Samsung may have helped Android attain the top spot in smartphone sales, but the open-source operating system from Google hasn’t done the same for the handset maker’s attempt to rival Apple’s iPad tablet. According to one analyst firm, 16 percent of Samsung Tab devices are being returned.
“Consumers aren’t in love with the device,” ITG Investment Research analyst Tony Berkman told the New York Post recently. ITG tracked sales of the Tab between its November debut through Jan. 15. By comparison, the iPad sold through Verizon, reportedly has a 2 percent return rate.
A Samsung executive, talking to analysts, tends to agree with the ITG assessment, although it is couched in marketing lingo.
“As you heard, our sell-in was quite aggressive and this first quarterly result was quite, you know, fourth-quarter unit [figure] was around two million. Then, in terms of sell-out, we also believe it was quite small,” Samsung VP Lee Young-hee said. Sell-in is the term used to describe sales to retailers. Samsung sold around 2 million of the 7-inch self-described ‘iPad killers.’ However, the more important figure is ‘sell-out’ (someone needs a better term), which describes how many Tabs were sold to actual consumers.
Just why has the Tab failed to catch fire with consumers? Again, we go back to Android. The version of the software used by the Tab, codenamed ‘Froyo’, just isn’t suitable for tablets. Who says? Well, Google, for one. “Froyo is not optimized for used on tablets,” Hugo Barra, Google’s director mobile products, has warned. “If you want Android market on that platform, the apps just wouldn’t run,” he added.
Samsung’s dilemma is shared by other companies wanting to get an iPad rival on shelves before Apple’s leading positions solidifies. According to iSuppli, other early tablets using the version of Android are not finding a receptive audience. On Feb. 17, Motorola’s Xoom is expected to be the first tablet using a version of Android optimized for tablets.
However, if the Galaxy Tab is a flop, the company still has alternatives. For instance, that deal it inked with Apple to provide more than half of this year’s chip production. Although the Galaxy Tab was the first high-profile rival to the iPad, we will have to wait until later this month when Motorola and others introduce devices optimized for tablets to determine how Android will compete with the Cupertino, Calif. company.