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T-Mobile unveiled a new 4G tablet on Tuesday with the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus arriving in T-Mobile stores on Nov. 16. The Plus designation helps differentiate this 7-inch Galaxy Tab from last year’s model, as the newer version includes a faster processor and support for Google Android 3.2 (s goog): a software platform meant for tablets, not smartphones. The slate’s $450 price tag with contract can be spread out over 20 months with customers paying $249.99 down and $10 each month to purchase the hardware.
I bought the original Galaxy Tab on T-Mobile’s network last December and enjoy both the form factor and the mobility provided by the integrated 3G radio. The look of this new model is very similar to the 7-inch tablet I use, but here are some of the improvements and carry-over features:
- 1.2 GHz dual-core processor instead of a 1 GHz single core
- 21 Mbps HSPA+ / 4G support; my Tab only has a 7.2 Mbps radio for 3G speeds
- Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) instead of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
- 16 GB of internal storage with a microSD expansion slot
- 1024 x 600 resolution, capacitive touch 7-inch display
- 3-megapixel rear camera (with 720p video capture added) and 2-megapixel front camera
- An infrared sensor for use as a universal consumer electronics remote control
Aside from the faster mobile broadband radio and dual-core chip, much of the new Galaxy Tab mimics the old one. They’re welcome improvements, of course, and although there’s no guarantee of a software upgrade to Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, the hardware appears capable of supporting one.
One other available “feature” that wasn’t available when I bought my Galaxy Tab is the payment plan. I paid $300 — a sale price — with contract for my Tab. T-Mobile is trying to lure potential buyers by reducing the up-front cost of the hardware; something it’s done before with smartphones and is now trying with higher priced tablets. For $299.99 at the point of sale — and a $50 mail-in rebate — consumers can leave the store with a new Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. The remaining cost is made up over the life of the contract with $10 added to each monthly bill for 20 months. This is in addition to the monthly data service, which starts at $29.99.
A payment plan may generate some sales, but it convinces me more than ever that tablets shouldn’t be sold on contract. While I opted to buy a Wi-Fi version of the iPad, Apple (s aapl) got this aspect right with its 3G models. The problem for competing tablets is that without contracts, the devices are simply priced too high from a consumer’s perspective. Apple doesn’t seem to have that problem given that a 3G iPad starts at $629, mainly because the perceived experience brought from the iPad.
That has little to do with the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus since this isn’t what I’d call a direct competitor to the iPad for most people. But it illustrates the challenge that carriers face in the tablet market: Consumers often choose a device first and a network second. Unless consumers plan to use their tablet as much as their primary computing device, a monthly data commitment and cost isn’t appealing.