Friday, December 17, 2010

Testing Samsung Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy Tab running Android OS
I had the opportunity to test the new Samsung Galaxy Tab over the weekend and so I owe the world a little review. The Galaxy uses the Google Android operating system and this was my first interaction with Android. The Android OS is alright with all the key capabilities pretty much on par with Apple's iOS. I was able to do everything related to the OS (setup etc.) fairly quickly although I always had the feeling that I was thinking like a programmer when using it. What was missing was iTunes with all my music and movies and the ease with which Apple allows me to download the content to my iPad and iPhone.

Note the dark space around the app
I have installed a few applications from the Google App Marketplace which was pretty straight forward and I was able to find easily most applications I use daily on my iPad. Some of the apps made a poor use of the screen size, leaving about 40% of it dark which is a shame. I suspect those apps were written for an Android phone with a much smaller screen and I wish there was the 2x button like on the iPad. If there was, I didn't find it.

The form factor and size of the Galaxy is what it’s all about. With its 7 inch screen, the Galaxy is size-wise between the iPad and the iPhone. I immediately fell in love with the form factor and the ability to hold the device in one hand while typing with the other. That's something I can't do on the iPad which is too big and heavy for that. Weight is, however, still a factor for Galaxy. When trying to read in bed, my arm was getting tired quickly and I ended up holding it with both hands just like the iPad. And so while I love the form factor, the weight and thickness have to come down to the Kindle level before it will really work. We'll see who gets there first.

iPad, Galaxy, and iPhone next to each other
The big difference with Android is support for Flash which makes the Web experience better for the many sites that use Flash. The screen rendering was different than on the Apple devices – Apple adjusts the size for the small screen, effectively rendering a miniature view of the entire page. The Galaxy didn’t change the size, showing instead a snapshot of the content in its original size. That might be eventually better as you would usually end up clicking several times on an iPhone to increase the font size and you end up seeing a snapshot as well. When first landing on a home page, however, it looks kind of messy.

The browser on the Galaxy is bad, just like the browser on my iPad. Seriously, Apple, Google, I want my Firefox!

I didn't test many other features, as my time was limited. I didn't test the phone and video capabilities since I don't care for phones much anymore – the last thing I want to do on my smart phone is to make phone calls. I'm sure I missed many other cool features but I was primarily trying to compare the Galaxy with the iPad that I do use every day. I even did a little “scientific” performance test which you can see in this video:

Obviously, the test results conclude that there is no measurable difference between the two. The Galaxy took longer to render the Flash which iPad didn’t even bother with. When I tried the same test on a site without Flash, the rendering performance was identical.

All in all, Apple does have a worthy competitor in Galaxy. The lack of iTunes and its content is a problem in the consumer space but the form factor might be a winner in the enterprise or for professionals on the go. We'll see how RIM does with the PlayBook early next year – it uses the same form factor but a different operating system. BTW, my Waterloo neighbors, I’d be happy to test a PlayBook for you.


  1. Have you tried the Firefox beta (Fennec) with the Galaxy? Might do the trick... Also good have publicly stated that 2.2 Froyo is not tablet friendly. I think it will be interesting to see what Android tablets can do / how they improve, when Honeycomb arrives. Jed

  2. I don't like iTunes. What I like is to be able to just copy movies via USB. Besides, there is no iTunes for Ubuntu.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Louigi. USB is definitely a weakness of iPad today but I expect that the iPad 2 is probably have it.