Samsung Galaxy Tab (£399)

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Samsung Galaxy Tab

When you have a product that is as successful as the iPad, it’s inevitable that other companies will try to cash in on the craze and launch their own versions of the tablet PC, in a bid to take a bite of out of Apple’s share of the market.

PC firms such as Dell and Acer have already produced their own versions, and Blackberry will cash in on the tablet craze later this year with the Playbook. But one of the higher-profile alternatives is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has a good go at rivalling the iPad – although if we’re being honest it is not without its flaws. And while the Tab is a more than acceptable substitute, it’s not necessarily a preferable one.

The main disadvantage here is that it is a lot more compact than its rival, and in fact my initial impression upon seeing it was noticing just how small it really was. While there is appeal to be had from the fact that it’s thin enough to fit in your back pocket, on the downside you’re looking at a much smaller screen than you might on other tablet PCs – seven inches to be precise.

As a result the Galaxy tab often feels just too small for comfort, an awkward size somewhere between an iPad and an Android phone that doesn’t quite work as effectively as it should. The size of the screen makes web browsing tricky – hold it vertically and the page you’re looking at appears to be tiny, hold it horizontally and it cuts half of it off. Although there are aspects of it which work extremely well – YouTube, for example, provides speedy download of clips and pictures and streaming which are as good quality as anything you would get on your laptop.

And that’s not the only positive aspect of the Galaxy. It’s extremely easy to get to grips with, even for those users who might be less familiar with the touch screen format, the apps (which include many of those popular on the iPad, such as Angry Birds) are easy to download and use, the touch screen keypad is fine for basic tasks, and the 3 megapixel camera and video camera are refreshingly easy to use and also provide some of the best quality pictures that you’ll have seen from an Android device.

All of which is decent enough, but given the sheer brilliance of its rival you’re still left with the impression that the Galaxy tab is lacking something – it almost feels like the tablet equivalent of buying supermarket own brand baked beans when you really wanted Heinz. Although it’s hard to pinpoint what it’s lacking exactly – it could be the size or the general feeling that some of the features and functions aren’t quite as good as they could be, or that Apple has simply done them better. While it’s an acceptable alternative, it may well have to address the issues that it has and improve upon them in subsequent versions in order to avoid being lost in an increasingly crowded market.

Five apps you must download within five minutes of getting an iPhone

facebook in iPhone

Facebook on iPhone

So you’ve finally got yourself an iPhone, and have all those apps at your disposal – but with so many now available, where do you start? Well, you’ll have plenty of time to experiment with the more offbeat apps later on, but while you’re still trying to figure out your Facebook from your Fatbooth, why not equip your phone with a few must-have basics?

Facebook
Never miss another status update with the iPhone version of the social networking giant, which boasts a lot more features than the equivalent version for Blackberry and other phones – such as online chat for example. Pretty much the only thing you can’t do on this version is play Scrabble (you’ll need a Flash Player for that) or other games but it’s a small price to pay (actually it’s a free app) for having all that Facebook content at your fingertips. And of course you can use it to keep other people in touch with what you’re up to.

Skype
You may well have been using it on your laptop for some time but Skype is also available for the iPhone, and will give a new dimension to your conversations. Like the computer version the Skype for iPhone allows you to call, video call, SMS or have an online chat with your contacts – and is particularly useful if you’re calling long-distance family or friends. And given you can chat, instant message and videocall for free is one of the best bargains to be had.

BBC News
It’s always a good idea to have at least one news app on your iPhone and the BBC News one ranks among the best – it’s simple to use, has all the major stories of the day at the touch of a button as well as video footage (although you may need to be near a wi-fi connection to access this) – plus it’s all completely free. Just remember to pull down the screen to update it so that you don’t end up reading old stories.

Evernote
This nifty little free app allows you to make notes, save them and even sync them to your computer – so if inspiration strikes while you’re out and about, you need to remind yourself to do something or you just want to make a shopping list, you’ve got a place for all those random scribblings. A very useful tool – and much neater than writing everything down on Post-Its and sticking them to the fridge.

Angry Birds
You’ll get a free version of this on the phone anyway, but if there is one game worth paying (and at only a measly 59p) for then it’s this one, which has already become something of an iPhone phenomenon. The premise is simple – fire cute birds out of catapults in a bid to kill some mean green pigs who have stolen their eggs. Except it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, given all the various forts and shelters your nemeses have constructed for themselves. Each level takes less than a minute, but with hundreds to master you may well be some time. And don’t expect to be putting it down any time soon.