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Compare Tablet PCs In Plain English: iPad vs Samsung Galaxy Tab vs BlackBerry PlayBook
the world of technology and innovation, it seems like if we just
watch Apple, the world will follow. This is what's happening right
now. With the introduction of the iPad, every major manufacturer is
jumping on the bandwagon for a share of the tablet PC pie. Just what
is a tablet PC? A tablet PC is a slate style computer that relies
mainly on touch inputs instead of buttons. When most people think of
mp3 players, they think of iPods. Apple is leading the market and if
they are successful, they might turn the word “tablet” into
“iPad”. That is, unless Samsung and RIM(BlackBerry) have anything
to say about it. Can the Galaxy Tab and BlackBerry PlayBook take on the iPad?
The iPad is quickly becoming synonymous with tablets. How can Samsung and BlackBerry compete? First, lets take a look at the iPad and draw some insightful conclusions.
To most people, the iPad is a “magical” innovation. The first of its kind. In reality, tablet PCs are nothing new. In fact, the first commercial tablet PC was available in 1989. It was called the “GriDPad” made by GriD Systems. One could appreciate Apple for using its marketing powers to propel the tablet PC into the mainstream. The other side is spiteful towards Apple for taking credit for something that has already existed. Fanboyism aside, the iPad and tablet are here and wouldn't be popular today without Apple.
The iPad is a 9.7-inch LED tablet with accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, Bluetooth, and WiFi. 3G models will have GPS and cellular service. All iPads have the same 1GHz A4 processor and 256 MB of RAM. The only difference is the 3G and storage space. You can choose from 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of flash memory. One odd thing that is missing on the iPad is a camera. One if the highlights of the iPhone 4 is its front facing camera and Face Time. This cool feature is not possible with the iPad. The lack of a camera is a big deal in my opinion. With the iPad, consuming media is excellent. Video is smooth. Music is flawless. Viewing pictures is sublime. Now when it comes to sharing pictures, you will need a camera dongle. Bad move. Tablets are, in some ways, direct competitors to netbooks. All netbooks have cameras. Not putting a camera on the iPad is a “WTF?” move on Apple. Apple is not exactly known for their “value”. By skipping on basic standards like a camera, Apple shoots itself in the foot. Even the cheapest cell phones today have cameras. It also doesn't help that the iPad's two main competitors, the Galaxy Tab and the PlayBook, both have front and rear cameras.
Many people have problems with the iPad using proprietary connectors. Apple is known to do this on most of their products. They use proprietary connectors to close up their platform. This makes things inconvenient for consumers who already have many USB wires. Another problem people have is syncing. With the iPad, in order to listen to music, you have to sync the songs through iTunes. You cannot drag and drop your MP3's onto the iPad. Most people are used to using iTunes but those who are not familiar with Apple products will have to scratch their head when they try to load their music. Apple claims that the iPad is a “magical” device. It's suppose to deliver the best web experience however, iPad does not support Flash. Apple have shared some heated words with Adobe and their stance is to wait for HTML 5. Undoubtedly, Flash is a large part of the web. Omitting Flash support is a big deal since both the Galaxy Tab and PlayBook support Flash.
Samsung's Tablet: The Galaxy Tab
Samsung's Galaxy smart phones have been very successful on all major carriers. It was a smooth transition for them to develop a tablet based on their phone. Like its smart phone siblings, the Galaxy Tab runs on Android 2.2 and has a 1 GHz Hummingbird processor. It sports a 3 MP rear and 1.3 MP front camera. You have a choice between 16GB or 32GB of internal storage and the battery is claimed at 7 hours. The most obvious difference between the Galaxy Tab and the iPad is its size. The Galaxy Tab is considerably smaller than the iPad with its 7 inch screen. Both the Galaxy Tab and the BlackBerry PlayBook is 7 inch while the iPad's screen is 10 (9.7) inches. The Galaxy Tab has full access to the Android Marketplace, Samsung Apps store, and Samsung Games. This is where things start to get irritating. Apps don't always download and the Samsung stores are empty in comparison to the Android Market. Google said that Android was not optimized for the tablet and we can see why with the Galaxy Tab. Some apps don't look right on the Galaxy Tab's larger display. Scaling is often poor and ugly. This is especially common with games. Like the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has a proprietary connector. If you need to charge your Galaxy Tab on the go you need to bring your connector or you will be screwed.
"Web browsing is more complete..."
The Galaxy Tab does support video calling but only to other Galaxy Tab devices at the moment. The Galaxy Tab is fast and snappy. The browsing experience is nice. There are hints of stuttering when you scroll. Maybe the browser needs a bit more optimization. Web browsing is more complete on the Galaxy Tab compared to the iPad. Flash supports gives it an edge. After using the Galaxy Tab, you will quickly notice that the iPad does feel a bit easier to use. The icons on iPad are larger and the interface is simple. Android is a bit more complex but it allows for more customization. Hopefully, 3.0 will provide better support. The Galaxy Tab is available with WiFi and 3G for $600 unlocked. A WiFi only version will be available after the holiday at Best Buy for $499. This is an interesting price point since the 16GB WiFi+3G iPad is priced at $629.
Enter The BlackBerry PlayBook
introduces the BlackBerry PlayBook. This 7 inch tablet is powered by
a 1 GHz dual-core processor, has 1 GB of RAM, 5 MP rear and 3 MP
front camera, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, and features BlackBerry's latest
OS, QNX. A welcomed change that will translate into more support is
its developer's platform. It will support webkit/HTML 5, JAVA, Flash,
Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, and OpenGL. The BlackBerry
PlayBook is scheduled for a first quarter 2011 release. From their
teaser trailer, they seem to focus on showing consumers its
multi-tasking capabilities. They also advertise the BlackBerry
PlayBook as the “Professional Tablet”. Whether that is the case
remains to be seen. This trailer is most likely simulated but
BlackBerry has demoed their browser side by side with the iPad and it
is noticeably faster. The cost to "play" has not yet been released.
"QNX has yet to be tested"
The BlackBerry PlayBook is an interesting device. We are all aware of the UI of iOS and Android but QNX has yet to be tested. From the simulated demo, it looks like QNX is a major step up from BlackBerry OS6. This similarity and the rather minor upgrade of OS6 leads me to believe that OS6 was just a placeholder for QNX. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie came out and said, "It's not the hardest thing in the world to repackage these[QNX] things". This hints at what we all figured out. QNX OS will be the successor to BlackBerry OS.
DOA? I Think Not
Hardware spec is not the be-all and end-all factor when it comes to buying a computer. It should not pertain to tablets either. What's important is software. As long as the software runs smoothly and efficiently, then techno-babble will remain a non-deciding factor. It's also worth mentioning that Steve Jobs(Apple) said that 7 inch tablets are “Dead on arrival”. I believe he is wrong. I've held the Galaxy Tab and it is very usable. The iPad was the standard but to say that 7 inch tablets can't compete is ignorant. 7 inch tablets are very capable devices. They are also more portable.
Software Over Hardware
When it comes to software, iOS has proven to be very stable. Apple was criticized for bringing iOS to the tablet and the iPad was labeled “a big iPhone”. Creativity may be lacking but the efficiency of iOS seems optimized for the tablet. IOS will be getting multi-tasking later this month but there will still be people complaining about the lack of Flash.
Android On A Tablet?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab shares some of the same criticisms that plagued the iPad. The Galaxy Tab is literally a big smart phone. This becomes clearer as we spend more time with the device. Scaling is a big issue and the Samsung stores feels like a band-aid fix. Even with some of their problems, the Galaxy Tab feels more like a computer than the iPad. Flash works on the Galaxy Tab. A task killer is included. Live wallpapers. And widgets makes the Galaxy Tab feel more "organic".
QNX OS: The Dark Horse?
Last, we take a look at the BlackBerry PlayBook. Software makes or breaks computers. With the PlayBook, we are left mostly in the dark until RIM releases test models. Their demo of the multi-tasking makes the PlayBook look like a real competitor. Their browser demo is also very impressive. Supporting Flash and OpenGL means the PlayBook could be a good platform for gamers. Being marketed as a “professional tablet”, the PlayBook is clearly also targeting existing BlackBerry users. Although BlackBerry and QNX OS is the current wild card, the PlayBook looks very impressive so far. I just hope QNX OS delivers what is promised.
PlayBook vs iPad: Web Browsing
As with laptops and netbooks, major manufacturers need to gain a strong foothold before smaller companies stake their claim and drive down prices. I am aware of other tablet manufacturers. Big companies need time and money invested in the tablet market before consumers will be confident enough to spend on what seems like, a luxury. I believe that Samsung, RIM(BlackBerry), and Apple are doing just that. Apple may not have invented the tablet, but they took a bold risk with the iPad and it paid off. Good for them. Now that they have some competition, good for us. Thanks for reading.
Update: Tablets killing laptops?
The increasing popularity of tablets have been greater than I expected. It turns out, the tablet market maybe eating into the laptop market. Is this the end of the laptop? Click on the link to read more.