Verizon Wireless announced availability and pricing for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE slate on Tuesday. The thin and light 7.7-inch tablet, Samsung’s first with its Super AMOLED Plus display technology, launches on March 1 for $499 with a new two-year agreement. Verizon requires a minimum $30 monthly LTE plan with 2 GB of data.
Let me preface a rant by saying that I bought a Wi-Fi version of this tablet last month, paying a premium because the device is only available in Asia. I don’t regret the purchase at all and absolutely love the hardware: 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, 7.89 millimeter thickness and a brilliant 1280 x 800 touchscreen that’s probably the best I’ve seen yet in this category. I’ll be happier when the Galaxy Tab 7.7 sees an upgrade to Android 4.0(s goog), but even with Android 3.2, it’s my go-to mobile slate and impresses nearly everyone I show it to.
The problem I see is that while I paid a premium, most others won’t. And that’s exactly what the two-year contract with Verizon(s vz) is: it adds minimum of $720 extra for a data plan that likely replicates the plan they have on a smartphone. Without such a contract, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 might be worth an unsubsidized price of $499, but with one I don’t see it being a big seller.
Others are chiming in, agreeing with me after I tweeted the price and contract information:
@KevinCTofel should be 199 on contract, 500 off contract.
— Brad Sams (@bdsams) February 28, 2012
@kevinctofel AND a contract? that's insane. You can't compete with the iPad pricepoint like that
— Joe Sterne (@MrJoeSterne) February 28, 2012
Joe raises two relevant points in his tweet about the iPad(s aapl). First, a 7.7-inch slate that comes with 16 GB of internal storage shouldn’t be priced the same as the iPad, a 9.7-inch tablet with the same storage capacity. That is unless it provides some premium features, software, ecosystem or experiences. While I generally prefer Android, I’m willing to bet that average consumers don’t feel that Android tablets offer a premium over the iPad or its supporting ecosystem. Android die-hards will disagree, of course, and I understand that.
Secondly, you can’t buy an Apple iPad with a contract in the U.S. Yes, you can buy an iPad with a 3G radio for a $130 premium, but the data is on a per-use basis, not a contract. That’s how Verizon sells the iPad, and it’s time that it, and other carriers, consider doing the same for Android tablets. It’s great that the Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE can share its 2 GB of monthly data with 10 Wi-Fi devices, but can’t the same generally be said of Verizon’s LTE smartphones, USB sticks and MiFis?
Among many other reasons, this is why I believe Android tablets aren’t selling well. We don’t need multiple connected devices with a data plan for each. Sure, we know that family plans or shared device data plans are coming, but for now, they don’t exist. So a secondary device with a contract simply isn’t as appealing as a contract-free slate or smartphone. It’s that simple.
And shame on Samsung — to a point — here too. When negotiating the deal for the Galaxy Tab 7.7, it should have held its ground and demanded a reasonable contract-free price with the flexibility of 3G/4G data as needed. The company hasn’t done that on any tablet that I know of yet, and this omission isn’t helping sales. Just yesterday, according to CNET, Samsung’s Hankil Yoon, a product strategy executive, told reporters at the Mobile World Congress, “Honestly, we’re not doing very well in the tablet market.”
Honestly, Samsung — and Verizon, for that matter — this situation won’t change until tablets no longer require a two-year contract and offer improved experiences. It’s that simple.