Samsung is rewarding those who jumped on the Galaxy Tab bandwagon first with a major software update for the company's Android Honeycomb tablet. Those who ran out and purchased the Wi-Fi version of the Tab 10.1 will gain access to the update on August 5. It brings with it a wholly re-realized user experience.
As far back as February, Samsung's media relations team indicated to me that the company was not happy with the overall experience provided on stock Honeycomb 3.0 devices. Hoping to offer its customers a better user interface, Samsung said it would customize a version of its TouchWiz UX for Honeycomb. The update announced today bears the fruit of that labor.
The update will be applied on top of the base Android 3.1 Honeycomb software running on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It does not update the device to Honeycomb 3.2. Samsung's goal was to make it easier to customize the system, make it easier to multi-task, and make the entire experience, uh, less Android-y.
TouchWiz introduces a new Live Panel. Samsung describes this as a "magazine-like widget" that lets users peek at vital info such as the weather, social network status updates, email, news, and photos all from the home screen. The appearance of the Live Panel can be tweaked by end users to suit their own needs. TouchWiz also adds a Mini Mode Tray. This tray provides quick access to oft-used apps, such as the task manager, calendar, calculator, music player, clock, etc. The tray appears as a pop-up window on the screen.
Samsung added new clipboard powers to the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which should please those of you constantly shuttling text from one application to another. According to Samsung, its clipboard app not only lets you copy-and-paste text, but also items such as photos, Web pages, YouTube links, and so on. It also lets users share those clipped items via social networking sites or even email.
Beyond these usability tweaks, Samsung is also re-introducing its MediaHub, which has been refreshed with lots of new features. Samsung says the new version of MediaHub has been optimized for the Tab 10.1's larger display, can be used to purchase/rent movies and TV shows, and now supports HDMI-out so video signals can be sent to an HDTV via a not-included cable.
Samsung's Social Hub will be added to the Tab 10.1, which serves sort of as a master inbox for all your messaging and social networking functions. Other apps that will be added to the device include Amazon's Cloud Player, Words With Friends, and Amazon's Kindle App.
Samsung isn't forgetting enterprise users, either. TouchWiz adds support for Exchange ActiveSync 14, on-device encryption, Cisco VPN, Sybase MDM, and Cisco WebEx. File support management will be possible with Samsung's Kies 2.0 software. It can be used to manage PIMS and multimedia data sync; firmware upgrades with file backup; and wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Kies 2.0 offers better management tools for multimedia, such as photos, videos, and music, and it supports file transfer protocol for easier file sharing.
Last, TouchWiz for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 adds mobile printing, and a version of the Swype typing application that has been customized for the tablet form factor.
In order to receive the update, users will need to use their device to create a Samsung account. Once users have registered, they'll be alerted by Samsung when the update is available.
Samsung didn't say if those of you with I/O variant of the Tab 10.1 will have access to TouchWiz, but Verizon said the LTE version will receive TouchWiz at an undetermined date.
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