One of the most amazing things about Apple is how its products have become category killers and eponymous brand names. This hasn’t happened very often in the annals of consumer marketing, but there are a few key examples: There are lots of competitors to Kleenex, but 95% of us identify facial tissue by that brand name. Same goes for Vaseline, AstroTurf, Dixie Cups, Jeeps and Jacuzzis.
Apple certainly has its fair share of eponymous products. Lots of folks use mp3 players, but we commonly call them iPods. And if the upcoming Apple TV re-boot does what some people think it will do, we might one day find ourselves ditching the term “Cable TV.”
With tablets, most of us think of the word “iPad.” But there are many competing tablets on the market, and the Samsung Galaxy Note has emerged as the leader. It has numerous innovations and features that have people talking—and buying. The latest Galaxy Note sold millions of units when released in Europe.
So when the Note 10.1 made its U.S. debut this week, I decided it was high time to give some love and attention to a gadget that is not manufactured by Apple. I want to be clear about something right off the bat: I don’t actually own a Galaxy; I am waiting for the day when Dan and the editorial staff can get me a proper “product testing and research” budget. But I was able to try one out at an electronics store, and there are enough reviews out there for me to talk about and compare the key features of this iPad alternative to the more ubiquitous Apple model.
One of the Galaxy’s best features is the price—it lists for $499, while the comparable iPad goes for $629. In general, almost all products that compete with Apple are cheaper. Apple charges more for its gadgets because they can.
Advantage: The Galaxy
The Galaxy is loaded with features. It has two high res cameras—one facing outward and one facing you, the photographer. Another cool feature is its beaming system. You can send photos from a Samsung camera directly to the Galaxy. You can also beam video from the Galaxy straight to a TV. And you can use the Galaxy as a remote control for your TV.
The most interesting—and controversial—feature of the Galaxy is its stylus pen. Remember these? They were popular on those Jurassic Palm Pilots. Why did Samsung decide to bring them back now, when three generations of consumers have finally gotten used to the finger swipe? I’m not sure, but a lot of Europeans seemed to like the new stylus.
What does this magic stylus let you do? Create. You can draw cocktail napkin sketches and run software to fill in the colors to expand your drawing. You can hand-write notes instead of using the keyboard—though most reviews shredded Samsung’s handwriting recognition software. And it’s more than a little awkward to hold a stylus pen in one hand while gripping the Galaxy in the other.
Samsung scores points for attempting to perfect an old form of data entry, but in the end I’d rather talk to Siri.
Adantage: The iPad
Apps + Icons
The Galaxy uses Android software, which is popular enough and has enough great apps to give the iPad a real run for its money. But execution is a problem. While the iPad’s layout is simple enough for my 3-year-old son to figure out, the Galaxy has an odd system of screen icons that bear little resemblance to the functionality.
David Pogue from the New York Times puts it best: “(L)ogos are frequently so unhelpful they may as well be random Cyrillic letters.” Ouch.
Many have tried, but it might be impossible to beat the ease of use and logic of Apple iOS.
Advantage: The iPad
The Galaxy sold enough units and has enough great features that it’s certainly worth a look, especially if you’re price-sensitive. But unless Samsung works out some major kinks with the icons, we might soon be living in a world where the “iPad” becomes synonymous with “tablet.”
Maybe we already are…