"So," the question invariably begins when I whip out the Samsung Galaxy Tab (hereafter to be referred to as the gTab), "is it better than the iPad?" "Better," however, is the wrong adjective when addressing the inevitable and ultimately false equivalency between the two.
Why a false equivalency? Aren't they both tablet PCs?
gTab fits in your pocket. iPad doesn't. So choosing between the two really comes down to a question of posture and location.
Forget the stupid spec comparison between gTab and iPad. It's all about logistics. gTab has already sold 600,000-plus worldwide (even though Apple sold one million iPads in the U.S. alone in its first month of availability, gTab sales are still impressive) because it is a MOBILE device — you can keep it in an inside breast jacket pocket (suit or outerwear), and is a supplementary to a non-smart flip phone. If you already have an Android phone, a gTab is ridiculously redundant.
By comparison, iPad is a PORTABLE device — you need a bag to carry it around — and it can act as a laptop replacement.
Even though both tablets perform much of the same functions, similar to the truer equivalency between iPhone and an Android phone, their size differences and, by extension, how and how often they are accessed, means gTab and iPad will be used in completely different ways.
I've been "wearing" gTab for nearly two weeks, and all comparisons boil down to this: gTab fits in your pocket.
A Giant Android Phone
First, remember how cynics called the iPad an over-sized iPod Touch? We all know now what an absurd assertion that was. But the "just a larger version of…" comparison is more precise for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the company's four Galaxy cellphones (Verizon's Fascinate, AT&T's Captivate, Sprint's Epic and T-Mobile's Vibrant).
Other than size, there is only one other major difference between gTab and its Galaxy cousins — the gTab has no phone. Android 2.2 Froyo runs the same on the gTab as it does on a phone, and it contains the same 1 GHz Hummingbird processor — similar the Apple shared iPhone/iPad OS 4.2 and 1 GHz processor.
But unlike iPad, gTab's browser defaults to the mobile optimized version of Web sites such as CNN, The New York Times and ESPN, just like a cellphone. And gTab actually lags in its lauded inclusion of cameras — the rear imager is just 3.2 MP, not the 5 MP on the Galaxy phones, and there's no HD video recording. (Anyone who doesn't think the next-gen iPad II won't have the same 5 MP/HD camera array on the iPhone 4 plus a front FaceTime camera raise your digits.)
And it ain't so good as a camera. gTab is too large and awkward to wield as a snap-and-shooter, even with its giant viewfinder. Even if you managed to quickly whip it out, it's got a slow shutter, there's no zoom, and its images are hazy, often bleached and mostly lack color, contrast and detail, all less impressive than results from the higher resolution cameras/video recorders on Samsung's Galaxy smartphones.
But did we mention it fits in your pocket?
gTab's only functional equivalency with iPad is movie viewing. gTab's screen is a wide 600 x 1024 pixels, nearly the exact aspect ratio as most widescreen movies. At 768 x 1024 pixels, iPad's 9.7-inch screen, is less oblong, so widescreen movies are displayed letterboxed. As a result, despite its screen being three inches smaller, widescreen movies on the gTab are nearly the same size as they are on the iPad (extra credit if you can identify what film the still image in the comparative picture is from).
In all other apps — Web surfing, map viewing, office app usage (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, et al), iPad's more copious, squarer screen is "better."
But did we mention gTab fits in your pocket? As such, gTab works "better" as a music player since you don't have to string a headphone cable into your backpack (I don't have an music on my iPad — it's too inconvenient to use as a music player).
Excuse Me While I Whip This Out
I used gTab — which surprisingly doesn't weigh down a suit jacket pocket — more like I'd use a cellphone. Over the last two weeks, I've whipped out gTab to check the time. I've whipped it out to check email. I've whipped it out to Web surf to fill line-waiting time or play a game. I've whipped it out for pedestrian navigation and other location-based activities. I've whipped it out for standing subway-riding e-reading. I whipped it out and used in portrait mode.
Once inside home or office, the jacket came off and the gTab inaccessible for whipping-out. For serious work — article writing, photo processing, spreadsheet reviewing (yes, reviewers, when they do product forecasts, look at spreadsheets), Scrabble playing (no Android version yet), trip-planning, reading-room (ahem) e-reading and movie watching, supplemental Web surfing while TV watching — I picked up the iPad, holding it in landscape mode.
In other words, I used gTab vertically — holding in portrait mode while standing and wandering about outside. I used iPad horizontally — in landscape mode when was sitting indoors.
So, there is no "better." Your tablet choice depends entirely in which posture and location you more often find yourself.