Samsung's Galaxy Tab Launches On All 4 U.S. Carriers, But No Voice Support

Big, big news from the Samsung camp this evening. The company's Galaxy Tab, arguably the iPad's most serious competitor (or at least the competitor with the most steam/hype behind it), will soon be launching on all four of the major U.S. carriers. All four! The royal flush of operators happens very infrequently. Google attempted to do a similar deal with their Nexus One, but things ended up falling through for Sprint and Verizon Wireless. But Samsung has shown an ability to do this before. The company's Galaxy S smartphone family is currently on all four of the major U.S. carriers (under different names, but it's the same core phone), and they have evidently used that same pull in order to work out a similar deal with their 7" Android 2.2 tablet.

At a press event tonight in New York City, Samsung's Mobile announced that the Galaxy Tab would be launching in the October to November time frame on Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless. This means that regardless of your carrier of choice, you'll be able to find a Galaxy Tab suitable for you. If you need a reminder, the Tab itself has a 7" touch panel, 1GHz Hummingbird processor, support for 3D graphics, front & rear facing cameras, Android 2.2 ("Froyo"), support for Adobe's Flash Player 10.1, and some specialized Samsung software including Media Hub (a content streaming service) and Social Hub (connecting users to Facebook, Twitter and beyond).

Hardware wise, the Tab is the same Tab that was showcased in Europe last week at IFA Berlin. But there are lots of differences when it comes to U.S. models. First, the Media Hub. Samsung is tapping into content from NBC, MTV, Universal Studios, Warner and more in order to allow Tab owners to easily access, download, rent/buy, etc. material from their libraries. It's as close to an iTunes Store rival as we have seen.

So that's one positive thing that sets the U.S. Galaxy Tab apart. But here's a negative. Samsung has confirmed that the U.S. models will not have voice capabilities. The European version does have voice support, which would enable users to have a phone number assigned to it (exactly like a Dell Streak, for example) and then make/receive calls via a Bluetooth headset. But the U.S. model won't even have this option. It will use cellular data alone; no calling at all unless it's VOIP, like Skype. That's a huge downer, particularly when you consider that we're expecting these U.S. carriers to subsidize the Tab in order to make it cheaper on contact. Who will pay a monthly fee plus remain attached to a 2-year contract for a device with no voice service? Why would Samsung remove such a feature? It's hard to say, but it's a confirmed loss.

Also, the Sprint version of the Galaxy Tab will not support their 4G/WiMAX network. The Sprint version of the Galaxy S (known as the Epic 4G) is the only Galaxy S in America to support 4G, so we aren't sure why that tradition wasn't carrier over for Samsung's new tablet. That's a big competitive advantage that's lost on Sprint now.

Finally, all of this excitement is clouded by one big question: how much will they cost? That's still an unknown, even after tonight. Samsung is determined to let their partner operators in America make the final calls on pricing, so we suspect each carrier will announce their own individual pricing in due time. It's rumored that $200-$300 on contract will be the price, but if you have no interest in owning another connected device, Samsung is planning a Wi-Fi only version of Galaxy Tab (much like the Wi-Fi only iPad) that will ship in a couple of months. Does an Android 2.2 tablet really have what it takes to knock off the iPad from its pedestal? Time will tell, but it has a hard road ahead.