Samsung and Google are betting that the innovations of Jelly Bean 4.1 and abilities of the Galaxy hardware will be a winning combination as they release an upgrade that adds substantial functionality to the devices. The upgrade is available as of Friday for the Wi-Fi Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Galaxy Tab 2, over the air, or via Samsung's Kies USB connection to PC.
The update for the Galaxy Tab 2 will enable user interface improvements and faster performance and response times across applications, Samsung said.
A Cascade of Changes
Users of the Galaxy Note 10.1, the tablet version of Samsung's half-phone, half-tablet handset featuring the S Pen stylus, will have access to the Premium Suite of applications that allows users to resize, move and pin selected applications simultaneously in Cascade View; preview e-mail or photos before opening, or view video while scrubbing via the S Pen; activate applications through Quick Command; and create pen-stroke shortcuts.
Note 10.1 users can also make greater use of handwriting (remember handwriting?) for notes, memos and the S Planner, and use Note's templates to add effects and video to digital content with Idea Sketch.
"By providing not just Jelly Bean, but dramatic improvements to the multitasking and S Pen features on the devices, we're ensuring that the Galaxy Note 10.1 remains at the forefront of innovation," said Mike Abary, senior vice president of consumer IT product marketing at Samsung Electronics America, in a statement.
Wi-Fi users get the update first because the approval of a carrier is not needed.
"I suspect that carriers must qualify the mobile broadband versions of the device before making it available on their network, which can take longer than the immediacy of Wi-Fi models released to the market," said Jeff Orr, a senior tablets analyst at ABI Research.
"For example, there are many Android tablets that still have Android 3.x on them because they are 3G/4G-enabled and the carriers have yet to approve Android 4.x for those devices," Orr told us.
Premium Suite was already available for the Galaxy Note II 5.5-inch "phablet" and the Galaxy S III handset. It's not clear whether Samsung will try to add S Pen functionality and the Premium Suite to its other tablet models.
"Utilities and applications designed to utilize the S-Pen provide Samsung an advantage over other Android devices as well as the iOS platform," Orr said. "Unlike many of the areas that Apple has claimed that Samsung copied from iOS -- device shape, app icon shape, etc. -- Apple iPad products do not offer input types other than touchscreen.
"This is a clear distinction for Samsung with the ability to mix input methods of touchscreen, stylus, and handwriting recognition."
Orr noted that his company sees the current technology only scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with features such as gesture recognition, facial recognition, and natural voice that will change the way people interact with their devices.