Success of Samsung Galaxy Tab doomed by carrier contracts

The Galaxy Tab looks like a promising Apple iPad competitor, but being shackled to a wireless contract is a handicap.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the first tablet to come along that appears to be capable of challenging the Apple iPad. On paper, and in initial hands-on reviews, the Galaxy Tab is impressive, but the burden of carrier contracts may seal the unfortunate fate of the Samsung tablet before it even launches.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab was unveiled in Germany last week, and it is set to launch first in Europe. Initial reports of pricing, though, are not encouraging. In Sweden, the Galaxy Tab will retail for the equivalent of nearly $US1250, while the price reported from O2 in Germany places it near $US1000. Keep in mind this is nearly $US200 more than the top-end 64Gb iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G.

There is good news and bad news for those in the United States anxiously awaiting the Android-based tablet. The good news is that the Samsung tablet will be offered through wireless carriers, subsidized like a smartphone. The bad news is that the Samsung tablet will be offered through wireless carriers, subsidized like a smartphone.

No, you didn't read that wrong. And, no, it is not a typo. The Wall Street Journal relayed an excerpt from an interview with Hankil Yoon, a Samsung product executive. According to the Wall Street Journal, Yoon said the Galaxy Tab "would likely retail for between $US200 and $300, although the final price would vary depending on different carrier subsidies."

So, the good news is that the Samsung tablet will be offered for a much more reasonable and affordable price when it is launched here in the United States. It is also worth noting that Yoon's statement supports the pervasive rumor that Samsung may offer the Galaxy Tab through multiple wireless carriers--possibly all four major ones--just as it does with the Galaxy S series of smartphones.

The bad news is that the pricing will come with the added burden of a contractual commitment for service--most likely the industry-standard two-year agreement. That means being basically stuck with that tablet regardless of what new and innovative tablets might come along, and paying for a data plan whether you actually use it or not. And, don't forget that if you lose or break your Samsung Galaxy Tab, you will still be under contract and you will have to replace it at the full price which is apparently somewhere around $US1000.

Keep in mind too that depending on the carrier the cost and limitations of the data plan can vary greatly. With the iPad, 3G service can be purchased from AT&T on a contract-free, as-needed basis. Better yet, for roughly the same investment as the additional $130 for the 3G model of the iPad you can get a Virgin Mobile MiFi and get unlimited mobile data for the iPad and four of your closest friends for only $40 per month--still with no contract.

The iPad may not have front and rear-facing cameras, or an SD memory card slot like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but it comes with something better--freedom from wireless contracts.

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Tony Bradley

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