Amazon’s long-awaited entry into the Android tablet space is nearly ready and expected to launch in time for the holiday season. But it’s not the tablet that some were expecting. MG Siegler from TechCrunch spent an hour with a sample of the device and shared his experience: Instead of a full-fledged Android tablet, Amazon’s new Kindle slate runs a forked version of Android under the hood that no user is likely to ever see.
The 7-inch tablet takes a cue from the Barnes & Noble Nook Color; arguably the most successful non-iPad tablet if it fits your definition of one, and likely to see a hardware refresh soon. Amazon’s tablet will use a completely customized interface, not have Google apps of any kind, nor will it access the Android Market. It will run apps from Amazon’s AppStore.
Software to read Kindle books, watch Amazon videos on demand or play music from Amazon’s MP3 store and Cloud Drive service are the focal points. Expected to launch for $249, possibly with a free subscription to the Amazon Prime shipping service — normally $79 per year — the tablet could be a holiday hit for mainstream consumers who want a traditional Kindle with more access to Amazon services.
Those wanting something smaller than a tablet but bigger than a standard phone may be more interested in the newly announced Samsung Note. The handset uses a 5.30 inch Super AMOLED display with 1280×800 resolution and includes a digital pen which fits inside the phone for storage. Samsung says this combination of hardware features makes the Note a new class of device for enterprise users who want to capture and store digital notes. The pen is pressure sensitive and may be used for drawing images as well.
Samsung hasn’t abandoned the 7-inch tablet market, however. The company also announced a refresh of the existing Galaxy Tab with a 7.7-inch version that uses a 1280×800 screen like the Note. However, the display technology is boosted up to Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus, providing more vivid colors that appear to pop off the screen. The new tablet uses a dual-core 1.4 GHz processor, Google Android Honeycomb and a boosted battery capacity over the prior version.
Toshiba and Lenovo also debuted new Android tablets this week at the IFA exhibition in Berlin, Germany. Toshiba slimmed down its existing Thrive tablet to create the AT200; just 7.7 millimeters in thickness. The 10.1-inch slate uses a 1.2 GHz dual-core process from Texas Instruments and has a micro HDMI port to share media with a high-definition television.
Lenovo’s newest Android entry, the A1, runs on Gingerbread, which is designed for smartphones, and offers 1024×600 resolution on a 7-inch touchscreen display. It only has a single core processor and reminds me of last year’s Galaxy Tab from Samsung. However, the Wi-Fi model with many of last year’s hardware components has a price from 2010 as well: the A1 will cost only $199 and should appeal to many at that price due to its versatility and portability.