Samsung just recently announced in a press release that its Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 -- or the new version of the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab -- is now available for preorder for $249.99, and will be available for purchase on April 22.
It's not the only cheap 7-inch tablet powered by Google's open-source Android operating system, though. Asus unveiled a $249 tablet with a quad-core Tegra 3 processor at this year's Mobile World Congress in February, and it's not available yet but should come out later this year. Meanwhile, camera manufacturer Polaroid just submitted the plans for a low-end tablet to the FCC, which Android Authority's Adrian Diaconescu suggests might cost as little as $150 based on its specs.
When these tablets come out, they'll have their work cut out for them. The iPad's in a completely different price range and size category, but the next-best selling tablets -- Amazon's Kindle Fire, and Barnes and Noble's Nook Color and Nook Tablet -- are 7-inch tablets with streamlined menus, which are tied into the two retail giants' stores. Plus, they all cost $199 at most. What sets these new tablets apart from them?
Besides having a powerful dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 has built-in basic front- and rear-facing cameras, as well as a microSD card slot which allows you to add up to 32 GB of memory. These features are standard on most Android tablets. The Kindle and Nook don't have them; they're marketed as e-readers that can watch video and run apps, and were shipped with only the basic hardware for doing so.
Because they don't have a partnership with Google, Amazon's (and Barnes and Noble's) tablets lack Google apps, including Docs and Gmail. But while they can run those apps from the web, they can't install apps from the Google Play store, which features hundreds of thousands of free and paid Android apps. Instead, they use their own app stores, with much smaller selections (Amazon has more than Barnes and Noble).
In contrast, tablets like the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 can buy apps from Amazon's "Appstore," and can also install the Nook and Kindle Apps to buy books from their stores. They can't buy or run apps from the Nook market, though, nor can they play the Nook's animated children's books.
The Kindle and Nook ship with a minimum of preloaded, non-uninstallable software, and use simplified menus that make it easy to read books and buy more online. In contrast, "Android tablets" like the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 are closer to personal computers than appliances, with ways to customize (and possibly break) almost everything about them. They also tend to be packed with a ton of preloaded software that you can't get rid of; ComputerWorld's JR Raphael reports that of the Tab's built-in 8 GB of memory, only 4.3 GB are available when you first start it up.