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50 Ways to Improve the Galaxy Tab (and other Tablets)

Posted on 21 January 2011 By Steve Chippy Paine


Last year I wrote two report about tablet design. The first was written a year ago and discusses things to consider when designing or buying a tablet-style device. The second was a checkist for a quality handheld internet tablet.

Galaxy Tab and iPad _10_

The iPad and Galaxy Tab are currently the best examples of consumer tablets in the market today and for me the quality and mobility of the Galaxy Tab means it has been working well in my family of devices. I’ve had it for over 3 months now and during that time I’ve been compiling a list of issues and improvements I either think are possible now or in future versions of the Galaxy Tab. The list applies to other tablets too so if you’re designing or buying tablets for the market in 2011, this is the sort of list you should already have on your whiteboard. If not, take this one and make it better. (A donation is appreciated if this list does make it to your company whiteboard!)

The list is over 50 items long and is split into three sections. Changes that could be made to the current Galaxy Tab are listed first and this is a good place to scan through if you’re looking to buy a Galaxy Tab. The second section includes what I would call reasonable hardware expectations for second-gen or late 2011 high-quality tablet. I don’t expect all of these features to be included but it’s a list of possible improvements. The third section is a little way-out there and includes hardware changes that may not be possible this year or could be too niche. I did have a section including third party software but that list got very long indeed and is not really relevant here.

IMPORTANT: There’s more to be added to this list and a great discussion about tablets to be had here. Chip in with your thoughts too. You’ll have ideas that no-one has through of yet so don’t be afraid to dump them in the comments below. If it’s not too wild (lets keep it within a 2-year timeframe) i’ll add it to the list and credit you.

Software and experience changes

  1. Web browser.  Faster, mouse/finger over. Higher quality. Plugins. Password sync. Common gestures.
  2. Better protection of UI experience under load. (Run UI in separate core? Possible hardware change required for that.)
  3. Improve UI physics. Response rate needs to be 20ms or less. (I believe from my audio work in the past that 20ms is where delays become noticeable. I could be wrong but you know what I’m getting at right?) Try a drum-machine programme, It’s impossible. (Android 2.3 bring in features that can improve this through the use of the NDK)
  4. DLNA improvements. (Receivers and senders need to improve compatibility.)
  5. Protect the audio playback from stutters in multitasking scenarios. Critical. (How about a ‘dedicated’ mode where the application is brought to ‘realtime’ status – in effect, like iOS does.
  6. Vastly improved audio library features. playlist import/export, cross-fading, id3 tag editing, jukebox mode, cover retrieval, radio streams, integration with Last.fm amd similar services. Much quicker media scanning.
  7. Easier way to auto-organise applications list. Sort-by: most used, alphabetical, recently added, categorise (based on market categorisation) Apps list is as important as an audio catalogue. Genres, personal ratings on client should feed back to Market.There are a ton of improvements that can be made here.
  8. Samsung apps style improvements. Lose the wood-grain effect or allow theming! Some feature improvements are also possible.
  9. More video content to buy / stream. Major issue outside the U.S.
  10. Full BT 3.0 (wifi TX support, near-field pairing)
  11. Longer battery life (of course!) Important – battery save mode that schedules network usage. Significant improvements will require hardware changes.
  12. More tablet / pro apps to be included via the Samsung catalogue
  13. Better gallery with sort, date search, rename, tagging, face detection etc. Stock Gallery is very limited.
  14. Better printing support. Google Cloud Print service should fix this.
  15. Apt-x codec support over BT A2DP. (Or some other HQ wireless audio transmission capability)
  16. SMS remote kill feature
  17. Compatibility with camera applications
  18. Timed profiles, turn to silence.
  19. Improve speed of re-scanning Wifi access points. Can be extremely slow in some situations.
  20. Occasionally boot-up time can run into 2 minutes or more. This needs to be improved
  21. Hot-swap SIM cards (where applicable)
  22. Slippery when dry. The smooth, easy wipe finish needs a couple of high-friction areas for book-reading
  23. AC3 and DTS soundtrack handling. (Down-sampling to 2-channel and pass-through for HDMI)
  24. Lower the lowest screen brightness (for in-bed, next-to-partner usage.)

Essential Hardware changes:

  1. Longer charger cable (and micro-usb port)
  2. Camera Quality: Glass lens, better sensor, continuous AF when recording video. Lens cover.  Flash options.  HD recording.
  3. Camera shutter release button
  4. Fm receiver + transmitter
  5. USB OTG support for external storage, keyboard, mouse, other peripherals (midi, dvb-t, external cam)
  6. Better GPS.  Sensitivity, speed.
  7. Analogue video out built-in. Is that old-school? E.G. VGA, S-Video, Composite
  8. HDMI-out port.
  9. Storage improvements. Speed of core storage needs improving. 32GB, 64GB option.
  10. Indicator lamps – multiple for use with different applications. Programmable colour.
  11. indicators and alerts need to feed to paired Android phones.
  12. Replaceable battery
  13. Kick-stand
  14. SDXC card compatibility
  15. Higher quality screen (at same or lower power utilisation.)

For the ultimate tablet:

  1. Digital radio reception.  DAB (Update: and other standards)
  2. Digital TV reception. DVB (Update: and other standards)
  3. Digitiser for graphics and handwriting input.
  4. HQ audio recording. External mic over BT? Array mics.
  5. Near field payments support (Probably best on a phone tho)
  6. Daylight readable screen (transflective)
  7. Quick Fingerprint reader for security.
  8. Midi support (be a midi sequencer/controller)
  9. HQ Audio synthesiser and audio effect support in hardware. (for use as effects unit)
  10. Built-in mini projector
  11. Remote mini handset accessory for using tablet as a phone. (Over BT with address book, dialing, voice dialing, CLI
  12. Screen extension (slideable, removable)
  13. PVR facility and dock. (hardware video encoding – 720p)
  14. Wi-Di and wireless audio over Wifi
  15. Rear panel controls and gestures area.
  16. Glasses-free 3D (plus content)

…and lastly. Lets have a penta-boot system with Windows, Android, MeeGo, Ubuntu and WebOS!

Update: Reader contributions

  • Better device security including encryption of sensitive information (BryanB – via comment below)
  • Good design and implementation of user interface frameworks and the design/implementation of the applications. Really poorly coded application user interfaces can use all the CPU available. [Chippy: I think that’s really part of the Android framework though.] (Sam – via comment)
  • Samsung Keyboard Editor – (Max – via comment)
  • A hinged back cover with a kick-stand that would allow easy battery replacement, SSD upgrades, and safe storage of extra SDHC cards. (jjsjjsva via comment) [Chippy: I love that SDHC storage area idea. That’s a winner!]

19 Responses to “50 Ways to Improve the Galaxy Tab (and other Tablets)”

  1. BRYAN B says:

    No mention of better device security(other than print reader) and encryption of sensitive information.
    It seems like we are going backward in these areas.

    http://threatpost.com/en_us/blogs/mobile-attacks-reign-black-hat-dc-012011

  2. Sam says:

    Software/User experience

    2. This is really a matter of good design and implementation of user interface frameworks and the design/imnplementation of the applications. Really poorly coded application user interfaces can use all the CPU available.

    3. I believe the typical number given is more like 100ms, though for very high precision timing tasks I could easily believe a much lower number. 20ms is nearly the refresh period for a display @ 60Hz (16ms). I believe there was quite a bit of research by the military/industry awhile back on this, when they first were developing fly-by-wire systems for fighter planes.

    24.5 Does the Samsung Galaxy Tab have an ambient light sensor? It’s probably a good idea for tablets… (of course, cameras could be used to fake one…)

    Ultimate tablet

    1. and HD Radio for the US

    2. and the appropriate US standards (ATSC and ATSC-M/H)

  3. chippy says:

    100ms sounds like a lot. I wonder if anyone has measured the ipad. That’s the benchmark!

    Of course, relevant US standards for digital ota broadcasts need supporting. Sorry!

  4. chippy says:

    Very good point. I’ve called these device out for not being multi-user in the past. I will definitely add something to the list.

  5. Charbax says:

    1. Lower cost, like an Archos for example, even cheaper.

    2. Use Pixel Qi 7″ for much better ereader mode, outdoor use, thinner and lighter form factor with smaller sized battery needed and all the while at least doubled battery runtime.

    The rest I don’t care much, except of course Archos built-in kick-stand, better video/audio codecs support, built-in HDMI output, built-in USB host, 30% lighter form factor, thinner more pocketable.

  6. chippy says:

    Lower cost is happening automatically but yes, it’s always good. I think I captured the rest of your requirements already.

  7. omikr0n says:

    I agree with most of these, but midi support? Why? What for?

  8. kip says:

    DLNA improvements. This is so poorly implemented across a range of devices that it seriously impairs the usefulness of a tablet. I can stream video to my tab from networked laptop but cannot stream video from my tab to my tv. ( and yes, the tv accepys video streams from the laptop!)

  9. chippy says:

    Just for fun. There’s no reason that these devices can’t be either controllers or instruments in their own right. The Market is the perfect place to get devs writing and selling musical software.

  10. Max says:

    A couple of your comments are deficiencies with samsung supplied software. It almost seems counter productive for them to ship it with the crap because that discourages independant devs from bothering. Why would someone write a new music app when 80% of people are probably quite happy with what was supplied.
    I`d like to see a keyboard editor for the tab. Get rid of the mic icon, make space bigger and put some more useful chars in the . , ? Button (that was tricky to type!) for starters.

  11. chippy says:

    Keyboard editor would be great. I like that idea.

  12. DR says:

    Right on – please forward to the RIMM boys – they could solve much of this correctly. Apps schmaps – i suspect hundreds of good useful apps are much more powerful than a million silly useless copycat applications. The big concern is a large enough user base to entice the good developers with solid tools.

  13. Hopalong0_3 says:

    If it’s not too wild, some sort of dual native resolution. High res for desk/docked work and productivity apps, lower res for sofa surfing and reading. My eyes get tired at night.

  14. jjsjjsva says:

    A hinged back cover with a kick-stand that would allow easy battery replacement, SSD upgrades, and safe storage of extra SDHC cards.

  15. chippy says:

    Do you mean bigger fonts rather than different resolutions?

  16. chippy says:

    I love that SDHC storage idea. SSD upgrades would be a problem as on these types of devices, everything is soldered for minimal size.

  17. chippy says:

    I’ve added reader feedback into the article now.
    Many thanks everyone and keep them coming!

  18. Hopalong0_3 says:

    Thinking about it more, an automatic UI switch upon docking/undocking would do. If the elements of the UI could scale to give the feel of a higher resolution when docked. Email and other multi-paned programs that benefit from mouse and keyboard input could automatically change when undocked to be more finger friendly.

    I was thinking of a hardware resolution switch a la CRT, of course not currently possible on today’s LCDs.

  19. My dab digital radio it the best thing I have ever bought. Would recommend them to anyone