Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE cuts early XOOM buyers on the bleeding edge

This can't possibly be the right way to endear tablet geeks to Honeycomb.

Today, Verizon announced that Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 goes on sale July 28th, with 4G LTE radios. That means Tab 10.1 and not Motorola XOOM will be the Android tablet big bandwidth grabber from the largest wireless carrier in the United States. XOOM shipped sooner, but with 3G radios. Early adopters have to send back their tablets for 4G LTE upgrades.

Early this afternoon, I checked with Verizon, and, uh-oh, the upgrades aren't happening yet. So later starter Tab 10.1 gets 4G LTE before the XOOM. How could Motorola, or Verizon, let this happen? If I had bought XOOM when it debuted in February, I'd be royally pissed. Surely early adopters deserve better than this.

Something else: Verizon is unsurprisingly doing more to promote Tab 10.1. Sure it's newer, but the tablet does ship with those faster radios -- and they're big differentiators from XOOM and also iPad 2. Verizon claims Tab 10.1 with 4G LTE will deliver bandwidth between 5Mbps to 12Mbps downstream and 2Mbps to 5Mbps upstream. A smart Verizon would market the hell out of Galaxy Tab 10.1's wireless speed advantage.

There has been much debate about iPad versus Android tablets, and how far Apple's product is ahead of the competition. But remember this: Android phones didn't start off fast either. The iPhone was early leader and seemingly unstoppable until two things happened around the same time: Android phone prices dropped below $200 and Verizon launched the Motorola Droid backed by a $100 million advertising campaign. Marketing matters. There hasn't been enough of it for Android tablets, and maybe there shouldn't be until Google releases Android version codename Ice Cream Sandwich.

Galaxy Tab 10.1 VerizonThe XOOM versus Tab 10.1 4G radio situation shows just how far Android tablets need to go before they're really ready to take on iPad. Motorola and Verizon heavily promoted XOOM, which suddenly has gone from trendsetter to laggard. Early adopters can be potent enthusiast marketers or any company's worst nightmare if ticked off. You want them speaking for you, not against you.

Still, XOOM pricing is better -- $499.99 with two-year contract, or $399.99 for "certified pre-owned", which is a polite way of saying purchased and returned.

Verizon will carry three Tab 10.1 models -- 16GB WiFi ($499.99); 16GB WiFi and 4G LTE ($529.99); 32GB WiFi and 4G LTE ($629.99). The WiFi model is comparably priced to iPad 2 but the 4G LTE models sell for considerably less than iPad 2 3G models -- $629.99 (16GB) and $729.99 (32GB). Selling price is lower and wireless bandwidth is higher.

However, Verizon's price for Tab 10.1 4G LTE means two-year data contract commitment. It's optional for iPad 2. Three plans: 2GB per month for $30; 5GB for $50; and 10GB for $80. The middle-tier plan adds $1,200 to the tablet's cost over the 24-month contract.

I've been using the Tab 10.1 16GB WiFi and generally like it. Main features: 10.1-inch capacitive touchscreen with 1280 x 800 resolution; nVidia Tegra2 1GHz dual-core processor; 16GB, or 32GB or 64GB storage; 3-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash and 2-megapixel front-facing camera; 720p video recording; 1080p video playback (at 30 frames per second); WiFi N; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR; accelerometer; ambient light sensor; digital compass; gyroscope; and Android 3.1 "Honeycomb". Verizon adds the aforementioned 4G LTE.

So I've got two questions for you. If you bought the Motorola XOOM, are you satisfied still or do you have regrets? Do you plan to buy the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from Verizon? Please answer in comments.

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