Samsung announced that three of its latest four Galaxy tablet models running Android 4.4 (KitKat) will go on sale at U.S. retailers starting Feb. 13, with online orders starting today.
Samsung also revealed that all four of its new tablets will uses its somewhat controversial custom interface Magazine UX, a display mode that loads the screen with tiles that show information from different apps. Analysts expected Samsung to downplay the Magazine UX, as a way of staying closer to true Android from Google.
Prices will start at $399.99 for the 16GB Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. The Tab Pro 10.1 is priced at $499.99 for 16 GB and the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 will cost $749.99 for 32 GB and $849.99 for 64 GB. Samsung said the fourth tablet recently announced at International CES, the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, also running KitKat, won't be available until March.
The models that go on sale Feb. 13 will be Wi-Fi-only, but Samsung also said that Verizon Wireless will be the first to offer a 4G LTE version of the Note Pro 12.2 later this quarter. Samsung posted more information about pre-orders on its website. The Note Pro and Tab Pro tablets come in black or white.
Samsung advertised the four models as ideal for use at work or play. Both 12.2 models (with 12.2-in. displays) as well as the Tab Pro 10.1 (with a 10.1-in. Display) come with virtual keyboards that mimic the size and appearance of a physical keyboard for faster typing. Both 12.2 models also have 2560 x 1600 LCD displays, making them the first with such high resolution. Both also allow users to view up to four applications at once for better multitasking.
The Note Pro 12.2 also has a Samsung S Pen, a digital pen for handwriting to text, and functions called Air Command and Pen Window for quicker access to apps and information.
All the new tablets will run Magazine UX, a new custom user interface that runs in the home screen layout and that Samsung says will bring users' their favorite and most-frequented content, such as apps, email and games "to the forefront, offering direct access to content with a single touch."
Some analysts said Samsung might drop or de-emphasize the Magazine UX in upcoming products in favor of the standard Android UI after recent negotiations between the two companies. after reports of recent negotiations between Samsung and Google were believed to result in future Samsung products with the same look as standard Android backed by Google.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (with an 8.4-in. display) runs a Snapdragon 800 2.3 GHz quad-core processor, which makes it "built to handle high-powered games and video," Samsung said.
With the range of Android tablets Samsung has already shipped to market and the latest round of new tablets, it is no wonder that Samsung is the largest Android tablet maker. IDC said Samsung shipped 14.5 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2013, grabbing an 18.8% market share, second only to Apple's 33.8% share in shipping 26 million iPads running iOS.
The next biggest tablet maker is Amazon.com, shipping 5.8 million Android core tablets for its Kindle Fire line and making up 7.6% of the market. After Amazon, Asus shipped 3.9 million Android or Windows 8 tablets for 5.1% of the market, while Lenovo shipped 3.4 million tablets running Android or Windows 8 for 4.4% of the market.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.