In March 12 IssueBy Jeff Smith, Columnist
Don't look now, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Android tablet. In fact I am writing this column from it right now.
Android, if you haven't been keeping up, is the new smartphone/tablet operating system from Google.
My first impression of the Galaxy tablet was that it is very dense and it feels heavy... at least for its size. At 13.23 ounces, it's quite a pocket brick. But then, it isn't a cellphone, so it isn't necessarily supposed to go in your pocket.
At first I had trouble figuring out what it would be good for (aside from pretending I'm on Star Trek TNG) considering that I have the same operating system on my phone, but that feeling quickly disappeared once I opened up the web browser.
Anyone who has ever tried to surf the Internet on a phone, even a smartphone, has quickly found out that it is not all that it's cracked up to be. But this? I could get use to this. Yeah. The 7inch TFT-LCD screen is absolutely gorgeous, displaying web pages in crisp colors and it is very easy to read with, though this is with the caveat that for the very best web experience, getting a different web browser from the market is a must. I recommend either Dolphin HD or Skyfire, both of which are free.
It is also a lot nicer to touch type with using both thumbs, as the on-screen keyboard is large enough, at least in the horizontal mode, that hitting the wrong key denotes a lack of familiarity rather than cramped spacing. In fact, I can honestly say this is the fastest I have ever typed on a touchscreen. It also boasts SWIPE technology, though I haven't tried that out yet.
Using Skype, I am able to make calls to regular phones with this device even though it doesn't support a normal cellular talk plan. And Skype is very inexpensive; last year we used it for our house phone and it only cost $100 for unlimited calling for the entire year. Of course Skype does best when it has a wifi connection, but it will work over 3G just fine when available.
Skype can also fill the SMS text messaging void that keeps the Galaxy Tab from being considered a regular cell phone... But I think that Google Voice does a better job of that. Texting on Skype is a paid for service, but with Google Voice it is free. Of course there is nothing to stop a person from using both, or even tying them together a little bit.
Another useful thing I have found out is that the bigger the touchscreen, the better I do at touchscreen games like Angry Birds, and other touch intense apps like Uloops Studio (music creation software) or a painting program/photo editor.
I got used to the weight fairly quickly, and now after writing this, it is already beginning to feel much more comfortable in my hands which is good because that means a steadier hand when using the built in auto-focus camera. Speaking of the camera, there are two of them. The front-facing camera (for video chat) is 1.3MP. The rear camera, at 3MP, is not as snazzy as what you might find in today's top cellphones, but it does have flash so taking pictures indoors is actually quite nice.
Looking at Samsung's website, it looks like they are doing a good job of supporting the device and I would hazard a guess that they will make it a breeze when the time comes to upgrade Android from 2.2 (Froyo) to 2.3 (Gingerbread)... in fact, I just checked and they already offer the option to upgrade.
All in all, the AT&T Samsung Galaxy Tab is a beautiful device. I do not know how it compares to other Android tablets, but when I get my hands on something else I will be sure to do a comparison.
If I had to conjecture, I'd say that this would be the perfect device for today's teenager or geek on the go. At a no-contract price of $549, its cheaper than 2 out of 3 iPads and the optional data plan is either $15 a month for 200MB or 2 Gigabytes of data for $25.
Yeah, I know it's not a whole lot, but 200MB is enough to send a million text messages using Google Voice and 2GB is enough data for around 68.2 hours (4092 minutes) of Skype call time, if my math is correct. So depending on your situation, the cost of the device could be offset by a drop in your monthly cellphone bill.
At least that is how I'm trying to rationalize it to my wife. Wish me luck!