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Mobility

Much-anticipated Android tablet coming to all four U.S. carriers this fall

Here comes the first mass market Android tablet and the first legitimate challenger to the Apple iPad. See why the Samsung Galaxy Tab could be a big hit, as well as the factors that could hold it back.

Here comes the first mass market Android tablet and the first legitimate challenger to the Apple iPad. It's the Samsung Galaxy Tab and on Thursday Samsung announced that it's going to be offered by all four of the major U.S. wireless carriers this fall.

While there have been a handful of Android tablets on the market — like the Dell Streak and a few Archos models —  and lots of vendors claim to be working on Android tablets, most of them are just oversized smartphones and none have offered a serious challenge to the iPad.

As a result, there's pent-up anticipation and excitement for a serious Android tablet, and Samsung's tablet looks like it could be the device to capitalize on it. But there are also some important caveats to keep in mind about the Galaxy Tab, as we'll discuss.

Here are some of the most important features and specifications of the Galaxy Tab:

  • 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor
  • 7-inch TFT LCD screen with 1024x600 resolution
  • 2 GB of internal storage plus a 16 GB microSD card (upgradeable to 32 GB)
  • Weighs 13 ounces
  • 3.0 megapixel camera with LED flash and 720p video recording
  • 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video calls
  • Accessories: Docking station (with HDMI output) for $100, car dock, external keyboard
  • Powered by Android 2.2
  • Access to Android Market
  • Supports Adobe Flash 10.1
  • Samsung Media Hub to share content with up to five devices
  • Data-only in the U.S. (will not make cellular phone calls)
  • Pricing is not available yet; rumored to be in the $200-$400 range with a data contract
  • A Wi-Fi only version (unsubsidized) will also be available, but will likely cost over $500 (even as much as $800)

Samsung's DJ Lee shows off the Galaxy Tab, which is about the same size as the Amazon Kindle. Photo credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sanity check

While the Galaxy Tab is a welcome development for those who've been itching to get their hands on an Android-based iPad competitor, we should keep in mind that Google recently stated Android 2.2 is not optimized for tablets. Hugo Barra, director of mobile products at Google, said, "If you want Android Market on that platform, the apps just wouldn't run. [Android 2.2] is just not designed for that form factor."

That should be a sobering reminder for anyone who gets too jazzed up about the prospects of the Galaxy Tab providing the same kind of polished experience as the iPad. However, Google has also hinted that a tablet-ready version of Android is coming, possibly in version 3.0. We can only hope that the Galaxy Tab will be upgradeable to that version of Android. Still, that will justifiably scare off some potential early adopters.

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Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about how technology is changing the way we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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