Why Samsung’s 5-Inch and 7-Inch Tablets May Get It Right

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Samsung’s taking a couple more swings at sub-iPad tablet sizes with the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Tab 7.7. Finding success with these smaller sizes hasn’t been easy for tablet makers, but there’s a chance Samsung could finally get it right this time.

Let’s start with the Galaxy Note, a phone-tablet hybrid with a 5.3-inch display. I know what you’re probably thinking: this is doomed, just like Dell’s recently discontinued Streak 5. While the 5-inch size certainly isn’t for everyone, I think the niche exists. The Streak’s failure had more to do with confused marketing (Dell avoided calling it a phone, while AT&T treated it as such), outdated Android software and a troubled launch, as I’ve explained elsewhere.

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From the get-go, Samsung is defining the note as “a new type of smartphone”—no ambiguity there. The Galaxy Note will run Android 2.3, which may seem a bit crusty when the device launches (no date given), but it’s a stable and reliable OS that will serve smartphone users well. As for Samsung’s launch plans, we’ll have to see what happens, but Samsung has a good relationship with all the major U.S. carriers. The Note’s beefy specs—1.4 GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera and 16 GB of storage—should appeal to the geek set, and for good measure, Samsung’s throwing in a stylus for notetaking. If the Galaxy Note gets a decent price and support from multiple wireless service providers, it may have a chance.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is Samsung’s second attempt at a 7-inch slate. I own an original Galaxy Tab, and while it’s adequate for gaming and e-book reading, it runs a smartphone version of Android that lacks third-party tablet apps and its specs are now outdated. Like the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 will use a 1.4 GHz processor and a 1280-by-800 resolution screen, inside an aluminum frame measuring a mere 0.31 inches thick. For software, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 will use Android Honeycomb 3.2, allowing access to proper tablet apps and widgets.

Being a big fan of 7-inch tablets, I’ve got a couple concerns about the Galaxy Tab 7.7: It’s wider than its predecessor, potentially making it harder to hold in one hand or slip into a jacket pocket (although the slim figure may help). Also, I’ve heard reports that Acer’s Iconia Tab A100, another 7-inch Android 3.2 tablet, had trouble running some Honeycomb tablet apps. However, the Tab 7.7 has a higher screen resolution than the Iconia, so it may not have the same problems with big-screen apps.

In any case, I’m happy to see Samsung return to smaller screen sizes after launching the Galaxy Tab 10.1 earlier this year. The market is now flooded with 10-inch tablets, and these tinier Android slates have a better chance of standing out—not only from the iPad, but from their older siblings.

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