Samsung tablets stretch advantage with new screens
13 June 2014, 15:27
New York - New tablet computers from Samsung will feature screens that are richer in colour than standard LCDs.
These screens, known as Amoled for active-matrix organic light-emitting diodes, are already found in smartphones made by Samsung and a few other manufacturers. But until now, tablets haven't used them because larger Amoled screens are more difficult to produce.
Samsung Electronics is trying to change that with its upcoming line of Android tablets, called the Galaxy Tab S. On Thursday, Samsung announced two such models, with screens of 21cm and 26.6cm, as measured diagonally.
The tablets will start selling in the US in July at $400 for the smaller model and $500 for the larger one - the same as comparable iPads. Models with 4G LTE cellular access are expected later in the year.
Samsung is the world's second-largest maker of tablets, behind Apple's iPads. In recent years, Samsung has been gaining market share - at Apple's expense - by offering a wide range of sizes and quality.
Earlier this year, it unveiled a "Pro" brand aimed at professionals. The "Tab" brand has been used on Samsung's budget tablets and don't come with a stylus, as Samsung's "Note" tablets do. With the new screens, Samsung is elevating the Tab line to become its flagship tablet.
Besides producing richer colours, Amoled allows tablets to be thinner and use less power because screens typically don't require backlighting.
But IHS analyst Sweta Dash said the performance gap between Amoled screens and regular LCDs has narrowed, while Amoled screens can cost 10% to 30% more to make.
Samsung does have the advantage of making its own screens, and the South Korean company can afford to reduce profit margins on tablets if that boosts volume and reduces costs on the screen-production business. What it learns from making tablet screens might even help it one day make affordable Amoled television sets.
Samsung did release an Amoled tablet in 2012, but it was expensive and didn't sell well. The new ones will be priced more competitively.
The tablets are 6.6mm thick, which is thinner than the iPad. The smaller version is also lighter than the iPad Mini, while the larger one is about the same as the iPad Air.
The new tablets will sport displays of 2 560 pixels by 1 600 pixels, matching what's found in the Pro series. By comparison, Apple's iPad Air is at 2 048 pixels by 1 536 pixels. Apple markets its displays as "Retina" and doesn't believe more pixels will necessarily be discernible to the eye. Apple is expected to refresh its iPad line-up this year.
Until now, iPad rivals have succeeded largely by undercutting Apple on price, and better hardware hasn't been enough, said Rhoda Alexander, director of tablet and monitor research at IHS. Amoled screens could change that, she said, because colours will pop out when compared side by side at a Walmart or a Best Buy.
The new tablets will also let people make calls when a Samsung phone is nearby and to unlock the device with a fingerprint. The tablets can support up to eight user profiles, so members of a household can get separate home screens simply by swiping their finger on the sensor.