Let the tablet wars begin

Samsung's new Galaxy Tab is the first serious competition to Apple's iPad, and it's about time


Dan Gillmor
November 19, 2010 1:40AM (UTC)

I just bought my first touch-screen computer that's bigger than a phone. It's the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a device with a seven-inch screen running the Android operating system -- the first serious competitor to the Apple iPad, heralding an era of tablet-based computing that is going to change a lot of habits.

I'll be taking a more thorough look at its many features in an upcoming post, so don't think of this as a review. Rather, consider this a welcome to the overdue competition in an arena that Apple has pretty much owned.

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Now, the Galaxy Tab isn't going to dislodge Apple from its high ground, at least in terms of market share. The iPad has a lead on the competition, and Apple has created a huge ecosystem around its mobile devices -- a smorgasbord of hardware and software add-ons that Samsung and other providers of Android-based devices haven't begun to match.

But if you were looking for a choice, you have one now. And in a few months you'll have many, many more choices.

The most notable feature of the Tab is its size: almost three inches smaller (in diagonal screen measurement) than the iPad. That translates to a much smaller overall display, about half the size overall. But the Tab has a 1024-by-600 screen resolution compared with the iPad's 1024-by-768, which means that it's displaying about 615,000 pixels compared with about 785,000 on the iPad -- still less to see but not as big a difference as the difference in screen sizes suggests.

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Size matters in mobile devices, and smaller is usually better. The iPad is 50 percent heavier than the Tab, about a half a pound more, and that makes a big difference if you're holding it for long periods.

In fact, the Tab's size strikes me as nearly ideal. I'm using it, among other purposes, as an e-book reader and video player, ideal for travel and for around-town activities. It's definitely not ideal for everything, as I'll explain when I do a more thorough review in the next few days, but no device can do everything you want; tradeoffs are always part of this game.

I suspect that Samsung will sell a lot of these, especially if it cuts the too-high price its resellers -- mobile phone operators -- are currently charging ($600 for a tablet without a data plan; typically around $400 with a two-year data plan). And some early anecdotal evidence supports my hunch. At a conference in Phoenix yesterday, two people told me they owned iPads but wished they'd waited.

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Dan Gillmor

A longtime participant in the tech and media worlds, Dan Gillmor is director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Follow Dan on Twitter: @dangillmor. More about Dan here.

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