At $600, Is Verizon’s Android Tablet DOA? Maybe Not.

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Verizon Wireless today announced it will begin selling the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch Google Android tablet, on Nov. 11 for $599.99. This follows last week’s news that Verizon will carry Apple’s iPad in stores, starting Oct. 28. Unlike the iPad model, which is a Wi-Fi tablet that can be bundled with Verizon’s 3G MiFi, the Galaxy Tab uses an integrated 3G radio for use on Verizon’s wireless data network when not in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot. At only $30 less than the iPad, does the Galaxy Tab have a chance to sell well in Verizon stores, or at this price point, is it dead on arrival?

Device and Data Pricing

Clearly, there are physical and technical differences between 10-inch Apple’s iPad and the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, but the first aspect that many consumers will focus on is the price. Solely from that perspective, assuming Verizon will offer the 16 GB version of the Galaxy Tab, the closest Apple comparison is the 16 GB WiFi + 3G model, available for $630. A $30 savings on the Tab isn’t much, but keeping the price below that of an iPad could get consumers to look at the device.

Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab doesn’t require a lengthy contract: in the press release announcement today, Verizon says “customers can add a monthly access plan beginning at $20 a month for 1 GB on their Samsung Galaxy Tab.” Details for additional data plans aren’t yet available, but I’d expect higher capacity plans to also be offered with the Tab. The lack of a contract is a plus for both the iPad and the Tab. If Verizon finds that more customers choose monthly data plans with the Galaxy Tab over the iPad plus MiFi package, it could discount the Samsung device in the future. And with a lower price, say closer to or under $500, the Tab could become a more compelling option to some.

Features

I enjoy the iPad I purchased in April, but as the initial model, it’s missing a few features that I’d like to see. Surely, that will be addressed with future iPads, but the Galaxy Tab actually offers some of those features now. For starters, the device has not one, but two cameras: a 3-megapixel sensor with LED flash on the back and 1.3 megapixel camera on the front. Thanks to new video-calling software from companies like Tango, you can use the Galaxy Tab for video calls with other Android device owners, or even with friends that own an iPhone 4 or new iPod touch.

Gmail on Galaxy Tab. credit: Carrypad.com

Since the Galaxy Tab runs Google Android 2.2 (Froyo), it supports widgets on home screens, meaning the Tab can show information at a glance like Facebook status updates, stock prices, or the local weather. Support for Adobe’s Flash Player is pretty much a dead-end on the iPad too, but not so on the Tab, which supports playback of Flash video through a browser plug-in.

Users of Google services will find much better support on the Galaxy Tab than on Apple’s iPad. Samsung has even optimized and designed such apps for a better Google experience as shown by this hands-on video at Carrypad. Watch it, and you’d be hard pressed to recognize the apps, which are very iOS-like in look and feel. I’d even argue that within the first minute of viewing the apps, some consumers would think the software was created by Apple.

Ecosystem

Here’s where the Apple iPad currently offers a distinct advantage: the iTunes App Store offers more than 25,000 apps specifically made for the iPad. By comparison, Google’s Android Market has few, if any, software titles targeted towards the 7-inch, 1024 x 600 display of the Galaxy Tab. Samsung has made great strides in reworking base apps for the Tab, but when it comes to third-party software, it’s simply too early in the life-cycle of Android tablets for a wide variety of great software titles.

The iPad clearly has the upper hand here by being first to market and enjoying the backing of a large number of apps; in addition to iPad apps, Apple’s tablet can run nearly all of the existing iPhone apps as well. That’s a huge advantage for the iPad, right? Maybe not, because although there aren’t tablet-specific apps for the Galaxy Tab, it should run all of the existing apps available for Android smartphones. The experience may not be optimal, but it negates some of the iPad’s software library advantage.

Portability

Earlier this week, on the Apple quarterly investor call, Steve Jobs said there isn’t a market for 7-inch tablets such as the Galaxy Tab. That size “isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps,” Jobs stated, claiming that, “10 inches is the minimum size for a great tablet.” I’m not sure I agree, because I’ve used 7-inch touchscreen tablets in the past; for nearly two years I carried one that ran Microsoft Windows, which didn’t provide an optimal experience. I’ve also ported Android to that same device and found Google’s platform to be quite usable, even on an old version of Android.

While the 10-inch iPad will come closer to a richer computing experience, a 7-inch model has merit too. A Galaxy Tab, for example, could be carried around more often than an iPad due to the smaller size and weight. At 0.83 pounds, for example, the Samsung tablet is half the weight of the 1.6 pound iPad WiFi + 3G model.

It’s easy to condemn Verizon’s $600 price tag for the Galaxy Tab, which has a smaller screen and fewer apps available. But the Tab offers some features that Apple’s iPad doesn’t have yet, and could be attractive to those who find they can get by with a lighter, 7-inch device. Sure, a cheaper Galaxy Tab would be even more attractive, and without a price cut, Verizon won’t sell millions of Galaxy Tabs this year, but it’s too early to say there’s no market for this Android tablet just yet, even at this price.

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