Published June 13, 2011
Messaging, App Store, Browser
Considering the size of its on-screen keyboard and of the screen in general, it is no real surprise that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a pretty good messaging platform. As a non-3G device, there is no support for text or picture messaging. Social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter have no built-in support, either, but there is no shortage of free third party applications available to fill that void. The only instant messaging client loaded on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is Gtalk, which can be used not only for instant messaging but also for video chatting using the forward-facing camera. The quality isn't fantastic, but it is good enough to keep in touch with friends and family and to see what is going on.
There are two pre-installed email applications on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The first, Gmail, is a new multi-pane version of the popular and fully featured Gmail application seen on Android smartphones. Users are presented with nice views of the folders, message lists, and messages in a very organized and intuitive manner. On top of that, the Gmail client offers features like Priority Inbox and threaded conversation views that users have come to expect from Gmail. The regular email app offers the same paned view as Gmail, and is equally nice to use. It adds multi-touch zooming to the mix, which is a handy feature when you are working with a large, high-res display.
Apps / App Store
The real downfall of Android 3.x Honeycomb so far is application support. There are relatively few tablet-specific apps available at the moment, and compatibility with older titles is can be somewhat spotty at times. While most of the over 200,000 applications found in the Android market will work in full screen mode, some do not, and those that do often perform less than optimally.
Since the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs a stock install of Android 3.1, there are few non-Google apps pre-loaded on the tablet apart from standard personal organizer apps like the Calendar (which syncs with Exchange and Gmail accounts). Google Maps, Navigation, Places, and Books are all there. Samsung also included the Pulse newsreader, which is built for tablets. While new tablet-friendly apps are being added daily to the Android Market, it remains somewhat difficult to find them since the Market application does not make clear whether an app is tablet-aware or not.
The web browser that ships with Android Honeycomb is quite different from the browser we find in Android smartphones. For starters, it offers true tabbed browsing, just as you would find on Google Chrome on the desktop. The Honeycomb browser even supports Chrome's Incognito mode (for leaving no cookies or history of your browsing sessions) and will synchronize with Chrome's bookmarks. The new features are quite nice.
The browsing itself is generally quite fast and very accurate, but Adobe Flash support, paired up with resource-intensive banner ads and videos, can really make a web page hard to live with. While the browser worked fine on YouTube.com when watching embedded videos, it struggled on our own site (which, as you can see, includes banner ads). Double-tap attempts at zooming often resulted in text selection, and panning and scrolling were very rough in general.
Setting plug-in (ie. Flash) support to "on-demand" in the browser's settings made everything run as smooth as glass, however. I should also point out that the Tab 10.1's browser lacks the cool "Labs" settings section and the experimental navigation controls offered by it that are found on the Motorola XOOM.
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