5 Reasons the Samsung Galaxy Tab Will Struggle to Compete with the iPad

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By: Hillel Fuld

And it begins. The same thing all over again. Apple releases a game-changing completely closed product and the rest of the companies, with Google leading the pack, try to play Catch.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the first major tablet to compete in this space, and while initial reviews are overwhelmingly positive, the Tab is going to have a difficult task of taking on the Apple giant.

The following are five reasons the Samsung Galaxy Tab will be met with a fierce opponent in its battle against the iPad:

  1. App Fragmentation: This is going to be the most significant challenge for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and any future Android tablet. The Android Market is already a mess and developers of Android apps have to create multiple versions of their app to support the many different Android headsets on the market. We are talking different screen sizes, different processing abilities, and most importantly, different versions of the Android OS. The Tablet market will magnify this problem. Anyone who has tried an iPad with an iPhone app knows exactly what I’m talking about.

    Taking an app that is optimized for a 3.5′ screen, or in Android’s case, sometimes a 4′ screen, and using it on a 7′ display is going to look bad and not work properly in most cases. While Apple has created an ecosystem that is watched and maintained strictly enough to be able to create the iPad App Store, the Android Market, in all its glorified openness, is too much of a mess to pull this off in its current state. It is unclear how Google intends to overcome this issue, but if users are going to be have the standard Android Market apps for their Android tablets, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab as well as any future Android tablets do not stand a chance of even competing.
  2. Big Phone/Small Tablet: One of my initial concerns when opening my iPad for the first time was defining the device and figuring out how I was going to use it. It wasn’t long before I realized that using a case that props the iPad up on an angle ideal for typing, I was to use the iPad mostly as a laptop replacement with the exception of Skype video calling and the occasional long document or spread sheet.
    The Samsung Galaxy Tab, with its 7′ display is too big to use as a smartphone, which it is, since it makes phone calls, and too small for a tablet. Knowing Apple, the decision to go with a 9.7′ display was something they put months or even years of thought into. Knowing Samsung, the release of the Samsung Galaxy Tab went something like this: CEO: “Oh, Apple is selling iPads like hot cakes? OK, let’s make one too. How does 7′ sound?” Engineer” OK, I will get to work, should be ready in a month”. Time will tell if 7′ will be small enough to use the Samsung Galaxy Tab as a phone or big enough to use it as a computer, but I am pessimistic on both counts.
  3. Screen Resolution: The only thing I see killing the iPad any time soon is the iPhone 4. I have read about countless people who sold their iPad after starting to use the iPhone 4. It was not Facetime that did it, and it was not the two cameras either, although I am not sure what Apple was thinking leaving those out of the iPad. The reason the iPhone 4 is embarrassing its big brother is its industry-leading Retina display.
    I truly believe that had the Samsung Galaxy Tab been released with a display that outdoes the iPad’s significantly, it would have meant war. Instead, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has a 1024×600 compared to the 1024×768 on the Apple tablet. Now, this does give the Tab more pixel density, and an easier resolution for using the tablet as a smartphone in portrait mode, but it is not enough to even be considered as a candidate for the iPad competitor role.
  4. No Wifi Version: This was yet another bad call by Samsung, Google, or whoever it is that makes these decisions when it comes to Android devices. While some people, myself included like to have 3G connectivity on their tablet device, for every iPad 3G owner I know, I have at least 5 friends that own the Wifi version. Most people want freedom from their provider. Maybe that is why 3G laptops never really took off.
    Whatever the case may be, Apple got it right by offering users two options, whereas the Samsung Galaxy Tab only comes in a 3G version, which also has Wifi, but comes with a contract from the cellular provider. At the end of the day, despite the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s ability to make calls, its 7′ display is pushing it when it comes to holding the device up to your face without looking a little strange.
    In fact, the Dell Streak’s 5′ display was pushing it, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is complete overkill if you are using it as a phone. I am pretty convinced that the lack of a Wifi alone version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a missed opportunity to sell to the large community of evangelists who support Google for its openness and freedom. How ironic is it that Apple is giving users the choice to buy a device with no strings attached and Google is tying you down with a contract?
  5. Undefined Entity: This point is a sort of summary of the above four points. When the iPad was released, the main concern people had was “Isn’t it just a big iPod Touch?” This question was soon answered with the iPad-optimized apps that provide a completely different and superior experience to that of an iPhone/iPod Touch. However, when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the question of what the device really is or what purpose it serves stands strong. Is it a smartphone? A 7′ phone? Is it a laptop? A 7′ laptop with a cellular contract? This lack of definition or identity will ultimately prevent the Samsung Galaxy Tab from taking off the way the iPad did.

In conclusion, I would just like to clarify that based on the initial reviews, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is one heck of an impressive device with truly amazing specs. Samsung can rest assured they will sell millions to the hardcore Android community along with the Apple haters and the people who need ultra portability. Having said that, if they had put just a little more thought into the small details, the Samsung Galaxy Tab had the potential to become, yes I am going to use the term we all hate so much, a true iPad Killer.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these points? Do you think I am way off or spot on? Please let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter here.

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26 Discussions on
“5 Reasons the Samsung Galaxy Tab Will Struggle to Compete with the iPad”
  • Hillel, I would agree with you about the wifi but eventually the other points will not be any matter in not so distance future. I believe that 7″ can be a better point of view and carry.

    1. Expandable
    2. Cameras
    3. Calls can be made as a speakerphone without looking odd :)

    There are downside of all devices. I believe to have the freedom to have a choice.

  • Being an app developer – we have plenty of clients that want to be in the App Store. That’s a no brainer. But then, we also have a lot of clients that want our apps available to the Android market as well. I’m not really looking forward to adapting our apps to “different screen sizes, different processing abilities, and most importantly, different versions of the Android OS.” With that said – I think that Android really needs to find a happy place for us developers instead of making it more difficult.

    Will I ever buy a Galaxy Tab? Nope. I think Apple’s done a fantastic job at being first to market with a superior product than any others currently on the market or in the pipeline.

  • Sorry Hillel, but some of your points are just not thought out.

    The big phone issue. It’s not meant to be used as an all the time phone. That being said, I would love to use this during a conference call and share the screen via handsfree. You can probably also video call which is way better than just a wifi facetime.

    Your no wifi issue is also not valid. It’s wifi, it’s 3G it’s both. You don’t need a contract to get the device, but you can also get it with a contract and or it for wifi only.

    Screen Resolution is irrelevant. The form factor defined it. You have the same width, a little less height. Not huge. Just scroll.

    I love the Ipad, I use it all the time in the office. I would get the Tab before the Ipad, even though my day to day computer is a Macbook.

    The only point I see as being valid is the App fragmentation. It’s a problem. They need to deal with it. It’s not huge.

  • Thanks Phyllis, always good to hear a developer’s perspective.

    Olivier, I love it when you comment and tell me I’m wrong, really, shows me the other side of the road on these issues.

    In any case, I am pretty sure the Tab will be sold on contract but I could be wrong. Also, the video calling is a HUGE issue and does not exist on the iPad AT ALL, not even over Wifi, so that is a huge plus. Anyway, the Tab looks impressive but in my opinion, no way it will compete with the iPad.

  • I think you are wrong here:

    1. App Fragmentation has not been a problem with already 90% of apps available on Android market ready to be downloaded on the GalaxyTab. Also, the future versions of Android OS (Honeycomb) are tailored to Tablets and yes, users will be able to upgrade their OS.

    2. You need only a school kid to notice why Steve Jobs was sitting while demonstrating the iPad to the world because its heavy and not portable friendly.

    3. Your crib about having a Wifi only version holds no water. If I want, I can still buy the Tab, eliminate the carrier by not using the services and use Wi-Fi instead OR use the same SIM as my phone that has data package and use it without having to struggle to get a microSIM.

    4. “Is it a plane, Is it a bird, its a superman” syndrome. Tablets in general will be used by more and more people for consumption of content. If communication features exist, its a bonus. If I can use it for conerence calling or communication thro BT, why not?

    I am sorry that the reasons you have provided are very poor.

  • I’ve been waiting a long time for a decent Android tablet to come out, but the Tab doesn’t cut it for me mainly because of the screen size. I used a 7″ netbook before, and 7 inches is not enough to view etextbooks and class notes (my primary use case as a college student). I’ll probably get an iPad, though it bugs me that it might become obsolete in 5 months.

  • I disagree. Im a mobile developer and although the Galaxy Tab might not be as refined in some areas as on the iPad, i think for the masses a simple thing, like the availability of a camera, or HDMI out is enough to sway them into buying this device.

    In fact thinking about it now, Samsung is in a very good position to really sell it well across the world. In the US the Apple brand is typically very well known but in the rest of the world Apple brand is sort of known but generally not cheap enough to compete with the strength of Samsung and other manufacturers. It is in the rest of the world , mostly developing countries, where these devices could really sell. It wouldnt be cheap but it may be cheaper than a laptop or desktop could be. In South Africa where I live, the Apple brand is just too expensive for the masses to buy. Samsung however is very well known mainly because of its cheaper cellphones flooding the market.

    Another issue ,not related to my first objection, is that Android currently have a huge momentum. It took a while before Android caught up to iPhone in terms of press talk and mindshare but now that its here, everyone is being overwhelmed by the sheer momentum that Android currently has and is still gaining. This must not be underestimated as its this sort of word of mouth & press exposure that leads to consumers eventually only knowing that Android runs on Tablet like devices. Maybe even to the point that eventually somewhere on a forum in the future internet, there is a Apple fan stating that Apple was the first to launch a touch tablet device back in 2010 but nobody even remembers it. Its not written in stone yet but no matter what Apple says they will not be able to compete based on sheer number of manufacturers and devices exploding on the market right now.

    In the future, Apple iPad will still sell as a niche product but in sheer number of sales, I think if Samsung has a serious push in marketing, this range of products could make them the number one Tablet manufacturer in the world.

  • Samsung have done the right thing, IMHO. The only advantage a wi-fi only machine would’ve had would’ve been a small reduction in price. The price difference between the wi-fi and 3G ipads is an outrageous £100 in the UK. It would be much less than this I’m sure for the Samsung probably resulting in it being not worth their while running two production lines.

    When the price settles, I may well just buy one SIM free. I already have a data SIM that I could put in it and, thankfully, Samsung hasn’t gone for the accursed micro-SIM.

  • “Having said that, if they had put just a little more thought into the small details, the Samsung Galaxy Tab had the potential to become, yes I am going to use the term we all hate so much, a true iPad Killer.”

    There is only so much Samsung can do until Google re-works the OS for tablets in 2 or 3 size options. 7″ was a smart first move by Samsung because the Android phone OS works well enough @ 7″/

  • Fragmentation? let’s see what happens when next iPad version is released with (probably) 2 cameras, more RAM and retina display in a few months… Actually it’s already happening with iPhone 3G ,fragmentation is inevitable in tech world.

  • Samsung Galaxy Tabs are lining up the 8in and 10in models. We definitely have an iPad killer.

    By the way, nowadays we use bluetooth headsets to talk on the phone, it frees up our hands to work on the something else, such as looking up information on the tab. The Tab was not designed to be held up to the face.

    As for App Fragmentation, it creates more jobs for App developers like us.

    In short, Apple products are for the niche market, while Android based products are for the rest of us.

  • We’re now comparing a product that’s been out for 5 months to one that Americans won’t be able to buy until next year? It’s possible this will become a Nokia vs. Apple thing, where Europeans flock to the Galaxy Tab while Americans prefer Apples, since Europe is reportedly getting this device in a few weeks. Of course, the rumored pricing puts it as more expensive than almost any of the iPad models. Since the Galaxy Tab will spend most of its life competing against the iPad2 running iOS 4.2, it really has to blow the current iPad out of the water in order to hope to compete.

    There are other aspects to the iPad size that aren’t considered here, as well. The iPad has a huge battery because of its size. The extra few hours of battery life may not mean anything to some people but I suspect a lot of the target audience care about that sort of thing.

  • App market fragmentation is definitely an issue for Android. From a developer perspective, the need to create slight variations of your app(s) for each different screen size can be an issue and result in support for some devices and not others. So far this hasn’t been a huge issue, but if a variety of tablets with many different shapes and sizes start hitting the market things could get worse.

    Where I see the market fragmentation as a real issue is for end consumers (and I’m not talking about early adopters like those who have likely read and responded to this post). The average person with a cell phone doesn’t know the Android market structure and that apps can be purchased in multiple places, not just through the official market place on the phone. This can result in a fair bit of confusion (I’ve had some of these conversations with people). Add to that the fact that some apps will not function on some of the devices and it can get complicated.

    This is where Apple has an advantage, there are really just a couple of devices to support – when it comes to apps – 2 screen sizes. It’s simple, especially from a users standpoint. iOS might not be the number one mobile operating system, but it’s users will always enjoy a level of certainty that will not always be available for Android users.

    Android will continue to grow, there are always going to be people who choose the openness of the platform over the closed ecosystem model that Apple has chosen.

    To each their own.

  • i’m in the camp that see the in-between 7″ size as a dead end. for portable convenience, you want a small smartphone that does the same things. for media/entertainment, you want the biggest screen that you can stick in your carry bag, whatever it is, iPad size. also, the Galaxy’s 16:9 screen aspect constrains many things uncomfortably, including browsing.

    also in the camp that sees the required telco 2 year contract as certain to meet tremendous consumer resistance. most people hate those contracts and avoid them whenever reasonably possible. but Samsung has to use telcos because it has no other retail network, like the Apple stores, to feature its stuff. Best Buy et al aren’t comparable.

    and then of course there will be a 2011 model iPad. probably with a FaceTime camera and other enhancements like an upgraded display. Samsung et al are always competing with last year’s Apple products. and btw, if you need phone capability, Skype works on the iPad now.

  • Everything I’ve read says that the Galaxy Tab will require a telco subscription. That is just a boneheaded move. From Cnet:
    “Speaking of mobile phones, note that the Tab is available only through carriers that provide mobile phone service. There’s no Wi-Fi-only option, though the Tab does support 802.11 a, b, g, and n.”

    And no one has definitively said what the price will be. Remember that the iPad’s price is unsubsidized by the telcos. The Galaxy Tab must be significantly lower priced than the iPad if hopes to have a ghost of a chance.

  • Looks quite expensive. Something like $900 or $1,000 for a 16G version. That is more than Apple charges for a 64GB iPad. Plus it doesn’t have the dustribution or after sales support that Apple has. It may spike up initially through sales to the Google fans but it will have a hard time breaking into the mainstream.

  • Just to put these number in perspective, Apple sells 8M iPhones a quarter. If Samsung really manages to sell 10M Galaxy S by the end of the year, it’ll sell around 30% as many Androids as Apple sells iPhones. Now, apple might increase the iPhone sales rate, but we need to remember that the Galaxy only came out in the second quarter.
    Very impressive achievement for Samsung.

  • a) I do not understand why tablets have to have almost an inch of margin padding around the screen. Get rid of that and it will fit in my pocket without making the screen smaller.

    b) Why only have 2 stereo speakers on one side of the unit? When held landscape for watching movies they are both on the right. That is not stereo… it would be better to have a speaker at each corner ( ie 4 of them ) and have the OS use the device orientation to decide which speakers to use for left and right.

    c) on a phone that size its a shame they could not include a jack for a wired headset to use when your blue-tooth headset runs out of juice.

    d) you would think by now the usb association would come up with a standard usb connector that could be used for quick dock/undock without each manufacturer inventing their own custom dock plug.

  • I see the contract thing being mentioned against the Tab repeatedly, but my opinion is that this is more an american wireless network provider thing. Not every device that is capable of 3G must necessarily be used on the 3G network or be bought with carrier subscription. After all, the GPS iPad also has 3G.

    A second argument that I see mentioned is screen-estate: iPad has more, therefore on the Tab you have to scroll more. This is only partially true. The Tab is just simple denser… it only misses 168 pixels of resolution on the short side. When viewing a webpage in landscape, it hardly matters. When viewing a widescreen movie, it also hardly matters. You may miss these pixels in portrait mode somehow. But this is really not something to make a fuss about.

    I do agree that a larger screen might feel more comfortably to read on the long term.

    Another thing many talk about is how to define this device. It is simply a device with which you can accomplish numerous tasks during your day: call and get called (through Bluetooth headsets or car kits and not by holding it to you ear), make video calls to your family or work team through WiFi when you’re away, in a hotel room, use it to navigate to your destination while in your car, lookup occasional info on the Internet either through WiFi or through 3G, read some book or PDF document while on a long flight, or watch a movie, keep you mail and agenda with you all the time, perform the occasional chat and be able to stay online and be reachable.

    It’s definitely not a laptop or a replacement of it. It’s more like a communication companion and organizer (a PDA, in fact) with calling capabilities, that frees you from having to have a phone with you.

    The real points that I see is battery life, the physical manufacturing quality and the quality of the available software. Apple really does it’s best at getting these right, tipping the balance between freedom and reliability towards the second.

  • Why are you hatin on the tab? I font think its trying to be an ipad persay. It stands alone in a newly emerging array of android tablets hitting the market. Alone in that the fact that it is a tablet come smartphone will IMO appeal to many many consumers. Most of your negatives carry no weight and ill thought through. Maybe you revenge your blog “my fanboy reasons NOTHING will compare to apple ipad”
    Why did apple just nor release there ipad with both wifi and 3G connectivity from the off? Greed!

    I look forwards to carrying the galaxy tab in my pocket and have no intention of holding it up to my face when I recieve or make a call… the beauty here is the tab can remain in my pocket while my BLUETOOTH headset will take care of my calls wen I’m out and about. Simples! Oh yes did I mention that it can handle bluetooth flawlessly.

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