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Summary:

Mobile Tech Manor is my home office where all sorts of gadgetry is always arriving. In this column, I look back at the week in the Manor and recount the happenings and lessons learned. I love sharing my weeks with you, so welcome to the Manor

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Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) is the home office where I cover the world of mobile technology, and it’s an active scene of gadgets and apps. This column is my look back at the week and my outlet to share observations and lessons learned about the tech that crossed my path. No new gadgets arrived at the Manor this week, but I spent some time thinking about one I hope will cross my path. I also returned to my roots as far as Android is concerned. Get comfortable, and I will share the week with you.

Gadget of the Week

The week was one of those rare ones in the Manor as no gadgets arrived for poking and prodding. The lack of new arrivals gave me much-needed time to think about the gadget space and especially about what upcoming devices are exciting me. This thought process kept leading me back to the one gadget that I find really appealing — the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The Tab has several things going for it that I think set it apart from the crowd of Android tablets. Primarily, I think the 7-inch form is a good fit for maximum portability, while bringing more utility than smaller smartphones can offer. It’s designed for easy use in the hand, and that’s an advantage over the larger iPad. The build quality seems to rival that of the iPad, and the work on key apps Samsung has done to make them better fit the screen, which is larger than that on phones, rounds out the offering. I’m looking forward to using a Tab first-hand, and will probably be buying one.

Sadly, the Tab is the only Android tablet I have been scoping out that appeals to me. Other tablets the same size don’t seem to be as well constructed as the Tab, and the larger ones don’t really compete with the iPad that I already own. It’s obvious Samsung has concentrated design efforts into making the Tab a slick device that works as well as the iPad, but other tablets haven’t been given that same attention to detail, with companies choosing low cost as the main feature.

I don’t think that indicates as bright a future for Android tablets as I originally thought. Cheap tablets are going to be quickly exposed in consumer’s hands, and the user experience is going to fall short with constant use, and that will yield impressions with consumers that Android tablets are not nearly as good as the iPad. That will be a big obstacle for successful market penetration, and companies rushing to get them to the market will not be profitable. That’s the ultimate failure for a class of mobile devices.

The Galaxy Tab goes a long way to seriously compete with the iPad, but it’s not going to be cheap. It’s not clear how consumers will react to a good iPad competitor that costs roughly as much as the offering from Apple. Since it’s unlikely to be significantly cheaper than the iPad, the Tab will have to compete on quality, advertising and utility, and that may not be enough to take iPad sales away from Apple.

I do think Samsung will sell a lot of Tabs, but probably not enough to establish the Android tablet as a viable commercial competitor for Apple. Having seen the component breakdowns of both the Tab and the iPad, it doesn’t seem likely that Samsung will be able to do much with the pricing of its tablet and remain profitable. The iPad is firmly entrenched in the consumer tablet market, and Samsung may find that a formidable obstacle to consumer acceptance. It is going to be an interesting competition to watch as the Tab starts hitting the market in numbers. If any Android tablet has all of the pieces in place to compete with the iPad, the Tab sure does.

Apps of the Week

I spend a lot of time testing apps on all of the devices I use regularly. The low cost of most apps, coupled with the utility they can bring to the usage of a given device is an appealing combination. One of the apps I spent time with this week isn’t even an app. Google rolled out Instant Search for mobile, and I’ve been using it a lot this week. It was announced on Thursday of this week, but it had quietly shown up on my EVO 4G a few days prior to the rollout. My experience with it on the Android smartphone is mostly good, but not entirely.

In a nutshell, Instant Search starts presenting search terms that Google predicts you might be entering as soon as you start typing the term. As each letter in the term is entered, Google refines its prediction of what search phrase you are likely entering. A drop-down list of these terms gets refined with each letter entered, and it’s usually pretty accurate at guessing what you mean before you type the entire term. I’ve been using it to great effect on the desktop, and while it seems logical it would be even more useful on my Android phone with its more difficult text entry, I found that’s not necessarily the case.

Mobile phones, especially Android phones, have a choice of onscreen keyboards. Many of these touch keyboards have very good predictive text, where they guess what word the user is typing as each letter is entered. If it sounds a lot like Google’s Instant Search, that’s because it is. Because these keyboards with predictive text are so good, many users have been taking advantage of this method even before the appearance of Instant Search.

This means Instant Search isn’t a big game-changer on mobile like it is on the desktop. In my usage of Instant Search on my EVO, I find the keyboard’s predictive text entry butts up against Google’s Instant Search entry. It can be distracting looking at both the predictive text results from the keyboard and the Instant Search results in the drop-down list at the same time. Throw in the fact that the phone’s onscreen keyboard often covers up much of the Instant Search drop-down list, and you get a lessening benefit to the search. It’s surprising that the platform that should stand the most to gain from the Instant Search method doesn’t due to the technology already on the phone.

When I wasn’t playing with Instant Search on my EVO 4G, I was experimenting with a return to my HTC Sense roots. I love to customize the way my smartphones work, and I had done that on the EVO. I’ve used third-party widgets and apps to replace a lot of the functionality inherent in the Sense interface, primarily to build a “look and feel” to the phone that was more appealing to me. This has worked well, but this week, I decided to go back to the stock Sense interface to see what I was missing.

It surprised me to find the Sense interface to be more efficient, less trouble during use and even gentler on battery life. I also found what I knew, but had forgotten: I genuinely like the way Sense looks and works during daily use. I may not leave Sense running things forever  (I am fickle that way after all), but for now, I’m quite happy with my HTC Sense phone.

E-books of the Week

This week found me revisiting the world of Peter F. Hamilton’s Void Trilogy. I finished The Dreaming Void and started The Temporal Void, the second in the series. I love Hamilton’s view of technology in the future, and how he has worlds without much technology living side-by-side with those that do. It is an enjoyable story and highly recommended.

Wrap-up

Thanks for sharing my week, and I hope you found something to take away and help you in your own world. Who knows? Maybe a Galaxy Tab will be hitting Mobile Tech Manor before long.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Have you looked into the Notion Ink Adam? It looks like an amazing device and it’s the one I have my eye on.

    http://notionink.wordpress.com/

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    1. I looked at the Notion Ink at CES last January. It was a nice tablet but I believe it’s going to be expensive, if it ever gets released.

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      1. According to the info posted by the CEO, the 3G/Qi display version will be the high end and they are gunning for a $498 price point. For the Wifi/TFT version, they are going for $399. It should be hitting the FCC in the next week or two and hopefully out for Christmas. The vapor is clearing.

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  2. very true james. i was looking at the Archos 70 and 101 and thought they are really kick ass. but when i hop over to the forum there are much support issues and hardware issues.

    when you add in all the value you get from a good product and good support like apple, you know that pricing pt is hard to beat.

    my full thoughts >> http://www.productiveorganizer.com/android-productivity/android-tablets-cant-beat-ipad-when-it-comes-to-overall-quality-assurance-and-price-point/

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  3. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this:
    If someone were to select a cellphone company purely on the basis of support for the Galaxy Pad, which looks like the best bet? Are they all disabling the ability to make calls and blocking use of Skype with the cellular modem?

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    1. As I understand it the US versions do not support voice calls. Personally, I’m not sure why anyone would want to use a tablet as a phone.

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      1. Two good reasons:
        1) Headset
        2) Conference calling (via speakerphone mode)
        If you’re paying for cellphone access anyway, why not have these available. Disabling a built-in capability like this diminishes the appeal for me quite a bit.

        Share
      2. OK, I bought one (Verizon).
        Here is a big negative arising from voice support: NO Google Voice integration, even to check transcribed messages. Why? Because Google requires voice confirmation on the phone!!
        This is stupid.
        Fortunately, the T-Mobile version has already been “restored” by hackers.

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  4. I think Samsung Tab has a pretty good chance against the iPad outside of the US. I was in Seoul a couple of weeks ago, and they are geting to launch it big time, and during my week there I did not spot a single iPad. I am looking forward to your review of the Tab. Have a good weekend!

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  5. I was looking at the Tab in PCWorld here in the UK where it sells for £499 which is the same price as a 16gb 3g iPad. The form factor, build and camera makes its attractive and the OS is more polished than the cheaper Toshiba Folio, also on sale. So for 499 would I buy the iPad or the Tab? Probably neither. Too expensive.

    The penetration of cheap Chinese Android Tablets is growing. Advent will be releasing the Targa soon in UK shops like PC World and Elonex will be selling 10″ and 7″ tablets in Toys R Us for 89 and 149 respectively.

    Ideally I want a capacitive screen and camera however, so Im not buying that nastiness either, though the price may entice a few low end buyer who cannot afford £429+ for an iPad.

    I may hold out until Gingerbread as well.

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  6. We look forward to your coming love affair with the sleek & petite tab

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  7. A few observations on Google Instant Search:

    Instant search is not as much a predictive engine as it is a direct-push engine (have you heard about the power of suggestion?).

    One’s brain is more likely to be curious about a quickly changing phrase appearing while typing.

    The dark side about this technology is that it appears to have been used to market misinformation which directly affected the 2010 mid-term election (so much for the GOOGLE “Do no harm” policy…).

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  8. I don’t think notion ink is going to be released anytime soon…I am seeing it on internet for the past one year..at one time i thought it will be a danger to iPad..but now i believe there are just novice people behind it and it is just a crap..

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