Your Samsung Galaxy Tab Questions Answered

Last week, I got to spend a half hour with Samsung's Galaxy Tab in the back of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Samsung was sponsoring the World Cyber Games there, and had more than a dozen Tabs at its booth. I also fired some questions at Samsung representatives, mostly from readers who responded to my earlier blog post.

Read on for the answers, plus a few plus a few other observations on the Galaxy Tab that weren't covered in Harry's hands-on preview.

Why no phone function?

Trevor Lambert, a Samsung marketing manager, wouldn't go into details, but he said the decision was based on the "discussion that we have with carriers." He said carriers want to target smartphone users -- who already have voice plans -- with the Tab. I take this to mean that wireless carriers don't want tablets to cannibalize smartphones, but that's just my interpretation.

Can U.S. users import a Galaxy Tab from overseas and get a voice plan that way?

Lambert said this is possible in theory -- you can do the same thing with smartphones -- but it looks like AT&T is the only carrier whose network supports the stateside voice and data frequencies used by the Galaxy Tab (850/1900 MHz for GSM voice, same for UMTS data). And be warned that any problems arising from the phone service are your responsibility.

Will the Galaxy Tab support Bluetooth HID? Will it support Bluetooth headsets or keyboards?

No, and no, said Kim Titus, a Samsung representative. Looks like Samsung's keyboard dock accessory is your only option.

Will the Galaxy Tab have a VoIP app preloaded?

No, Titus said. But you can take your pick of VoIP apps from the Android Market. Skype, for example, just arrived for non-Verizon Android phones, but it's Wi-Fi only in the United States.

Why the proprietary power cable instead of USB?

Lambert said the proprietary jack was the only way to give the Galaxy Tab enough juice for fast charging.

Why no Super AMOLED screen?

Super TFT uses less power, which translates to longer battery life, Lambert said. I've also read that price was a concern.

Any noteworthy observations on the front-facing camera?

The framerate was sluggish in the Qik app I downloaded from the Android Market, definitely a step down from Facetime or the webcam on most laptops (the Tab will ship with a version of Qik, but these devices didn't have it). One strange thing I noticed: The front-facing camera was inaccessible in the Galaxy Tab's camera app, so I couldn't effectively take pictures of video of my own face. I'm not sure whether this will change before launch.

What determines whether an app will be stretched to fit the screen or centered in smartphone dimensions?

Titus said it depends on which Android version the developer was working with (but didn't give version numbers). Samsung claims that 85 percent of the top 200 Android apps will run full screen. Also keep in mind that Samsung is bundling some Tab-optimized apps, like an e-reader and calendar, and all Google apps will be optimized as well.

Price and availability?

Trust me, I asked. Lambert wouldn't answer, not even a ballpark estimate.

A couple other observations:

  • Gaming was delightful on the Galaxy Tab. When I got an iPad, the iPhone suddenly seemed too small for playing games. Likewise, the Tab makes the iPad seem unwieldy. The Galaxy Tab doesn't feel much bigger than a Nintendo DS or a PSP, but it's all screen. I was totally comfortable using my thumbs to control the first-person shooter N.O.V.A. and tilting the Tab to steer in Need for Speed: Shift.
  • The Galaxy Tab identifies itself as a mobile device when browsing the web, so you'll get phone-optimized websites (like Technologizer) when available. This was kind of annoying; I already don't like mobile websites on smartphones, and they're definitely unnecessary on larger screens.
  • One great thing about tablets and smartphones is that you rarely need to shut them off completely. But should you have to power down the Galaxy Tab, it could take about 30 seconds (unless start-up time changes between now and launch). The Samsung logo that appears during start-up looks kind of cheesy.
  • This might seem really superficial, but I was thrilled to see that you can use a finger to curl the edges of virtual pages in Samsung's e-reader app, purely for aesthetic purposes. No feature is more shamelessly ripped from the iPad, but I love it.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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