for books and (in the US) Music Hub for digital music–which will certainly be attractive to some consumers–the machines are close to being clones of the Apple device, in terms of specs.
In other words, Samsung has thrown in the towel on innovative tablet design, and has realized it has to match Apple’s successful design and pricing recipe (to the extent it’s even tweaked its design plans) to capture any meaningful market share. You can argue that this is a victory for consumers, who’ll now get an aggressively-priced Android tablet to rival Apple’s iOS one, for cheaper than the Motorola Xoom costs, and this sort of market diversity is a good thing.