Review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab

This is a review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  My perspective is from that of a Android mobile enthusiast.  I’ve toyed with Apple products and found the hardware and software integration to be refined and the user interface to be straightforward.   However, I’m not a huge fan of the closed architectures (more on that someday).  I’m also reviewing the product as an enterprise device, not as a casual consumer so I did not pay special attention to the lifestyle aspects of playing music, reviewing pictures or it’s ereader capabilities.

I’ve been using the device for a few days and I’ve gotten a good sense of what it does well and not so well.  It’s the first Android tablet to hit the market and at pace of change in mobile hardware, this review will be out of date in the hour it takes me to publish it.

The Galaxy Tab is very similar to android smartphones.  In fact, really,  it’s more smartphone than a tablet.  If you’re familiar with Android you will have no problem getting around the Tab.

One for the ladies?

I’ve been trying to figure out who this device is for.  Reviewing the Samsung website provides some clues – there are six faces on the webpage and all of them are female.  Is the Galaxy Tab intended to be a lifestyle device?  When compared to the somewhat geeky interface of the Motorola Droid and slightly more geeky Droidx interface, the Tab seems simplistic.  Perhaps it’s a difference in design and style ethos between Motorola and Samsung, but the difference is striking.  A friend of mine who recently converted from a Blackberry to a Droid commented on how small the font was and wondered if she could change it.  Well, the font on the Tab is so BIG it reminds me of large print books intended for seniors and those with poor eyesight.  Essentially, apps designed for smartphones with 3″ or 4″ displays are stretched to 7″ on the Tab.  It’s great because the text is easy to read, but the space could be used to maximize user experience.

What worked:

  • Let’s clear up any confusion, it’s not a phone
  • The device is attractive and felt comfortable in my hands.
  • The Galaxy Tab is spry. I found it to be very responsive, easily on par with the iPad performance
  • The 7″ form factor makes sense as validated by the numerous ereaders on the market
  • Calendar app is pretty great.  It’s appropriately built for the 7″ format and it easily combines my corporate and multiple Google calendars.  My only gripe is I would have liked control over the colors of the calendars so I could distinguish one Google calendar from another.
  • Daily Briefing app pulls together: schedule, Accuweather, Yahoo stock watcher, AP news
  • Finally an Android that does screenshots without rooting!

Didn’t work for me:

  • Apps that are built for the 7″ format looked great (Daily briefing, WSJ, Calendar), but most apps are not written for the 7″ tablet.  It’s the same problem the iPad faced when it first launched.  The question is, will developers embrace the 7″ format.  The answer is far from certain.  This is the biggest challenge (and biggest opportunity) regarding UX.
  • Display auto dimming is mindnumbingly useless.  It just never worked right.
  • Happened upon first use – battery went from ~40% to 0% in what seemed like a moment.  The problem did not reoccur.
  • The order of the main buttons (menu, home, back, search) are in a different order than Motorola’s Droids.  More of an annoyance, but some standards here would be nice.
  • Other editions of Android (Droid, Droidx) have an integrated inbox.  The Galaxy Tab does not appear to have that functionality out of the box. Jumping between the corporate, Yahoo and Google e-mail app is an unnecessary problem.

In the end, my conclusion is the device is most suitable for lifestyle activities such as reading, listening and watching.  The hardware really works well.  The size seemed just right and not as awkward to use as a 10″ tablet.  However, the lack of apps developed to take advantage of the 7″ screen is a major drawback.