So, there’s a new kind of Android device in the world. The world still isn’t sure just where it is that tablets are the right tool for the job. That granted, this is a nifty product. And I’m developing my own theory of what tablets are for.

My impressions are based on a couple hours playing with one, which at this point is a couple hours more than almost anyone else. The model I played was not quite production — among other things, the product name stenciled on the back wasn’t “Galaxy Tab” — but close.

I won’t have one on next week’s trip to Mainz for MobileTech, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to take one along to GDD Tokyo and JAOO in Aarhus, Denmark.

Other coverage: At the Financial Times’, also Android Central (with a useful iPad comparo), also Engadget.

Impressions · All the apps I tried ran just fine, including a couple of immersive games that really benefited from the extra inches. I’ve heard of a few apps that misbehave, but their problems were obvious & easy to fix; watch for details over on the Android Dev Blog, starting later today.

Samsung has sprinkled some sugar on the out-of-the-box Google UI elements, and while the community’s opinions on hardware companies’ efforts to improve Android software have been, um, mixed (my own is extremely mixed), I have to say that the Samsungers have shown restraint, putting the extra real estate to good use in good places, for example the notifications pull-down. There may be some of that integrated-social-everything that frankly gets up my nose, but my nose remained clear around the Tab, so if it’s there it‘s at least easy to ignore.

It’s snappy, especially on games where that matters; maybe there are places where servicing the extra bits in the 1024x600 screen will hurt, but I didn’t run across them.

It’s got a phone but (at least on the pre-release model I used) you can’t hold it up to your head, which is a good thing as that would look supremely dorky.

Did I mention that the screen is beautiful? Also it feels really good in the hand and looks pretty nice, and is obviously in the first microsecond’s glance not an iPad.

What Are Tablets For? · The trade-off is obvious. You win because you can show a bigger picture, which is important, and you lose because it just won’t fit in many pockets, which is important. It’ll go in most purses, though.

I know what I’ll use the Galaxy Tab for: to show off Android. The big screen just makes everything easier to see and point at, and graphics look outstanding, and it passes from hand to hand easily. Showing off Android is part of my job and this will help me do my job better.

Which leads to a general theory, reinforced by informal observation of hipsters with iPads in coffee shops: a tablet is, crucially, a more shareable computer. A laptop, with its fragile hinge-ware and space-gobbling keyboard, is just not comfy to share. A tablet is easier to bring to the café, easier to hand across the table or along the sofa, easier to seize in the heat of the moment, easier to hold up in triumph, easier to set aside when you need to meet someone’s eyes.

How big a market is that? Anyone who says they know is lying.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ciaran (Sep 02 2010, at 03:42)

I don't have much of an idea what I'd use a tablet for, but I'd like to have one anyway.

I've lost all trust in Samsung though, due to them selling me an i7500 Galaxy and then refusing to update beyond Android 1.6, and making it virtually impossible for anybody else to do so. If and when I get a tablet, it will be somebody else's.


From: Jez@SammyTablet (Sep 02 2010, at 06:12)

You echoed my thoughts by pointing out that tablets are much more shareable. Except I have never put it quite so succinctly!

I noticed that with my netbook - straight away it was being passed around whilst in the living room when we were all sitting round the telly.

Tablets are definitely even more suited to such things.


From: Dave (Sep 02 2010, at 06:13)

Tim, you nailed the use in the last paragraph. I don't want one for my pocket, I want one for my couch or any other place I have WiFi to enhance what I am doing at the time.

Keep up the good work,



From: erdina (Sep 02 2010, at 06:34)

So like, anybody have any idea how long the Galaxy Tab's battery would last on a single charge?

With a USB keyboard attached? How about with a Bluetooth keyboard?


From: Dave (Sep 02 2010, at 07:35)

With voice control and a bluetooth earpiece you don't actually need to take your Tab (or other bulky Android phone/tablet) out of you handbag/backpack to make or recieve calls, do you?

Does anyone do this? I see bluetooth earpieces all over but I've never owned one. Does/can the earpiece "ring" when you're called rather than the device itself?


From: Neil (Sep 02 2010, at 07:49)

My experience with the iPad is that it is useful in situations where you wouldn't use a laptop or phone. What is surprising is how often these situations crop up. Quickly checking Twitter or Facebook, watching a movie in bed, using a recipe at the kitchen table, etc.

What it has really killed in our house is the desktop computer. I wonder if we will ever see these machines in homes again.


From: rick (Sep 02 2010, at 09:54)

Dave: BT headphones ring through when a call comes in. Usually what's lost are things like voice dialing (saying "Call Dave" vs using the dialer).

I'll see what Samsung does re the GPS issue on the Vibrant and in terms of 2.2 updates for it. I love the phone, but don't like the idea that I can't update from official Android builds when they're out. Especially for a tablet, it's MY machine, so I want the control of being able to install any official Android build on it that I want.


From: jfruh (Sep 02 2010, at 10:10)

The ad you link to is so slick that it makes the terrible English translations all the more embarassing. "Have you ever heard that Flash is played on the full Web browsing page?" What?


From: Jemaleddin (Sep 02 2010, at 10:26)

Did you get a chance to try the screen outside? And how do you think the size affects the share-ability you were talking about?


From: Tonio Loewald (Sep 02 2010, at 10:48)

Speaking as an iPad-toting "hipster", one of the outstanding uses for tablets is "doodling". I can flesh out a sketch on a tablet in a way that outclasses even good pen-based tools. I used to think that pen-based UIs would be the supreme tool for artists, but I'm starting to realize that it's actually a trade-off.


From: Will Sours (Sep 02 2010, at 11:11)

Personally I think the tablet market is one created by manufacturers, rather than consumer demand, and it will fall short of expectations. Its more for gadget enthusiasts and those that like to show off. Its really not as useful as say, a netbook. They could make OK book readers, but trying to read for extended periods from reflective pixelated screens is bad for the eyes. If some come along that are not much more expensive than nice digital picture frames, I'll get one, to mostly use as a couch-side digital picture frame.

Now, a foldable tablet with basically two touchscreens that operate as one, with no bezel seperating them and the right build quality, so you wouldn't have to hold it to make it comfortably viewable, and opens all the way for a regular tablet experience as well, I could see that selling more.


From: Chris Petersen (Sep 02 2010, at 12:11)

I totally agree with your shareable conclusion. We've been using iPads for demos and it's amazing how people feel so much more comfortable reaching out and touching the tablet in situations where they would (almost) never touch a computer.


From: DDA (Sep 02 2010, at 13:07)

Rick wrote: "Usually what's lost are things like voice dialing (saying "Call Dave" vs using the dialer)."

I can click a button on my headset and my phone will then let me voice dial; I suspect it is both headset and phone dependent.


From: Bill Seitz (Sep 02 2010, at 14:49)

Will this be available as a non-phone version? If it's too big for your pocket, it can't replace your phone.


From: Derek K. Miller (Sep 02 2010, at 16:54)

I had a "shareable tablet" experience just this past weekend at my cousin's wedding, without expecting it:

Afterwards she, not a particularly gadgety person, said, "Oh no, now I want an iPad." Nope, not just for early-adopter geeks, it seems.


From: Jay (Sep 05 2010, at 00:54)

I know exactly where i'd want to use a tablet (sadly there is a lack of software for that use currently), with my HTPC.

If i could use it as a bloated Bluetooth remote that also displays additional information about the media i'm currently watching / listening to - that would make me a happy camper.

Stuff like making a music playlist on the HTPC without having to turn the TV on.


From: aludal (Sep 05 2010, at 11:58)

A poor man's substitute for Samsung Tab is available now, in a form of "white" Pandigital Novel (800x600 7" resistive s3c6410 based eReader). This is a highly hackable toy, as you can see here , plus many developments at Can be had at around $100 to $169 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl and all other "ladies'" shops of all places, where Pandigital sells its digital frames.

"Ongoing" work is about optimized, highly customized Android 2.x implementations, overclocked kernel, hardware accelerated 3D/2D driver, tons of good hacks more.

As for Samsung Tab, it's nice, but never for that price with or without a contract. I want my (Tegra 2 based) Google Tab 10-incher, where is it?


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (Sep 05 2010, at 16:28)

Here's a possibly non-intuitive take on tablet use.

These things would work well as "built-ins" in various rooms, mounted to, or for a more finished experience, inset into, a wall.

They are wireless, so cabling not needed.

Design features which would help this use:

1. make the front surface wipe-able, with the usual kitchen cleaners not causing harm.

2. The back has to have insets or holes so the device can be hung on, or clipped to, a mounting bracket.

3. at least a curve on one side to let it be "popped out" of the inset, if it's for flush mount.

4. The little round hole to plug in the power cord should be on the front, so you can charge the battery over night and then put the charger away (there may be other ways of powering it).

Yes, I know this goes against the mobility concepts for which tablets were originally designed - but there's nothing that says a mobile device can't be used in a non-mobile setting - for example look at the number of people dropping land lines and going cell-phone-only, even when at home.


From: John (Sep 06 2010, at 01:03)

My biggest gripe with the iPad is that it's too heavy to hold for reading (for longer than a few minutes), the Galaxy Tab looks much better in that respect. The iPad is also awkward to type on (for anything longer than a quick email).

I still find myself gravitating back to my iPhone for most things - except, as you pointed out, for sharing photos, which it excels at. It's a rather expensive photo frame though...


From: Edward Daciuk (Sep 13 2010, at 10:35)

I really want simplicity and flexibility. Contradictions I know. Right now I carry with me almost always: a laptop, a phone, and a paper notebook (except for going out). What I want is one device that can supplant all with one, easy to carry, simple, yet flexible device. I know what you're thinking, that's ridiculous. Some things aren't meant to be mashed together because you'll end up with something that does nothing well. And to-date you'd be right. But I don't think it has to be that way. Imagine a tablet the can serve as a phone through a bluetooth headset (that I also always have with me) (or even better why not be able to slide out the phone part) and as a computer by plugging into a travel keyboard and into monitors when at my desk. The tablet simply becomes the computing/connectivity engine with a small/mid-size screen attached. All the apps and data live in the cloud because it's always got broadband connectivity. Dreaming I know. But I'm wondering if something like the Tab can get me close. We'll see.


From: What Contract (Sep 22 2010, at 13:53)

I think this is Samsung's last straw. The boss of LG's mobile phone division recently left due to losing market share to the likes of HTC and Apple, so my best guess is that if the Galaxy S mobile phone and Galaxy tab can't save Samsung's mobile phone market share, we could see the contract mobile phone market dwindling down to just a few manufacturers. My money is on HTC to enter the tab market in 2010/2011.


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