Android apps on the Galaxy Tab may be 'a little ugly'

Upcoming Samsung tablet with Froyo not intended to work with Android Market apps

While all four major U.S. carriers will sell the Samsung Galaxy Tab running Froyo this fall, a Google executive has already said that the tablet computer won't work well with Android Market apps.

An analyst today agreed that Android Market apps running on the Galaxy Tab's 7-in. screen with Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, won't look good. Since Froyo was intended to be used on smartphones with smaller 3-to-4-in. screens, images on a tablet running Froyo will appear stretched or out of focus, pixilated or with jagged edges, said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.

"Apps aren't going to scale right and won't be quite as pretty" on the Galaxy Tab, Enderle said in an interview. "The apps are probably going to be a little ugly."

On the other hand, users will find that Web browsing on the Galaxy renders characters and images properly, and video should also run fine, Enderle said. But apps from Android Market are the problem, he said. "As Froyo expands the app to the bigger screen, it's not going to be as sharp," he explained.

Samsung Galaxy Tab
The Samsung Galaxy Tab, with a 7-in., screen, is expected to be available this fall.

Google's director of mobile products, Hugo Barra, said in a recent interview that Android 2.2 "is just not designed for that [tablet] form factor" and had been designed for smaller smartphone screens. He said Android Market apps would not run on Android 2.2-based tablets; Enderle, however, said they will run -- they just won't run properly at the expanded screen size.

Another analyst, Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates, agreed that "Froyo is not optimized for tablet form factors," adding that "many apps will not work on [those] tablets."

Neither Google nor Samsung responded early today to a request for comment on sales of the Galaxy. A spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, one of the four major carriers that will sell the Galaxy, said she could not comment and referred questions to Google and Samsung. The other three carriers also did not immediately respond.

Enderle said Google has long indicated that Android is not the ideal operating system for tablets. However, some tablets run the older Android 1.6 operating system because app developers have had time to maximize the user interface from that version for use on tablets. Samsung must have felt that it couldn't sell the new Galaxy with an older version of Android, he added.

The Google Chrome operating system could be used for tablets. In a recent keynote at the IFA trade show in Berlin, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Chrome, like Android, is an open-source operating system, and developers will use it however they want to. HTC and Verizon are rumored to be working on a Chrome-based tablet for release on Nov. 26, but that has not been confirmed.

Enderle said the Chrome tablet is a likelihood, but the device is likely to be a beta version for early adopters.

While some Android Market apps won't look good on the Galaxy, Enderle said the tablet will still be a suitable product for many users, especially for older people who need larger images and text than it's possible to display on a smartphone. Many customers won't download a lot of apps anyway, he noted. Users can also choose to render the apps on the Galaxy at partial screen size.

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 e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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