Samsung is expanding its lineup of tablet computers and making them look more like its Galaxy smartphones, as it hopes to translate its success in phones to the tablet market, where Apple is dominant.
Samsung Electronics Co., the second-largest maker of tablets after Apple, on Monday said it is putting three new tablets in the Galaxy Tab 3 series on sale in the U.S. on July 7. The cheapest, a $199 device, will have a screen that measures 7 inches diagonally. An 8-inch model will go for $299 and a 10-inch one for $399.
“Our goal is to attract Galaxy smartphone users, and to make it the ultimate smartphone accessory,” said Shoneel Kolhatkar, director of product planning at Samsung Mobile.
The “Tab” line is Samsung’s value brand, undercutting the price of similar Apple models. Samsung’s premium tablets are in the “Note” line, which includes styluses. The 7-inch and 10-inch tablets had “Tab 2” equivalents, but the 8-inch model is new, and coincides closely in size with Apple’s iPad Mini, which came out late last year.
The new tablets have the same three buttons on the front as the Galaxy smartphones. Last year’s Tab 2 had no physical buttons on the front, as encouraged by Google, which supplies the Android software.
The 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3 has 8 gigabytes of storage memory, while the larger models have 16 gigabytes. All of them have card slots for memory expansion.
Samsung and Apple are in a heated tussle when it comes to smartphones and tablets. Each company would like to dominate both markets. Samsung had 18 percent of the global tablet market in the first quarter this year, according to research firm IDC. Apple had 40 percent. In smartphones, the figures are reversed, with Samsung dominating, largely because of its Galaxy line. Apple came in second with a 17 percent market share for the iPhone. In the U.S., however, Samsung is outsold by Amazon.com Inc., with its Kindles.
Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder said a hit smartphone traditionally hasn’t led buyers to get a tablet from the same manufacturer. He believes Samsung will get a bigger boost from its new mini-stores inside U.S. Best Buy locations. Having a retail environment it can control bridges some of the gap with Apple, which has its own stores.
“Whether you buy it online or in person, people want to touch and feel these products,” Gownder said.
Samsung has declined to challenge the iPad on screen resolution. The new tablets have the same resolution as older models, leaving them well behind the iPad and even Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone. The 10-inch tablet has a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, compared with 1920 by 1080 for the phone. The smartphone packs in three times more detail in a square inch than the tablet does. (The 8-inch Tab 3 does, however, have a slightly higher screen resolution than the iPad Mini, the closest Apple equivalent).
Analyst Jeff Orr at ABI Research said that while the new Samsung tablets aren’t “groundbreaking in any particular direction,” they show that the South Korean company is honing a strategy that’s been successful in smartphones: producing a wide variety of devices for different customer segments.
“Samsung has certainly shown how that can be accomplished with handsets, and I see more of that occurring now with the Galaxy Tab 3 announcement,” Orr said.
With the new models, Samsung will have five tablets on sale in the U.S., compared to two at Apple. In addition, Samsung sells the Galaxy Note II, a phone-tablet crossover device.
The 10-inch model is the first Android-powered Samsung tablet to use an Intel processor. That’s a significant win for the Santa Clara, Calif. chipmaker, which has been trying to break into the market for cellphone and tablet chips now that PC sales are slumping. Other smartphones and tablets run chips made by a variety of companies, all based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC, a British company.