Samsung Galaxy Tab [Verizon]; The good, bad and ugly

Hey gang.  Breon here.  I’m going to drop a quick review for the Samsung Galaxy Tab…the Verizon flavor.  This won’t be a full on review, but I’ll give you what I think is the good, the bad and the ugly.  Peep John’s Galaxy Tab video here.

Let me start by saying, I do believe that there is a place for tablets in our gadget collection.  Well, in mine, at least.  I don’t think it’ll replace my phone or laptop any time soon.  It’s not portable enough to literally take it everywhere.  It’s not powerful enough to take over laptop duties.  However, it’s a great “coffee table” gadget.

Let’s get to the goodies…

Overall, I kinda like (read: love) this device.  Keep in mind, I use an iPad on a regular basis for work, so this isn’t my first foray in the world of tablets.  In this quick review, there will be some comparisons between the two devices.  However, just like their phone counterparts, there is plenty of room for competition.

The Good

Total cost of ownership

Walk into a Verizon store, drop $600 on the counter, and walk away.  No contracts.  No $60/month, until, what seems like “the end of time”, no rebates.  You now own a ‘WiFi’ Galaxy Tab.  But wait, there’s more!  This isn’t a WiFi only Tab.  It also packs a 3G radio, to help you get connected, on the go.  Data plans are very reasonable.  For $20 per month you get 1GB and for $35 you get 3GB.  There is no unlimited plan.  If you go over your allowance, you’ll be billed for another GB, $20 extra on the $20 plan, but only $10 extra on the $35 plan.  Messaging is extra, and follows their normal rates.  My opinion: Just get Google Voice.

Form factor

I’ve been telling people “The Tab is like a paperback novel. While the iPad is like a magazine”.  I wouldn’t mind a larger screen, but then I wouldn’t be able to slip it into my back pocket…or jacket pocket…or front pocket on my messenger bag.  This thing is portable.  I don’t feel goofy pulling it out at dinner or in the grocery store.  In portrait mode, the on-screen keyboard is easy to use.  Not as easy in landscape.  Long-term usage is pretty comfortable.  I played Angry Birds for a couple of hours, and it wasn’t tiring (landscape).  However, I did get some marks on my palm, due to the way I was holding it.  Flipping through Google Reader was painless (portrait).  I do wish the bezel was a bit wider. I found myself dropping a thumb on the screen, while I was holding it.

The Bad

Lack of apps and sites

I wasn’t expecting EVERY app to have a tablet counterpart.  However, I was kinda hoping for a few developers to step up and produce a tablet version.  The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times do have “Tablet” versions, but I don’t know if they really capitalized on the screen size.  Most apps look ok and scale to fit the screen nicely.  If you run across an app that doesn’t fill the screen, email the developer and tell them to update the SDK version of their app.  Working in the mobile development industry, I understand that it takes time, resources, and a design vision to develop a quality ‘tablet’ app.  However, if your company already has an ‘iPad version’ of your site, it should only take a couple lines of code to also detect the Tab, and display the tablet friendly version.  I’m looking at you, Google.  It’s nice to see the official Google Reader app, but that doesn’t make up for the lack of sexy mobile site.

It’s not a phone

Let’s be realistic, odds are I wouldn’t actually hold this thing up to my face to make a call.  However, there are a lot of apps out there that tap into the device’s phone number to verify an account.  Some (like Google Voice) require you to send an SMS message.  For some reason, I’ve never been able to get the automatic SMS verification to work on Verizon devices.  I’ve had to setup the number on the desktop site, and verify the number via a phone call.  This can’t be done on the Tab.  The number just sat in Google Voice saying “Please verify”.  I was still able to use the GV app though for visual voicemail and SMS.

Wonky front cam

I won’t spend too much time talking about this.  I tried several video apps, to see which ones work well with the front cam.  Ustream and Bambuser don’t allow the front cam.  QIK (I even tried the T-Mobile version, before it was pulled from the Market) rotates the cam image 90°.  Fring displays the image correctly, but the app layout is funky on the Tab.  I’m sure the popular apps will be updated.   However, this isn’t the first device with a front-facing cam.

The Ugly

Battery

Really the only major complaint that I have about the Galaxy Tab is the battery life.  I can take our company iPad (WiFi) home for the weekend, and I don’t have to worry about grabbing the charger.  I don’t know if it’s the fault of Android, a smaller battery than the iPad, or the fact that it’s a 3G model, but the battery life on the Tab is dismal.  One day, I was only able to get 8 hours of moderate use.  Some internet surfing, taking notes, a few emails, and using it as a mobile hotspot for a half hour.

In the end, I was generally happy with the Galaxy Tab.  As more and more developers create awesome apps and websites, designed for tablet consumption, Android tablets will become more useful in our daily routine.

Tags: , , ,