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Samsung, one of the first to debut a 7-inch Android tablet in 2010, announced a refresh of its Galaxy Tab on Thursday. The second-generation slate, dubbed the Galaxy Tab 2, is a Wi-Fi tablet running the latest version of Google Android(s goog) and has a few hardware improvements. With its $249.99 price tag, this is Samsung’s first real attempt at taking on Amazon’s successful Kindle Fire(s amzn).
The new Galaxy Tab 2, available April 22, looks similar to the original model, which I bought in late 2010. It’s slimmer, however, at 10.5 millimeters. Rounded corners take away the blockiness of its older brother. Samsung swapped out the old single-core processor and added a 1 GHz dual-core chip, but otherwise left much of the hardware same. Like the older model, the 7-inch display offers 1024 x 600 resolution, a 3.2 megapixel rear camera, VGA front-facing camera, and little else to differentiate the upgrade.
Samsung could have done more to advance this tablet, but it already has a far better — and more expensive — model with its Galaxy Tab 7.7. I purchased a Tab 7.7 from an importer earlier this year and it’s impressive: it’s thinner, uses a 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED Plus screen and a faster processor, which lets the tablet fly. But at $500 or more — an LTE version is available from Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) for $499 on contract — it’s not a competitor to the $199 Kindle Fire. The Galaxy Tab 2 is, or at least, Samsung hopes it is.
For $50 over the price of a Kindle fire, you do get slightly better hardware and support for Android 4.0. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is based on the smartphone version of Android, but that’s not hurting sales. Why? Because the consumers buying the Kindle tablet aren’t buying it for Android; they’re buying it for easy access to Amazon’s content, along with occasional web browsing, email and app use.
You can access all of the same content on the Galaxy Tab 2 — minus Amazon Instant Video — and gain access to the full array of Android apps available through Google’s store. That’s actually a bad thing from some perspectives, but opinions vary. What you won’t get is the simple Amazon user interface, which is a custom launcher making it easy to get content.
So will the Galaxy Tab 2 make a dent in Amazon Kindle Fire sales, currently estimated to account for 14 percent of all tablets sold in the last quarter of 2011? I suspect not and here’s why. There are two types of customers for a 7-inch tablet: Those that want a full tablet experience with nearly unlimited potential and those that are happy to buy a simple experience that focuses on key activities such as content consumption, web browsing and mainstream app use.
The problem that Samsung may face is that there are far more people in the latter camp and Amazon’s Kindle Fire meets the needs of those in it. Specifications are irrelevant to this group; the experience and content availability are the “specs” that matter here. Sure, the geeks like me will be willing to pony up the extra $50 for a Galaxy Tab 2, but we’re looking for a tablet, not a typical consumer electronics device.
I’ll actually be watching closely to see how Samsung does with its new Galaxy Tab 2, but not because of Amazon or Samsung. Instead, the sales may provide some insight as to whether or not a rumored $199 Google Nexus Tablet will be a hit with consumers.