Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: Android iPad-killer is a poorly thought-through disappointment

My latest Guardian column is a pretty unenthusiastic review of the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, hailed by many as the first serious Android-based iPad competitor. The Galaxy has all the right parts, but they're assembled without much care or forethought. Something I missed mentioning in the review is that the device hides the low-profile power key next to the low-profile volume key, and they're nearly indistinguishable to the touch, so every time I adjust the volume, I end up turning off the device. Try to imagine how that goes over with the three-year-old when I turn down the sound on a YouTube cartoon she's enjoying and inadvertently switch the screen off.
But Samsung's tablets – for no discernible reason – use a custom tip that isn't any of the standard mini- or micro-USB ends. Instead, it's a wide, flat connector, like the one Apple uses, but of course, it's not compatible with Apple's cables, either. I've already lost mine, run down the battery and now I can't use the tablet again until I find another one. I passed through three airports recently, and none of them had a store that stocked them.

I have phone charger cables in my office, my travel bag, my backpack and beside the bed. The very last thing in the entire world that I need right now is to have to add another kind of USB cable to all those places. The decision to use a proprietary connector in a device whose major selling point is that it is non-proprietary is the stupidest thing about the Galaxy Tab 10.1 – even stupider than calling it the "Galaxy Tab 10.1."

Likewise disappointing was the decision to omit the microSD card slot on the Wi-Fi-only version of the tablet. The 3G-equipped models come with a built-in microSD reader (handy to have, especially if you need to load some data onto the device and you've mislaid the stupid proprietary cable). This is integrated into the Sim assembly used by the 3G devices, and rather than leaving the empty Sim assembly in place and leaving the card-reader intact, Samsung removed the whole thing.

BTW, I did find a store that sold the Galaxy Tab proprietary cable, eventually, in the Miami airport. The wire cost $70, while standard USB cables were going for $3. What a rip-off.

Why Samsung's Galaxy Tab is 'meh'


  1. I knew the cable was proprietary (as the author did), so I bought a couple backups from newegg for like 3 dollars each.  Put one at work, one at home, one in my laptop bag, etc.  It’s the cost of being on the bleeding edge.  Deal with it or buy an Ipad.

    1. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’m a ThinkPad/Ubuntu user with a Samsung Android phone that uses a standard MiniUSB cable, so I don’t know why you’d bring it up here.

    2. He’s not being hypocritical. You’d know that if you’d read his whole post:

      “Apple’s iOS devices famously use a long, flat proprietary connector that
      provides some easy cash for the company in the form of specialist cable
      sales, and locks competing devices out of using speaker-docks and other
      accessories. This is one of my gripes with Apple devices, and the use
      of standard, cheap, widely available mini-USB cables in Android phones
      (including the excellent Samsung Galaxy S, which I am delighted to own)
      is a major selling point for me.”

    3. Even the ‘Crapple’ dock connector can be considered established by when the most stubborn of haters, with millions of iPods, iPhones and iPads being sold over the last 8 years which use the connector, plus a ton of 3rd party peripherals. The standard is almost as old as Mini-USB and certainly older than Micro-USB.

      Samsung dropping in a new connector on a single product (ok, for the benefit of the doubt, maybe a few) is a very different thing.

      As for saying someone has ‘no moral right’ to voice an opinion…I think you had better stop using the internet if that’s your view.

      1. “As for saying someone has ‘no moral right’ to voice an opinion…I
        think you had better stop using the internet if that’s your view.”

        Devil’s advocate for a moment here – how is telling him to stop using the internet because of his opinions significantly different from him saying someone has no moral right to voice an opinion?

    4. A) Crapple?  What are you, 12?

      B) Anybody that paid attention to Cory would know he is neither an Apple user nor an Apple proponent.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

  2. I am curious to hear what you think about the Toshiba Thrive.  It’s allegedly a tad heavy and bulky, but it’s got ports out the wazoo – SD and full-sized HDMI and USB (as well as mini-USB).

  3. This is why i’m not going to buy this device. Micro USB should be the standard charging port for devices like this.

  4. I own a Motorola Xoom, and I love it. It’s different from an iPad in a lot of ways that I like.

    1. Bugger is darn heavy for one hand too. And dunno if this thing charges from usb but that small point power slot at least charges faster than use when plugged in. 

  5. If it’s the kind of socket I have on my Galaxy S, it’s exactly the same USB special flat socket I had on my Nokia 5600.
    So that’s maybe a de facto standard from mobile constructors since the European Directive about an universal charger slot. Yes, cables are compatibles. Take a brunch of ’em from Nokia before they close down their factory ;)

  6. I’m a big fan of the Viewsonic gTablet…it’s supported by the Cyanogen modding community, usually available in the $250-300 range, and has excellent performance. Unfortuately does charge via a charging cable rather than micro/mini USB, but you can buy the cables on Amazon, etc. for a pretty standard $12 or so. My favorite Android tablet so far.

  7. I would have a look at the AndyPad – apart from the fact that they’re running Android 2.3 (mainly cos that’s Open Source still – they’ll undoubtably upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich when it is open-sourced) it seems to fix all the meh points and they have really taken on board all of the dev community’s requirements from what I’ve seen, which hopefully will translate into a decent tablet.
    If you’re stuck with the tab, regarding your file transfer woes it may be worth running SwiFTP or similar on your tab then you can just use FTP to transfer files to and from it over wifi. There are loads of apps that do that.

  8. this is my biggest complaint about the Asus Transformer.   The cable is proprietary and short.  It looks similar to the samsung cable, I wonder if it is the same.  

  9. I have the Galaxy Tab too and the plug issue is a bit frustrating.  I’ve gotten used to the standby/volume button issue.  Aside from the occaisional inadvertent tap, its pretty easy to distinguish the two buttons. 

    I thought the lack of the SD card reader would be an issue, but I haven’t had the need for it.  Most of the things that I would want to transfer on or off the device end up going through a google service anyways so not much need for removable  storage.

    Also, Samsung does have a USB adapter for the plug:

  10. All these complaints seem to apply to the iPad as well (except for the low-profile buttons). Proprietary cable, no MicroSD, etc.  What’s the deal?

    I realize Corey isn’t an Apple-fanboy or anything, but he phrases this post that the Tab is not an iPad competitor because […] but then lists a lot of not-great features which the iPad doesn’t have anyway.

    Maybe he’s saying it sucks outright anyways, but it’s odd to phrase it as less good than the iPad for reasons which are not relevant to that comparison.

    1. Well, it is hard to be an iPad killer (and iPads dominate this market at the moment) if your product has all the drawbacks of what you’re trying to kill.

    2. I thought the same thing when I first read this post, but it makes more sense if you own a Samsung Galaxy S. It has volume buttons and power button are on opposite sides, uses a micro USB connector for everything from charging to sharing internet connection via USB or video out to a TV, removable battery and microSD. Nice little package. Why they would leave those features out of the tab is mind boggling.

  11. Coworkers got these at Google IO. They were free and they still hated them. They set the time in California but when they got back to the east coast, the option to change the time zone was grayed out. That was probably their most minor gripe.

    1. If Time Zone selection is disabled, then look a few lines up to the checkbox labelled “detect time zone automatically” or whatever it’s called. Deselect that, then the manual control is enabled.

  12. yeah, I was going to agree that, without having read the whole article, it was strange to see the portions highlighted here being the weaknesses of the iPad, as well.. but, even so, this would support the argument that it isn’t an iPad killer so much as an iPad clone..?

    I can second the Viewsonic recommendation if you don’t mind getting your feet a little wet in modding your device…

  13. There is a standard(if presently under-adopted) 30-pin connector, PDMI with some interesting capabilities. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 uses a proprietary form factor for some incomprehensible reason. 

    PDMI is an arguably good thing, currently stuck in early adopter mode. Proprietary form-factor variants can go rot in hell.

  14. I’m not very familiar with the Galaxy Tab, but my understanding is that (most if not all) tablets have higher-capacity batteries than phones, and either the charging voltage is not that provided by USB or the necessary charging current exceeds that which is provided by USB ports and/or safely passed by USB connectors and cables.

    Last week I got a Toshiba Thrive tablet. It’s *removable* battery requires a higher charging voltage than that supplied by USB ports, so it uses a non-USB charger and connector.

  15. I have a proprietary Samsung port on my phone and it’s a pain in the bum. Just use micro usb for goodness sake.

  16. As some have noted, Corey is far from an Apple fanboy regarding his reviews. 
    What the product manufacturer seems to miss is that when a product with open source software is crippled by backwards-thinking hardware, it’s not going to get much attention in the long term. Samsung committed the same sin of microSD omission with their otherwise excellent Nexus S phone. 

  17.  We got a Thrive as well–the full size ports, sd slot and removable battery sold us after looking at all others. Toshiba seems to have actually made the effort to not be annoying.  I wish the charger was USB but that’s the price you pay for being able to charge it in one hour I think. 

  18. Sony have been doing this for years, using proprietary connectors and memory cards. I had two SE phones, a Z600 and a K750i, and neither had a power connector that would work with the other phone, or any other make. All the Apple haters rag on about them using the same connector, that has a standard USB on the other end, on many different products, yet never comment about a huge global company like Sony using a different proprietary connector for practically every single product, and even their software is proprietary. Apple use one, 30pin connector; there are at least half a dozen different variations of mini and micro USB connector spread around the industry. I know which route I prefer, when I have a choice of hundreds of different aftermarket products that will work faultlessly with any of my Apple devices, you have to ask, which is the proprietary connector.

  19. I own a 7″ Galaxy Tablet. I appreciate the form factor but I’m likewise less than pleased with the silly power cable situation. Other than that, I’m generally quite happy with the device.

  20. Kind of amazing that no one has been able to make a viable iPad competitor yet.  But including an SD card reader is not necessary if you have wifi.  Android has Drop Box enabled apps, right?

  21. In the name of all that is good and holy, when will someone make a tablet device that can be used with a pressure-sensitive stylus so we artists can have a decent digital sketchpad? I swear they’re all just doing this to piss me off at this point.

    1. Right?! Why has no body noticed this seemingly obvious application? I mean, I’d plunk down for a Cintiq if I had $2500 sitting around… but what artist does?

    2. The HTC flyer has the pressure sensitive stylus tech, but I’m not sure I’d call it a decent digital sketchpad. Maybe the 10.1″ HTC ‘Puccini’ will have the same tech. Should be out soon.

      1. So I’ve read. All the basic hardware and software needed to build a device that’s fantastic for that sort of thing have been around for years now, but nobody seems to be interested in putting it all together. If Wacom, Adobe and any of the major hardware manufacturers worked together to make a tablet device it would become a must-have gadget for every artist and designer overnight.

  22. I have used iPad 2 and Tab 10.1 but i like the sleekness of tab rather than iPad. The binnaries of tab are still under bug fixing and hope have improved version in next update.

    In reference with connecting wires, i don’t have any such problems!

  23. I agree with Cory about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 being poorly designed.  There is an attention to detail and design which is incorporated into the Ipad and missing from the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  So from a hardware standpoint I agree with the poor design of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. 

  24. Can’t we finally admit that Apple did it right and all the other just fail, Android and these tablets should be great, but they are just missing something that Apple has. I want to be an Android fan boy, but all the hardware and software I play with is total junk, I keep going back to Apple because it’s so slick, fast and just works. Flame me all you want, I’m happy and productive with my Apple products, five years of MEH from Android = dead to me.

    1. I am using the LG Optimus M phone with the Android 2.2 OS and see a significant difference between this and Apple’s IOS.  The Android OS is not as responsive and I have noticed this when trying to open an app or access a setting on the phone.  When I use the iPod touch or Nano, the OS is very smooth, responsive and fast.  Companies who want to compete in the mobile market need to put more intentionality into their products instead of just slapping something together in an attempt to gain market share. 

      1. I’ve got an LG Optimus V (very similar to the Optimus M) and have been working pretty furiously on a port of CyanogenMod 7.1.  LG definitely took a very conservative route in configuring the Optimus phones.  Even then, if you compare the Optimus V to the Samsung Intercept (the other Android device Virgin has been selling for a while), the Intercept looks better on paper but the Optimus blows it away (even stock).  That said, most of my frustrations lay at the feet of Google.

        I vented some of my frustrations in the development thread and I (yes, I, the person who’s been working on getting a workable kernel and Android tree) promptly got flamed for being an Apple fanboy.  Truth is Apple got a lot of things right from the developer and user perspective that Google just didn’t even bother with.  Google ships its latest non-tablet Android OS with broken widgets: tab view – (doesn’t handle certain common use cases, programmers get to roll their own tab widget code to work around this), list view (hangs while ‘bouncing’ and hangs while trying to stop and reverse direction mid-scroll — seen this on my friend’s stock Moto Triumph too), expandable list view (icons don’t line up at all on 2.3.x).  The build system is a mess (despite requiring contemporary operating systems and hardware they still rely on GNU make which simply doesn’t scale for projects of this size)… and most recently I’ve submitted a fix to the CM code review to fix per-contact ringtones, something I suspect (but CBA to check) is actually broken in the stock Gingerbread sources.

        And then there are the useful internal bits that Google refuses to provide a public API for.  Commonly used system icons come to mind.  Want to style something like a factory widget?  Fine but it won’t be themeable.  There are also a few proper APIs that aren’t properly exposed like access to the alarm clock database.  ‘Course people work around that so that they can get proper system integration.  So all of a sudden you’ve got developers independently creating  workarounds for this lack of a mature API by Google.  And, of course, Google just turns around and tells people tough shit when they break it.  You shouldn’t use undocumented APIs, why would you want to integrate with the bundled alarm clock at all?  To top it off lots of this publicly exposed stuff just isn’t even documented by Google.

        For me it’s just hard to believe /any/ vendor is going to be able to create greatness when the foundation is so rickety.

        But if you dig through the LG kernel sources it just gets worse.  If you dig through the Samsung code, or look through some of the CM code review stuff… it’s just hilarious how non-standard Samsung makes some of their stuff.

        Android has potential, but it’s easily a few years behind iOS in terms of maturity, and it shows.  OTOH it’s a great example of the cultural differences at Apple vs Google.  Apple releases something with a number of missing features so that the implemented features are done right.  Google releases quickly, hoping people care more about ticking off boxes than actually using those features.  See also: the Xoom and the lack of Android 3.0 source.

        tl;dr Android itself is poorly thought out, what can you expect from an Android tablet?

        P.S.  I’m very interested in seeking out people who’d like to help get CyanogenMod 7.1 ported to the Optimus M (and Optiums C, Optimus U, and LG Vortex). Mostly it just needs some configuration tweaks pulled from a stock phone and someone willing to invest some effort in building/maintaining a custom kernel. I’ve found CM to be very close to what Android should have been in a lot of ways.

  25. Just commenting that I am super happy with my Asus Transformer, which I prefer over the Tab. 

  26. I’m amazed that after so many tries no one has yet found a way to create a true iPad competitor. Perhaps the marriage of Sony and Microsoft would work.

    1. It’s silly at this point to say there’s no competition.  In fact, I’d have a very hard time choosing an iPad at this point over the Thrive and maybe a couple of others.

      The Toshiba Thrive: Full sized USB port, mini USB port, hdmi port, removeable battery, SD card slot, 1280 x 800 display, 10.1 inch display, 1024 ram, 1080p HD camera. 

      None of which the iPad has. And at a cheaper price.

      You may prefer some aspects of the iPad 2 (possibly iOS, app selection and the thinner form factor).  That’s fine.  But there’s competition out there, absolutely. To say otherwise at this point is just nonsense. 

  27. At the point where the best your marketing department can do is name your product “Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1,” you’ve already failed. Especially when your main competitor’s product has a 2-syllable, four letter name.

    Time to gut the company and start from scratch.

  28. Same problem with the otherwise rather nice Asus Transformer. A weird cable which plugs into a USB wall socket, but obviously it’s using a non-standard voltage, or worse still has some kind of poxy DRM built into the charger, since it won’t charge with any other wall mount or just plugged into a computer’s USB socket.
    That’s annoying, but if you are going to play that damn fool game you have to sell spares. And a car charger please. Otherwise, I lose my one socket and I’ve got a four hundred pound paperweight.

    P.S. Is it just me finding the new blogging/comments system dreadful?

  29. The proprietary charging/usb connection on the Asus Transformer is a little frustrating, but you have to realize that the same socket is used toconnect to the keyboard dock, so perhaps forgivable. still, would be nice if they could have included a microUSB for charging/data, too!

    1. Got no real problem with carrying a cable appropriate to the transformer, but I am pissed that I can’t plug that cable into other things. In particular the car charger.

  30. Samsung must like proprietary cables. My new Samsung point and shoot uses a proprietary connector on the camera end on the charger/computer cable, even though at the other end it’s a plain old USB connector. It’s nice that the camera will charge from a USB wall wart, but it’s annoying that I need to use this weirdo cable when my phone and Kindle use standard micro USB instead.

  31. Cory,
    I’m curious to know what about the Galaxy Tab made you think it was going to be non-proprietary? Samsung wants to make money on hardware and accessories ($70 cable anyone) just like Apple does. They want to have a licensed accessory maker program.
    Just because they use Android as the OS doesn’t mean a company embraces the open-source philosophy in hardware or even in software. They can, and do, use the “openness” of Android to make their own custom OS (with hard coded apps) and lock it down. It’s not all about the end user experience when they’re deciding which OS to use. It’s about profit margin and Android is free.
    The Tab’s OS is not user accessible nor is it’s hardware. This is not an open source tablet. I’m sorry you were disappointed, but you were mis-informed if you were expecting otherwise

  32. My 4 year boy can’t play any game on PBS. Org because it has no flash, I have an I phone 4 which is ok but I am ready to test out other android based phones but iPad2 is not a MacBook it’s function is way too much, no Microsoft world, no real photoshop or any other important fils I can attach or edit so what’s good about it to me? Almost noting! I don’t play games on here so just reading stupid news that’s all I pad giving it to me beside emails and some bigger image of photos. It’s over blown and not that good, if you want get a apple product that’s fine get like MacBook air not an iPad

  33. To sum up pretty much every review of an Android tablet I’ve seen so far (including both the low rent ones & expensive ‘iPad killers’):

    It’s X the iPad.  Where X is “not as light as” ,” not as fast as”, “battery doesn’t last as long as”, “UI isn’t as friendly as”, “doesn’t look as good as”, “screen not quite as responsive as”, “button layout isn’t as intuative as”. 

    True I see plenty of features being raved about (built in HDMI, USB, etc) and it is also true that I don’t often see all of those things mentioned in the same review but it does leave one with the impression that if you want a slate, want the best that doesn’t compromise it’s basic features your better off getting an actual, real, iPad rather than one of the multitude of ‘killers’ out there.

    More so when I read about shenannigans where the WiFi only models have less RAM/CPU/GFX power than their 3G enabled models.  At least with an iPad the only difference I’ve been able to find is the WiFi only units don’t do 3G & GPS other than that it’s the exact same features.

    I want a slate and I’ve been looking at reviews, comparing features, looking at the various carp that OEM’s have pulled (Xoom’s disabled microSD on launch & delayed update, poverty spec’ing the WiFi models, etc.) and come to the conclusion that…. I’ll be buying a WiFi only iPad this Saturday.

    1. >>It’s X the iPad.  Where X is “not as light as” ,” not as fast as”,
      “battery doesn’t last as long as”, “UI isn’t as friendly as”, “doesn’t
      look as good as”, “screen not quite as responsive as”, “button layout
      isn’t as intuative as”.

      The iPad is the market leader, so it’s natural vendors compare to it.  And when you’re talking interface that’s an area (THE area) where it certainly beats even the best competitors.

      But…while the iPad is a fine device, its connectivity options are limited regarding USB and HDMI.  It has no SD storage.  No support for Flash.  Non-removeable battery.  Mediocre cameras.  No real GPS without paying for 3G. Those are areas it’s limited in and you can easily find tablets now that have all those features. 

      But…the iPad has fabulous accessory support.  Tons of apps.  And an intuitive, top of the line interface.  Android tablets are lacking in those areas (though the HoneyComb 3.1 OS is a big improvement over 2.2).

      So, if, say, making a quick USB connection is vital to you, or Flash support is desired, or if you have an android phone and want smooth communication between them, or just want a solid internal GPS without a data contract–the iPad is probably NOT the best decision.

      If you want a smooth, hassle free device that’s a pleasure to use and the above deficiencies aren’t a big deal, then an iPad is the way to go.

  34. There is actually a good solution if you lost your USB data cable or don’t want/can’t use it. I rooted my phone and installed an SSH server. Then you can access the phone from the command line or from the file manager, if you are using Linux or OSX using sftp. It works great, and even if the data transfer speed is not as much as you would on the cable, once you set up the system, I find it much less cumbersome than hooking the thing up, telling Android to go to USB data transfer mode, etc

  35. The USB/power connector Samsung uses for all their products is actually non-proprietary in Korea. All mobile devices use the same connection here, you can buy them in any shop for a few dollars. I have half a dozen sitting in drawers in my apartment in Seoul.

    Of course that’s not much help in the rest of the world. Anyone who has lived in Korea or spent any amount of time dealing with Korean corporate culture will tell you that it’s no surprise that the Galaxy products are such a mess. Foresight and design aren’t really considerations here. The power button/volume thing was probably noticed by everyone in the design process, but thanks to Confucious, nobody would dare to bring it up. Everything here is hastily and horribly designed, Samsung are among the worst offenders for this.

  36. Samsung can’t design for crap.  I’ve got one of their touchscreen phones (the Jet).  It has three recessed buttons and three buttons that are NOT recessed.
    So, what do these buttons do?  The recessed, knock-proof buttons do nothing when the phone is locked.  The easily knocked buttons are the one-button-unlock, quick-menu and fake-call buttons!  You can’t disable the one-button-unlock. Quick-menu automatically unlocks the phone and sends you to some feature (usually camera). Fake-call simulates an incoming call, can’t be disabled and works even if the phone is locked.
    I am constantly unlocking the phone in my pocket and/or causing it to ring on fake-calls.
    Most of the useful options are buried 5 menus deep too.  It’s a hideous phone.  I’ve only got 6 months left on my 2-year contract though.  Whopee!

  37. No, igalaxy tab is better than iPad2, depend on how you use but flash is most important thing to me which galaxy tab does but iPad does’t

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