BlackBerry and Samsung Tablets: The Rise of the iPad Competitors

Ever since rumors surfaced claiming that Apple was working on a tablet, we knew the coming of such a device would launch a new product war. Despite the looming certainty that copycats would arise, in the months following the launch of the iPad, the tablet market has remained fairly lackluster regarding viable alternatives.

However, with a few recent and quite impressive entrants, the tablet war is finally upon us.
Today we’ll look at the new BlackBerry PlayBook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, both of which pack a feature set to rival (and top in many cases) Apple’s iconic device.

Will Apple dominate this market as they’ve done with the iPod (what’s a Zune?), or will these shiny new competitors deal a decisive blow to the iPad’s reign? You be the judge.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab

First of all, this one definitely loses the name game. “Samsung Galaxy Tab” or even just “Galaxy Tab” are certainly not equipped to be common household terms. Let’s hope if this one survives everyone just calls it “The Tab” (I’ll encourage this trend by henceforth referring to it thusly).

The first thing you’ll notice about the tab is its size. Samsung is betting on consumers thinking that the iPad is unwieldy and wanting something that is easy to grip.

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab

While the first generation iPad measures in at 9.56 by 7.47 inches, the Tab is 7.48 by 4.74 inches. The good news is that it fits in your hand, the bad news is that you’ve just sacrificed a couple inches of screen real estate. The Tab’s screen measures 7 inches on the long side with a 1024 by 600 resolution, compared to the iPad’s 9.7 inches and a 1024 by 768 resolution.

Features

The Samsung Tab runs Android and therefore has access to the wide variety of apps and features you’re familiar with on other devices.

It also takes a page out of the iPhone 4 PlayBook with both a front and rear facing camera (1.3MP and 3.2MP respectively). Also as with the iPhone, the cameras can be used for live video-conferencing. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Tab will one up the iPad by allowing video-conferencing over a cell network.

Other notable features include 16-32GB of storage plus expandable memory of up to 32GB, a 1.0 GHz processor and onboard GPS.

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Tab side view

Flash? You Bet.

All that stuff above is nice, but what you really want to know is “Does it support Flash?” The answer is yes. In fact, both of the tablets we’ll be looking at today do.

This is a powerful bragging point for other tablet manufacturers and you can expect them to flaunt it. Apple’s outspoken animosity towards Flash is unlikely to be recanted any time soon but if they’re not careful they’re likely to end up the only competitor in the entire category that can’t handle Flash content.

The BlackBerry PlayBook

As cool as the “Samsung Galaxy Tab” seems, it’s likely to end up as just one of a slew of Android tablets with similar features. A far more formidable iPad opponent in my opinion is the BlackBerry PlayBook.

The loyal BlackBerry and iPhone users already have quite the rivalry going even before you throw a new dimension into the mix. Now with the new PlayBook, things are bound to heat up. I have to admit, it’s a beautiful device with an OS that looks amazing:

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The BlackBerry PlayBook

The aforementioned OS is simply titled “BlackBerry Tablet OS” and contains POSIX-driven multi-tasking and a WebKit browser. And yes, BlackBerry isn’t hesitating to proclaim that the thing is built to run Flash. The quote in the image below is an obvious jab at Apple: “Internet the way it’s meant to be.” It goes on to say “Built-In support for Adobe Flash. What would the Internet be without it?”

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A few interesting feature descriptions

BlackBerry is even putting a call out to Flash application developers to make sure they know they’re welcome.

While they’ve got the knife in they decide to twist it further by saying “Real-time video-conferencing. Would you buy a tablet without it?” Fortunately, the next iPad is sure to remedy this problem but this still serves as a painful reminder to anyone holding a first-generation iPad.

PlayBook Specs

The PlayBook will have a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 screen, 1GB of RAM, both a front and rear-facing camera (3MP and 5MP respectively), an HDMI port and a microUSB jack.

The killer feature here is not one but two 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 processors, which aside from indicating that its blazing fast, means 1080p HD video.

Combine all of this with BlackBerry’s enterprise software/reputation and you’ve got one heck of a tablet that few BlackBerry toting executives will be able to resist.

Your Move Apple

It’s hard to believe that we’re already looking at devices that make aspects of the iPad look outdated. Such is the speed of technology.

However, Apple isn’t sitting idly by waiting to see how RIM’s wonder-device is accepted. Instead they’re preparing for the launch of the iPad 2 and you can bet it will address many of the downfalls that the BlackBerry site is so eager to point out in its not-so-subtle fashion.

As I said above, I don’t really expect the Samsung Galaxy Tab to change the world but instead be more of a foreshadowing of what you can expect from every electronics manufacturer with a handful developers who know their way around Android (look for Sharp and Sony to make announcements in the near future).

Even though I’m a devout Apple fanboy, I can’t wait to at least play with a BlackBerry PlayBook to see if it lives up to the hype. The significant barrier here is that, Flash or no, RIM can’t touch Apple’s huge horde of apps and developers.

Closing Thoughts

Apple is on top of the touch-screen world and will vigorously defend that position against any and all competitors. Which means that it’s bound to be an exciting year for iOS fans.

In all honesty, any one of these tablets is unlikely to rival the hugely popular iPad. However, collectively they represent a new wave of competition that Apple hasn’t yet had to face in this category unless you count the Kindle and Nook, which really feel more like a separate category of their own than true iPad competitors.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of the devices above and any other iPad clones on the horizon. Will they succeed in stealing the iPad’s thunder or are they doomed to suffer the same fate as failed “iPhone-killers” such as the Palm Pre?