Samsung admits Galaxy Tab display issues with Android apps

Unknown number of apps will run at 800-by-400 resolution on 7-in. screen

Samsung acknowledged today that some Android Market apps on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab will run at a smaller resolution than the 7-in. screen allows.

"If you download Android Market apps to the Galaxy Tab, you will find that many of those applications are fully scalable," a Samsung spokeswoman said via e-mail in response to an inquiry from Computerworld. "Those applications that are not scalable are framed in the display at 800-by-400 [pixel] resolution." The full 7-in. screen offers a larger 1024-by-600 pixel resolution.

The problem appears to be limited to apps downloaded from the Android Market. The spokeswoman said that Samsung did work with Google on the Galaxy Tab to make certain that Google's "entire suite of mobile services, including Google Maps, are fully scalable to fit the Galaxy Tab's 7-in. screen at 1024-by-600 resolution."

The extent of the problem is still unknown because the U.S. version of the Galaxy Tab, to be sold by all four major U.S. wireless carriers, is not final.

"It has not been exactly determined how many of the Android Market apps will be fully scalable/non-scalable," the spokeswoman said. "What Samsung is focusing on is bringing all of its own proprietary services and apps such as Social Hub, calendar, e-mail, etc., as fully scalable, along with Google mobile services like Google Maps, Gmail, etc. What we do know now is that many of the Android Market apps will be scalable, but it is just too early to put an exact number of percentage."

The problem with sub-optimal screen resolution was anticipated by Google's director of mobile products, Hugo Barra, in a recent interview with TechRadar. Barra said Android 2.2, or Froyo, is not designed for the larger tablet form factor and was intended for smaller screens of perhaps 4 inches or less used on smartphones and other smaller devices.

Some industry analysts, including Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, said the use of Froyo on tablets might result in applications, including games, that appear a "little ugly." Stretching an application to a larger screen can result in out-of-focus images and jagged edges or pixelation, he said.

The problem does not appear to affect applications native to the device or Web browsing or playing of videos.

The issue has raised a dilemma for third-party developers who make applications for the Android Market. Some have suggested the use of scripts for applications intended for smartphones that would run the apps on Froyo-based tablets at a smaller size than the full screen allows.

Samsung appears to be saying it will run some apps smaller on the 7-in. screen automatically, without third-party developer intervention. Some tablets, including the iPad, run applications intended for the iPhone at a smaller size, although those apps can be blown up to full-screen width on Apple's tablet. Doing so causes some elements to appear pixelated, however.

The concern over resolution issues extends beyond the Galaxy Tab. On Monday, HP admitted that its new Android tablet, a companion to its PhotoSmart eStation printer, isn't suitable for applications found in the Android Market. Jeff Walter, a marketing manager of inkjet and Web solutions, said the device has a 7-in. display and that "most Android apps are not designed for 7-in. displays."

Walter's comments, those of Samsung, and even those of Google's Barra were contradicted by a Google official on Friday who asked not be identified and who said Android is optimized for all sizes of devices and that Barra had been quoted out of context. Officials at Google have not responded to repeated requests for further clarification.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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