Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy S II at Mobile World Congress

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The Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona takes place this week and Samsung is wasting no time kicking off the show: the company has introduced a new tablet and smartphone, both of which run on Google’s Android platform. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a larger version of the 7-inch Tab that Samsung debuted last year while the Galaxy S II is a slightly larger and faster version of Samsung’s popular Galaxy S line of smartphones. Vodafone customers will be the first to see the new Tab when it arrives this spring.

Samsung’s new tablet takes its name from the display size of 10.1-inches and will run Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, the tablet-optimized version of Android that Google officially introduced two weeks ago. A dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor powers the Tab, which offers display resolution of 1280×800 pixels, an 8 megapixel rear camera with auto-focus, 2 megapixel front camera, 1080p playback and recording, support for 21 Mbps HSPA+ networks and storage capacity options of 16- or 32 GB. Based on the official specifications, the Tab will work on AT&T’s network in the U.S., although it’s possible for Samsung to later announce a version for other U.S. carriers.

With the Galaxy S II, Samsung hopes to leverage the success it found with the original Galaxy S line: the company has sold more than 10 million Galaxy S handsets, partially because of the Apple-like approach it took to create one strong model of handset. The S II looks similar to its predecessor, but increases the 480×800 display up to 4.27-inches from 4-inches and is just 8.49 millimeters thin. Unlike the Tab, Samsung will use its own dual-core chip in the S II, but other than that — and the device size, of course — the phone shares many similarities with the Tab: 21 Mbps HSPA+ support, the same front and rear camera setup, 1080p recording and playback. Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, is the platform of the S II, and Samsung has tweaked the interface with an improved TouchWiz 4.0 software.

 

My take on the phone is that Samsung is poised to duplicate its Galaxy S success by making a good phone even better. A larger Super AMOLED Plus display is likely to make this phone pop when consumers view it in stores. And the addition of a dual-core processor should keep the phone snappy. About the only reason this phone isn’t likely to be another home run for Samsung is some consumer trepidation when it comes to software updates. While these can be slowed up from carrier customization and testing, Samsung postponed the Froyo update for a few months last year. Customers new to smartphones may not be aware or even care about such updates, but those that purchased a Galaxy S last year likely have a long memory.

The new Galaxy Tab 10.1 is basically what folks would expect from a new Honeycomb tablet: there’s not that much here to differentiate the device from the Motorola Xoom, for example. Samsung controls more of its component inventory than Motorola, however, which could mean a more attractive price for the Galaxy Tab. At the moment it appears that manufacturers are chasing Apple’s iPad with 10-inch tablets — aside from LG’s 8.9-inch G-Slate, that is — and that game could change with a new iPad within the next few months.

I think partially for this reason, Samsung held off on a larger update for it’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab, but I don’t think the company is abandoning that line anytime soon. For now, the market is focused on larger, Honeycomb devices. As Honeycomb features are ported down to smaller screens, I expect a new 7-inch, dual-core Galaxy Tab announcement, perhaps by mid-year.

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