Feeling that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 could use some more grunt? There’s a chance you’ll get your wish. An unannounced Galaxy Note GT-N5100 has popped up in benchmark scores with what looks to be a 1.6GHz Exynos 4412, better known as the Exynos 4 Quad variant that’s used in the speedy Galaxy Note II. We don’t know that it’s a small tablet, but the 1,280 x 800 resolution matches that of the Galaxy Note 10.1 — it’s not very likely that Samsung wants to duplicate its recent design efforts. Whatever the dimensions, the testing shows that the slate is using Android 4.1.2, and it may be a cellular-equipped model with that “kona3g” codename. If the GT-N5100 is more than just a set of benchmarks, the real question may be when we’ll see it; there’s no guarantee of a tinier Galaxy Note in Las Vegas.
Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET)
Android is great about multitasking in the sense that background applications will be suspended where you left them. That means you can go back and look at the previous app you were using, but it’s going to be in full-screen covering whatever you’re trying to look at now. This makes note-taking for research really difficult when you’re always having to tab back and forth and can only see one app at a time.
Hovernote seeks to remedy this issue by adding a floating notepad to your Android tablet screen. That way, you can read a Web site and take your notes at the same time.
Tap on the small h icon in the notification area. On your tablet, this will likely be the bottom right-hand corner. On a phone, it will be at the top in the notification shade.
Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET)
You can start typing right away, but you can also make a couple of adjustments if you like. For starters, the window can be dragged around the screen by pressing and holding on the hovernote text at the bottom of the window. That way you can move it out of the way if what you’re reading is being covered. You can also change the size of the window by pressing and holding on the dots in the bottom right-hand corner. Luckily the window even allows copy and pasting functions, so you can clip quotes from the Web.
Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET)
When you’re done taking notes, you can save them by sharing to Google Drive, Dropbox, Gmail, or several other services. And when you’re ready to close the app, just tap the menu button in the bottom left-hand corner and then the X.
Android‘s greater share of the smartphone market, Apple’s iOS continues to attract greater support from app developers.
Nearly seven of every 10 apps being created in the first quarter of 2012 were for the iOS platform, with the remaining three going to Android, according to new data released today by research firm Flurry Analytics. iOS generates twice as many apps as Android despite Google’s mobile operating system commanding 50.8 percent of the smartphone market compared with Apple’s 31.4 percent, according to ComScore data release last week.
One key reason for Apple’s popularity with developers is its dominance in the
tablet market. Apple’s iPad accounted for 88 percent of all tablet user sessions in the first five months of 2012, followed by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab with 9 percent and Amazon’s
Kindle Fire with 3 percent.
App authors can also expect a greater payout from iOS compared with Android, with Apple’s mobile operating system delivering developers four times the revenue as their Android counterpart per user, Flurry found.
“At the end of the day, developers run businesses, and businesses seek out markets where revenue opportunities are highest and the cost of building and distributing is lowest,” Flurry said in its findings. “In short, Android delivers less gain and more pain than iOS, which we believe is the key reason 7 out of every 10 apps built in the new economy are for iOS instead of Android.”
Another contributing factor to developer disparity is fragmentation in software and hardware, which Flurry said appears to be increasing, making Google’s platform more complex and costly for developers. The study notes that 17 of the top 20 Android devices in May 2012 had a share of 6 percent or less in consumer application sessions, meaning that each additional device supported by developers will deliver only a small increase in distribution.
Firmware is also a stumbling point, with Gingerbread, the third newest Android version, commanding 70 percent of user sessions, while newer versions Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich combined register on 11 percent of market penetration.
“This means that the majority of consumers are running on an Android operating system that is three to four iterations old,” Flurry said.
I was an Android user for years and still have several Android devices. But last October I bought an iPhone 4S and I’m glad I did. I remember the exact date I bought it, because it was the last time Apple (AAPL) updated the iPhone. Unlike Android devices, there is only one new iPhone and one new iPad a year. That doesn’t offer a lot of choice but it does make things simpler.
There are things I really like about Android, including how easy it is to configure a new phone. Type in your Google (GOOG) credentials and, within minutes, the phone downloads all your email, contact information and even some personalization features via the cloud. Some models I’ve tested even automatically imported the “wall paper” photo that I had on my previous phone.
Google offers Android to multiple vendors, so there are plenty of phone choices that all — in theory — can run the same operating system and the same apps. Partly because of the competition, there are plenty of Android phones that are less expensive than iPhones, not only for end-users but also for the carriers that typically subsidize the end-user price in exchange for signing a two-year
contract. Android is doing quite well; the latest figures from ComScore give it 51 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, while Apple has 31 percent and Blackberry 12 percent.
Like Apple, Google has amassed an enormous developer base, and there are now more than 443,000 Android apps, according to AppBrain.
There are also a lot of different devices. OpenSignalMaps, a service that helps users find the best cell phone signals in their area, has been logging devices that download its app and has found “599 distinct brands” of Android devices and nearly 4,000 distinct models.
Apple, on the other hand, so far has just one screen size for its iPhone and a single tablet screen size, regardless of which generation device you have. And, even though Apple refreshes its iPhone and iPad annually, the number of Apple tablet and phone models out there can still be counted with two hands.
Having so many Android players with so many distinct devices definitely has its advantages. Amazon, for example, was able to create its very popular $199 Kindle Fire tablet, which runs a heavily customized version of Android that not only has a distinct user interface but doesn’t necessarily run off-the-shelf Android software. Amazon created its own eco-system around the Kindle Fire with its own app store and its own rules for developers.
The open Android system also allowed Samsung to create a diversity of its own devices with a range of screen sizes. I like the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 because, like the Kindle Fire, it’s a full featured tablet yet small enough to fit in a coat pocket. And because it’s smaller and lighter, I find myself using my Kindle Fire more often than my iPad. I hope the rumors that Apple is developing a 7-inch iPad turn out to be true.
Size also matters with phones, and sometimes bigger is indeed better. If you’re using your phone to watch video or read eBooks than having a 5.3 inch Galaxy Note might be perfect.
But despite all the positives, the diversity of the Android ecosystem has it downsides. The world of Android is extremely fragmented, not only with a wide variety of hardware devices but with multiple versions of the Android operating system and — my pet peeve — customized interfaces that make it harder to switch between devices.
The fragmentation of hardware makes it harder to get everyone using the latest operating system. Unlike PCs, users can’t just upgrade an operating system at will. Users have to wait for their carrier to release an upgrade, and that can take forever. Even new phones are coming out with older Android versions with no clear update path. It’s also harder to app developers, not only because of the diversity of operating system versions but also hardware differences, including so many screen sizes.
And to make matters worse, handset makers love to customize the user interface with “skins” like Samsung’s “TouchWhiz,” LG’s Optimus and HTC Sense. Each of these skins has its pluses and minuses but I’d be happier with a single user interface from Google, which in my opinion does a better job than the hardware makers when it comes to interface design.
But despite my complaints, I remain optimistic about Android. Problems aside, diversity and openness breed innovation and, over time, I expect there to emerge a more harmonious Android ecosystem. But I got tired of waiting, which is why I bought that iPhone 4S.
Contact Larry Magid at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for his technology chats on KCBS-AM (740) weekdays at 3:50 p.m.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 feels almost like a disappointing prequel, rather than a full-fledged “we’ve improved on every feature!” sequel.
I mean, when a premium tablet gets a follow-up, it’s not a crazy thing to expect a lot from said follow-up; however, Samsung went the “budget” route with the Tab 2 10.1, limiting its advances. The problem is, since the Tab 2′s announcement, two Tegra 3 tablets (from Asus and Acer) have been released at very similar (or in Asus’ case, lower) prices than Samsung’s offering.
Still, the Tab 2 10.1 includes an IR blaster, its unique Touchwiz UX interface, and comes with 50GB of free Dropbox storage for a year.
Check out the full review to see whether that’s enough to be worthy of your consideration.
Data published by comScore shows that Amazon’s Kindle Fire has emerged as the dominant Android-based tablet. At the end of February, the Kindle Fire accounted for 54 percent of all Android tablets. The next most popular Android tablet product line is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab family, which dropped from 23 percent of Android tablets in December to 15 percent in February.
The success of the Fire is no surprise to those paying attention to the tablet market—as we wrote last year, there is healthy demand for a low-cost iPad alternative. Amazon can afford to offer the hardware at a lower price than its rivals because it can make up the difference in content sales. The key factors driving sales of the Fire are likely its low price point, the strength of the Kindle brand, and the breadth of the Amazon content ecosystem.
The rising prominence of the Kindle Fire will have significant implications for the Android tablet market. Amazon is using its own application store and a fork of the Android operating system that is based on version 2.3. As Amazon continues to advance the software in its own direction, it could reduce Google’s control over the Android tablet software ecosystem.
Third-party application developers who are building software for Android tablets obviously have a big incentive to ensure that their applications are compatible with Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire. But in order to make an application compatible with the Kindle Fire, it can’t be developed using APIs that are exclusive to Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest version of Google’s operating system).
It’s not clear yet if Amazon intends to update its fork of the operating system to bring it into alignment with Android 4. Amazon’s changes to the operating system are said to be much deeper than the kind of cosmetic changes that handset manufacturers typically make to differentiate their products. As Amazon’s flavor of the platform continues to diverge, application developers will likely follow in order to reach the device’s audience.
If Google wants to keep its own variant of Android relevant on tablets, the search giant will need products that are capable of competing with the Kindle Fire. Google is reportedly planning to launch its own low-cost Nexus tablet, possibly this year. Such a device would be aimed squarely at competing with the Kindle Fire rather than more expensive devices. Google has recently been working to strengthen its own content ecosystem and streamline its various media stores. It’s an effort that could help it pursue the same model as Amazon, where content sales are used to subsidize the price of the hardware.
It’s worth noting that other major Android manufacturers are starting to enter the budget tablet market. Samsung recently launched the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, a seven-inch tablet that retails for $250. The device, which comes with Ice Cream Sandwich and Google’s application store, compares favorably with the Kindle Fire. Although it’s not quite as cheap, it has slightly more RAM and some of the performance and technical advantages of ICS. Such products could help Google keep its own flavor of Android competitive on tablets.
On the surface, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 appears to be little more than a low-key refresh of its six-month-old predecessor, the in-betweener Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. And while that’s true, the Tab 2’s noticeably lower cost—at $250, it dropped in price by 38 percent from the 7.0 Plus–coupled with its numerous features give it a clear advantage over leading value tablet competitors Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet.
With that sizable drop, the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 marks the first time a premium Android tablet maker like Samsung has gone full-bore after the value space. The Galaxy Tab 2is competitively priced against the $200 of Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. Those popular 7-inch tablets each use their own customized versions of Android. These variants on Android can provide a more integrated experience for some tasks, such as reading books and magazines, or acquiring media, but it comes at the cost of the wider compatibility of the Android app universe; both Amazon and Barnes Noble require you to purchase apps only via their respective storefronts.
The Galaxy Tab 2 runs Android 4.0, unlike those other inexpensive Android tablets (the Nook and Kindle Fire both run variants built on Android 2.3; that means it can handle standard Android phone and tablet apps in the Google Play store. It also offers features that neither the Kindle Fire nor Nook Tablet do, among them an infrared port and a rear-facing camera. Samsung sacrificed built-in storage capacity (just 8GB, same as the other two value tablets and half of the 16GB provided on the Tab 7.0 Plus) to achieve the Tab 2′s low price, but that doesn’t detract from the Tab 2’s widespread appeal.
The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is an evolutionary step over the extremely similar Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. Both models weigh 0.76 pounds, and both feature a similar design and build quality, and both have similar dimensions. Both measure 4.8 by 7.6 inches, but the Tab 2 is slightly thicker at 0.41 inches, compared to the 7.0 Plus’ 0.39 inches. The balance and weight are such that this tablet isn’t onerous to hold one-handed, though I’d like to see the weight get lighter-still.
Only subtle tweaks distinguish the two. For example, the Tab 2’s plastic bezel curves around to the front of the screen, giving the front-face of the tablet a pleasing look. Tab 2 also has a larger infrared port, located along the top edge of the tablet when holding the tablet in landscape mode; the port now wraps around the back of the tablet, presumably to improve communications between the tablet and your entertainment components. The power button and volume rocker, also along that same edge, have a more rounded, easier-to-press shape. The microSD Card slot door is slightly (by millimeters) wider, too, and ever so slightly easier to open, but you’ll still need to do so using a fingernail. You can add up to 32GB of storage via microSD, a big benefit over Kindle Fire, which lacks any expansion slot for local storage.
The back of the Tab 2’s case is a light, “titanium”-shaded plastic, as opposed to the darker brushed gray of the earlier model. And while the rear-camera is the same, at 3 megapixels, the Tab 2 lacks the flash found on the 7.0 Plus.
Scrapping the flash is just one thing that the Tab 2 sacrificed to achieve its low price. Inside, the Tab 2 has a 1GHz dual-core processor, down from the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus’ 1.2-GHz dual-core processor. The processor change might account for why in the PCWorld Labs tests the Tab 2 took 14 seconds longer to boot up than the Tab 7.0 Plus; and it turned in noticeably slower framerate on the two GL Benchmark tests we run.
Other sacrifices: As noted earlier, the Tab 2 has just 8GB of memory, down from 16GB of memory found on the Tab 7.0 Plus. At 8GB, the Tab 2′s built-in storage is on a par with Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. And the front-facing camera drops from 2-megapixels on the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus to a mere 640 by 480 resolution on the Tab 2—a significant real-world quality drop that resulted in pixellated conversations when using the camera for video chat.
Samsung’s Plane to Line Switching (PLS) display is 1024 by 600 pixels, same as on the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus before it. At this point, this display is merely average, as several 7-inch tablets with 1200 by 800 resolution are now available. I noticed colors were slightly off on the Tab 2 compared to how they appeared on the older 7.0 Plus model; detail in images viewed in the native Google Gallery app appeared slightly worse, too, although the tablets still scored closely on our display subjective tests. I’m currently investigating this issue. Some of the differences may be attributable to the display itself; or, they may have some root in how Google has changed Android’s image handling between Android 3.2 (which shipped on the Tab 7.0 Plus) and Android 4.0.3 (which shipped on the Galaxy Tab 2).
Another interesting difference between the two tablets: The Tab 2 has better audio output. Music sounded fuller, and not in an over-processed way. The Tab 2 does have an equalizer option, which the 7.0 Plus lacked, but none of the effects were on.
As a bonus over its Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet competition, the Tab 2 adds Bluetooth and GPS, too. Together with some of the other features already discussed, the Tab 2 is ahead of the Fire and Nook when it comes to features.
The Tab 2 series is Samsung’s first to ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. In addition to Android 4.0, Samsung includes its own TouchWiz UX overlay with convenient pop-up launcher tweaks for fast access to a sliding bar of widget-like apps provided by Samsung (such as calculator, e-mail, and world clock). TouchWiz also provides an easy screen-capture utility and super-handy customizations to the settings pop-up, along with some Samsung-specific software apps, such as AllShare for DLNA network media sharing, and Samsung’s own app stores for games, media, books, and music.
In addition to the Samsung-branded apps, the Galaxy Tab 2 comes with a handful of useful Android apps pre-installed. Among them: Dropbox (with a year of 50GB Dropbox service included); the Peel Smart Remote app for use with the infrared port; and Polaris Office. The Peel app is a mixed experience, though; while it makes it easy to discover content visually, configuring the settings can be frustrating, and browsability could be improved. Ultimately, Samsung would do far better to write its own, more basic remote control app, as Sony has done on its Tablet S.
If you own a Samsung Wi-Fi camera or a HDTV, you may be able to benefit from some additional capabilities of the Tab 2that tie into Samsung’s product stable. Remote Viewfinder works with Samsung’s Wi-Fi cameras. The Remote Viewfinder feature could have some interesting applications for group photos, for example; with this capability, you can use Wi-Fi Direct to form a connection between the tablet and the camera, and together with an app on the tablet, you can then use the tablet to control the viewfinder, shutter, zoom, and flash of the camera. Smart View lets you mirror content from your TV on the tablet, but this only works with Samsung 7000 series LED HDTVs, circa 2011 and beyond.
Even though the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 has some nifty features like the infrared port and Wi-Fi Direct, it is neither a premium tablet nor a pure-play budget tablet. The big question is whether full Android compatibility and those extras are worth paying $50–or 25 percent–more than what you’d pay for an Amazon Kindle Fire or a Barnes Noble Nook Tablet. The answer: A resounding yes, with a catch.
The catch, of course, lies with what lies around the corner in tablets—namely, Asus’s upcoming $250 tablet that’s expected to have 1200 by 800 resolution and a Tegra 3 processor. That model still doesn’t have an announcement date beyond “second-quarter,” so for the moment, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is safely in the lead among inexpensive 7-inch Android tablets. It has flaws, but it delivers the most full-featured set of options among its current competitive set.
Asustek on Sunday started shipping its Transformer Pad 300 tablet in the U.S., with the company pitching the tablet as a gaming device and laptop replacement.
The tablet has a 10.1-inch screen, Google’s Android 4.0 operating system and a quad-core Tegra 3 processor from Nvidia running at a clock speed of 1.2GHz.
The tablet is priced started at US$379.99 for 32GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. Though most features are similar to those available in its predecessor, the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, the starting price is lower. Some of the new features GPS capabilities and the new OS pre-installed.
The company did not immediately comment on worldwide availability.
The tablet is the first that does not have Asus’ famous “Eee” moniker, which debuted in 2007 with the pioneering Eee PC 700 netbook. Asus is upgrading its tablets at a furious pace, and the new tablet comes just six months after it shipped the Transformer Prime, which was the industry’s first quad-core tablet.
Asus also joins a bevy of companies pricing Android 4.0 tablets under US$400. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 10.1-inch tablet will ship on May 13 and starts at $399.99. The aggressive pricing strategy of Android tablets may be an attempt to take market share from Apple, which is expected to dominate the tablet market this year, according to Gartner. Apple’s iPad is priced starting at $499.
The Transformer Pad 300′s 10-hour battery life can be extended to 15 hours with an additional battery in the optional $149 keyboard dock. The dock has a full keyboard and a touch pad to make the tablet a functional laptop. The dock has Android-specific buttons for quick access to tablet functions, and also USB 2.0 and SD card slots.
The tablet weighs 635 grams (1.4 pounds), according to Asus. The display shows images at a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, and the Tegra 3 chip enables a strong gaming experience with 12 integrated graphics cores.
The 8-megapixel rear camera on the tablet can shoot video at 30 frames per second. There is also a 1.2-megapixel camera on the front of the tablet. A micro-HDMI port allows the tablet to be connected to TVs. For expandable storage, the tablet has a microSD card slot.
The Transformer Pad 300 has been advertised with 4G LTE, but this tablet does include mobile broadband connectivity features.
Asus is also bulking up its cloud offering with the tablet, offering 8GB of free storage on it Asus WebStorage service. The WebStorage service allows users to share files and backup data to PCs.
Software on the tablet includes Polaris Office, which makes it easier for users to see Word, Excel and Powerpoint files. An application called App Backup can save data to local or removable microSD storage.
Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam’s e-mail address is email@example.com