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: 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 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.