It’s a ”tweener” 5cm or so bigger than a smartphone and smaller than Apple’s iPad by about the same. At 385g, it’s again in between the weight of a phone and a tablet or netbook.
It’s an e-reader (though not great in bright light), a phone (but only on speakerphone or in conjunction with an earpiece), a personal organiser (you can sync your calendar and contacts using your Gmail account or to and from your iPhone using the Bump application), a mobile office (with email, web browsing and ThinkFree MS Office-compatible office suite), a portable GPS device (although you’ll need to buy a bracket to attach it to your dashboard), and an entertainment hub, offering apps for playing music, video, games and for Twitter and Facebook.
Like Apple’s iGadgets, it arrives in a stylish box, and is sleek and elegant once out. It looks even more like an overgrown iPhone than the iPad, with its white tapered back and curved black edges.
The 18cm colour touch screen is bright and clear, and large enough for easy reading of books, magazines and newspapers once the text is resized via pinching to zoom or by changing point size in e-reading apps. I found it a little awkward to hold it one hand (unlike the 12.5cm Dell Streak), but easily manageable in two. Thumb typing is easy whether you’re in portrait or landscape mode too.
The home screen welcomes first-time users to the world of e-reading via a Readers Hub package of three apps already popular with iPad users: PressReader for newspapers, Kobo for ebooks and Zinio for magazines. Australian users should skip Kobo and download the Borders REDgroup app from Android Market. It’s powered by Canadian ebook giant Kobo but offers Australian content and support.
The home page also offers up Navigon’s GPS app and a car racing game, NFS Shift.
Taking photos and shooting video are easy with the Galaxy Tab’s on-board 3.2 megapixel camera (there is also a 1.3 megapixel forward-facing camera) and results aren’t too bad especially when you can see them and share them on-screen or via social media or email immediately.I love the idea of being able to carry just this one sleek device, rather than an iPad or netbook, a smartphone, a camera (and connection kit) and (on sunny days) an e-reader.
I had hoped I’d be able to test it for all of those things, but found that using a Vodafone-supplied SIM, coverage was OK for voice but terrible for data.
I was unable to check email, either from home (near Parliament House and Manuka) or from Civic Library. It turns out Vodafone’s network has been hit by instability due to a software problem that could continue for a few days yet.
At the time, it was the only carrier offering combined voice and data plans, including a $79 cap plan that offers unlimited standard voice and video calls with $0 upfront for the Galaxy Tab. I put my Optus mobile SIM in and found phone coverage was better, but there was no data access at all.
Optus has since launched voice and data plans for the Galaxy Tab, but the pricing is not competitive with Vodafone’s offering, nor with Optus’s own deals for the iPhone. Telstra has no voice and data plans as yet.
Fortunately, the built-in WiFi allows quick and easy downloading of books, newspapers, music and video at home for offline use later. That said, while most of the key apps I use regularly on the iPhone and iPad are available for Android (TuneInRadio and ABC among them), there are others that are not yet in the Android Market but may be in time including the PressReader-style apps for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and those that never will be, such as Apple’s iBooks e-reader. The iBookstore doesn’t leave as much of a hole as iTunes. Downloading music and video is much easier on an Apple product than an Android one, though there are apps that allow non-Apple gadgets to sync with iTunes such as doubleTwist, a must-have if you’re already using iTunes and looking to buy an Android-powered phone or tablet like this one.
So, it’s expensive and there are some technical issues to iron out, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a highly desirable object that looks set to give the 7-inch tablet segment a huge kick-start.