At the time of writing this, there are barely a few more hours to go before Samsung kicks off its Next Galaxy event, and launch the Samsung Galaxy S III, as expected.
Few phones can claim to be looked forward to as much as Apple iPhones, but the Galaxy S series of smartphones are legitimate challengers in terms of hype.
There’s little to doubt argue about the fact that Samsung has blown away the smartphone market globally. After all, it isn’t the global leader in smartphone sales for nothing. Its chief success stories are the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note tablet-phone hybrid.
Both of those devices are still selling like hot cakes throughout the world, and their lasting success has thoroughly done away with the widely held belief that Android phones get outdated within a few months of their launch.
The Samsung Galaxy S III has been shrouded in veils and veils of secrecy, akin to every Apple device launch, and quite unlike Samsung’s own launches so far. In fact, this must be the first time that a smartphone is being launched with as little known about it for certain – apart from the iPhone, of course, and it has only made the rumor mills go into overdrive.
This brings me to a different question – why have Samsung’s ever burgeoning Galaxy Tab series of Android tablets failed as spectacularly as they have? They command neither the market shares of their smartphone brethren, nor do they have the same kind of hype and hoopla surrounding their launches.
There isn’t any dearth of effort on Samsung’s part to change its fortunes in the tablet market. They have launched one slate after another, with every kind of screen size one could’ve possibly imagined (5.3, 7.0, 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1 inches). None of them are slouches in the hardware department – in fact, some of the newer ones were the most powerful in the market until the ASUS Transformer Prime and Apple’s new iPad came along.
So where exactly is the Samsung Galaxy Tab series losing out?
The iPad 2 had a decent screen, with a resolution of 1024×768 and making use of IPS LCD technology. However, its 9.7 inch screen had a rather woeful pixel density of 132 pixels per inch. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, for instance, had Samsung’s remarkably popular Super AMOLED Plus technology in its screen, and a resolution of 1280×800.
Samsung seemed to be doing quite well for itself at least in terms of its screen quality, until the new Apple iPad came along, and that seemed to change everything. With a Retina display and a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels (that exceeds the pixel count of practically every HD TV around), the iPad’s offering beats anything that Samsung is coming up with in the immediate future, hands down.
Android has no dearth of issues as an OS powering phones and tablets (in fact, it does a miserable job catering to the latter). Fragmentation abounds, thanks to manufacturers (Samsung included) choosing to take their own sweet time in pushing out updates, optimizing their Android skins and customizations, and doing away with bugs in the tablet specific Honeycomb flavor of Android. Samsung has a conspicuously poor record in OS upgrades, and tends to ditch devices that are anywhere over a year old. The original Galaxy Tab, a 7 inch Froyo device, has been a particular victim of Samsung’s inexplicable Android related policies.
The problems with Android don’t just stop there. Google has done a poor job in attracting developers to its tablet platforms, and there are arguably only a handful of specifically tablet optimized apps in the Google Play store. Even stranger is the fact that the Play store has no dedicated section for tablet optimized apps, unlike the vast array of apps available for the iPad in the Apple App Store.
Google tried to play around this glaring deficiency of the Android platform by creating new design guidelines post its Ice Cream Sandwich launch. Long story short, developers were expected to design apps that could easily resize to larger tablet screens, even if they were originally made to be used within the 4 odd inches that an average Android smartphone screen has. So far, precious few devs have actually followed those guidelines, and chosen to port over their iOS creations directly instead, resizing be damned.
This has given Android a terrible reputation as an operating system for tablets, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs have suffered severely owing to this.
Too many products = no differentiation
It may be fairly easy for at least some regular readers of tech blogs to distinguish between Samsung’s various tablet offerings. However, for the average Joe, it’s hard to really know what Samsung is doing differently in the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, for instance. In fact, there actually is little that separates the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 from the Tab 7.0 Plus. Essentially, this means that two Tabs at roughly the same price tag can offer real life performances that are worlds apart. But two Galaxy Tabs whose price differs by almost $150 can offer exactly the same to an end user (the Galaxy Tab 2 costs $249, while the Tab Plus comes in at $399). A layman simply cannot distinguish between the bewildering number of choices offered by Samsung tablets. Add in the largely homogeneous competing Android tablets, and any individual Samsung Galaxy Tab is bound to be drowned out.
The Apple iPad may or may not be more expensive, but it is far, far clearer about what it brings to the table, thanks to its promotional efforts.