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Why Samsung’s Bet on Tweener Tablets Is a Long Shot

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At the CTIA event this week, Samsung unveiled one of the year’s worst-kept secrets by taking the wraps off new Galaxy Tab slates. The company began to sell a 7-inch version last year and is supplementing it with two additions: an 8.9- and a 10.1-inch tablet. Both new tablets will run on Google (s goog) Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, which is optimized for tablet devices. But is there a big market for that middle size of 8.9-inches?

Before starting the debate, here’s a look at what the two new Galaxy Tab devices will offer when they begin to arrive on June 8. First the 8.9-inch version:

  • 1GHz dual-core processor
  • 1280×800 touchscreen
  • Dual cameras: 3-megapixel rear sensor with auto-focus and dual-flash, 2-megapixel front camera
  • Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, 21 Mbps HSPA+ support
  • Dimensions of 230.9mm x 157.8mm x 8.6mm with a weight of 470 grams.
  • 6000 mAh battery

The new Galaxy Tab 10.1 uses the same resolution on a larger screen and essentially uses the same internal hardware as the 8.9-inch model. The dimensions and weight obviously increase: 256.6mm x 172.9mm x 8.6mm with a 595 gram weight. Both are thin; thinner in fact than the new iPad 2 (s aapl), although only by 0.2 millimeters. Both Samsung slates will be available with storage capacity choices of 16, 32 and 64 GB and all support microSD cards up to 32 GB for additional memory expansion. WiFi-only models will start at $469 for the smaller device and $499 for the larger. Bumping up to the next storage level boosts the costs $100 per model.

Now back to that 8.9-inch size: opinions on this will certainly vary because device choice is a personal preference, but my suspicion is that the 10.1-inch device will handily outsell the smaller one, especially if Samsung creates a Honeycomb version of the 7-inch Galaxy Tab. Here’s my rationale, which is of course, arguable.

The 7-inch tablet size is about the upper limit of a pocketable tablet. For example, I can carry my Galaxy Tab in a jacket pocket or the back pocket of my jeans —  but just barely. When I have a cover on the device, it doesn’t fit in my pants pocket, although it still works inside a jacket. Any larger, and the device must be carried in the hand or a bag of some type. The device is my “use anywhere” tablet for this reason and why I sold my first iPad: The latter tablet was getting left behind when leaving home.

So the 8.9-inch form factor will be the next size considered by folks looking to stay mobile, but it’s not pocketable. And clearly, the even larger, 10.1-inch model isn’t pocketable either. But at only a $30 price difference between the two, I expect more consumers to choose the larger display. They gain a bigger screen, which can make for a more enjoyable visual experience while not sacrificing much in terms of size or weight over the 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab. The variance between sizes between the two models are pretty small, and there’s little portability difference because neither can be put in a pocket.

Does this mean Samsung’s smaller Honeycomb tablet won’t sell? Of course not; mobile devices are highly personal, and there will surely be folks that want a 8.9-inch tablet. In fact, they can choose between the new Samsung Galaxy Tab and LG’s upcoming Optimus Pad / G-Slate, which is also an 8.9-inch device. But for many, the focus will be on the 10.1-inch size and that’s why I expect that model to noticeably outsell the smaller one.

As I mentioned, choice of device size is highly personal as we all have different needs and preferences. There’s no “right” or “wrong” sized tablet that’s going to work for everyone. But I’m curious if prospective Android tablet buyers are considering the size factor in their decision. If you’re in the market, does the 8.9-inch tablet form factor have an advantage over larger sizes other than the weight savings?

16 Responses to “Why Samsung’s Bet on Tweener Tablets Is a Long Shot”

  1. I’d go for the largest Tab that I could fit into and off the rack suit coat pocket. Samsung demonstrated at their presentation that this is the 8.9″ model. I also imagine that this will be ideal for reading large font ebooks?

  2. I’ll try them both when they’re released. What matters to me is whether or not I can touch type on the 8.9″ like I can on the iPad. If it keyboard doesn’t noticeably feel more cramped, I’d go for the smaller model. And even though I don’t thumb type on a tablet, I’d be willing to bet that there are a lot of people out there who thumb type in landscape mode. The 8.9″ screen would require a lot less stretching to reach the center keys.

  3. Ramleigh

    couldnt disagree with you more Kevin…

    in fact, because the specs are absolutely identical, why not go for the smaller & significantly lighter 8.9″?

    • Could be harder to type on on landscape, for one, although I’m not sure how much of a keyboard size difference there will be between the two. Depends on how the tablet will be used. And I’d likely opt for larger display if the two are so close in size, but then again I have old, tired eyes. ;)

      • Kevin – interesting question re: relationship between anticipated uses and Tablet preferences (for size and potentially other features – e.g., 3G, GPS, etc.). In our recent Tablet study, we asked respondents “for which of the following are you most likely to use a Tablet?” (top 5 from list of 30 activities) as well as a series of questions on preferences for some 16 Tablet features. We’ll examine the relationship between anticipated Tablet uses and feature preferences and share findings next week.

        We also presented findings from study at the CTIA Future of Tablets Conf. – slides available at

        Dr. Phil Hendrix, immr and GigaOm Pro analyst

      • RilshireFarmsOM

        cookies are blocked, as well as many scripts, not my AP either. so names are made up each time…

        you should have known that by looking at the email..

        plus I like R’s…

        I would argue thumb typing would be easier, along with portrait typing. main advantage is still weight.

        plus Honeycomb is clearly aimed at being a landscape OS (unlike iOS). so the shorter the distance the tip of the tablet is from the body means less pressure put on the hand to hold it, less of a “swaying” effect. unlike a portrait device like the iPad where you simply hold up/down anywhere vertically on the device & it causes no difference in hand pressure.

        • Agreed: thumb typing may be a tad bit easier although the device width difference (in portrait) is only 1.5 centimeters different. I’m a thumb typer on the 7-inch model but for landscape typing it’s too small for multiple fingers yet a stretch for two thumbs. Like I said earlier: it depends on how one plans to input text – that may play into the decision between 8.9- and 10.1-inch.

          Yup, HC is more of a landscape environment at the moment. Maybe that’s one of the things about it that I don’t care for: I’m used to using my Galaxy Tab in portrait nearly all the time.

  4. Kevin, don’t be a hater. I see more people in forums express interest in the 8.9 than the 10.1. The 10 incher is just a thiner Xoom. If people want that they would have brought one already. The 8.9 is so far the smallest Tegra Tablet until the Acer Iconia A100 come out.

    What I am waiting for is a 7″ with thin bezel, or just rip of the Apple cover with its own take on covers. I will even take a 6 incher if the resolution is better than 800X480. There are enough demand in each niche for Samsung to make money.

    There is definitely demand for a weather-proof, SD capable 7 incher design specifically for photographers. Sooner or later these niches will be served. I don’t expect Apple to give a crap what the photographers want.

    • I don’t think asking a valid question makes me a hater, but that’s just me. Having said that, your observation about more forum interest in the 8.9-inch tablet could mean that it’s the preferred size over the larger.

      I think it depends much on the point I made in an earlier comment: how and where will the tablet be used.

  5. I’d buy the 8.9 in over the 10 in any day. Same resolution, smaller screen = sharper image. Plus you could probably hold it in one hand. What’s the point of having a tablet if you can’t carry it around and use it?

    • Nick, I’m totally in agreement with your last statement because the best tablet is the one you have with you. ;) I probably couldn’t hold the 8.9-inch device in one hand but I have small hands.

      I’m wondering how much of the purchase decision (not just for you, but for all) is dependent on how the tablet will be used. In the case of my 7-inch Galaxy Tab, 99% of the use is in hand, in portrait mode where I can easily bang out text with two thumbs. Once you start looking at larger tablets, will there be a shift to both in hand use as well as on a flat surface? If so, then a larger size may be beneficial for typing when not holding the device.

  6. I would have to get my hands on them to be sure, but I think I agree that I would like either the 7″ or the 10.1″ (for different purposes), but that the 8.9 falls in a no-man’s-land in between. Would $30 make a difference? It would offset the cost of a case, at least. But at less than 10% of the cost of the tablet, I am not sure it would sway me.

    • Yup, I’d almost rather that Samsung focus on one size and save in production costs which could shave the tablet pricing even a bit lower. But I’m sure they’ve done all of the economies of scale numbers – now they have to hope that sales numbers to justify both sizes are actually met.

    • Reckmeiyer

      thats the exact samething silly people say about the 7″

      “I already have a 4″ phone so why not get a 10″ tablet instead of 7”.

      besides, we know theres no market for similar screen sizes right? just look how big of a failure it was in the laptop world.

      10.1, 10.6, 11.1, 11.6, 12.1, 13.3, 14.1, 15.4, etc

      oh wait…