Every time there’s some new hot, heavily hyped gadget from, it takes only a few months for the copycats to crop up. IPod? Zune! IPhone? Android!
The? Well, it came out in March, and the iPad alternatives are just landing in stores now.
Many of them run’s Android phone operating system. That’s a shrewd move. Android is mature, polished and free (to the pad makers), and it comes with an existing library of 100,000 apps. Furthermore, any gadget fan who’s used an Android phone will feel instantly at home on the tablet.
In other words, if you make an Android tablet, you can hit the ground running.
The most hotly awaited Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a sleek, sturdy slab, 7.5 by 4.7 by 0.5 inches. The glass front is a 7-inch multitouch screen; the back is off-white plastic.
Samsung sweated the details on this thing. The screen is gorgeous. The touch response is immediate and reliable. The whole thing is superfast and a pleasure to use.
When asked about the onslaught of Android tablets last month,, Apple’s chief executive, scoffed at their size (most are 7 inches diagonal instead of 10 inches, like the iPad). “This size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size,” he said.
Well, sure, if you’re used to a laptop or an iPad, seven inches isn’t much. You won’t see as much of the map, the e-book or the Web page without scrolling.
But the Galaxy doesn’t feel like a cramped iPad. It feels like an extra-spacious Android phone. And the payoff is huge. The Galaxy is much lighter than the iPad (13 ounces vs. 1.5 pounds), which makes a huge difference when you have to hold it to watch a movie on the plane. And it’s so small you can carry it in a blazer pocket.
You can even slip it into a jeans pocket, although you might walk around looking as if you have a pulled muscle or something. The Galaxy is almost exactly the size of the latest— and it makes a great e-book reader, thanks to the Kindle or the apps that let you read those companies’ e-books.
The feature list on this thing is eye-popping. This, of course, is the classic Apple-versus-Google “proprietary versus open” argument. Apple controls the hardware, the software and the app store, so everything is consistent, high quality and clean (meaning, among other things, no pornography apps). Google doesn’t monitor what goes into its app store, so the Android ecosystem is unlimited, chaotic and more confusing.
The biggest drawback of the Galaxy, though, may be its price: $600. You could buy two netbooks for that money, or four Kindles —or one 32-gigabyte iPad, with its much larger screen, aluminum body and much better battery life. (The iPad gets 10 hours on a charge; the Galaxy, about 6 hours.)