There's no questioning the fact that Samsung makes the best Android tablets on the market. One can argue that Samsung is the only company that provides Android with a decent footing in the global tablet market. Out of the 162.8 million tablets shipped in 2022, Apple accounted for 38% with 61.8 million units of the market followed by Samsung in second place with 18.6% market share from 30.3 million units shipped.
Apple has long been the dominant player in the global tablet market. There are several reasons for that. The iPad is widely considered to be a high-quality and premium tablet lineup. Apple's decision to launch iPadOS separately has also improved the software optimization and functionality of its tablets.
Other than Android, there is no other tablet platform that can compete with Apple. It's no secret that Android isn't terribly well optimized for the tablet form factor. Samsung has tried to bridge the gap with One UI and Samsung DeX but it has no control over the underlying shortcomings of Android on tablets. So Samsung then has to do what it does best, launch a wide range of tablets across the entire price spectrum to make its tablets accessible to as many people as possible.
Apple isn't really in the business of making “affordable” devices. For example, you can't get a brand new iPad or iPhone from the company for $200. Samsung has multiple options for both phones and tablets at and even below this price point. Instead of getting into a race to the bottom on pricing, Apple has diversified its product lineup just enough to make them more attainable without losing its perception as a premium brand.
There's considerable demand for small-sized tablets, and Apple knows it
The iPad mini is a result of that strategy. As Apple expanded its flagship iPad series and introduced larger and more expensive sizes, it launched the mini to provide a full iPad experience in a smaller footprint and at a more affordable cost. This allowed the company to appeal to customers who wanted a more compact yet powerful tablet without breaking the bank.
Apple previously updated the iPad mini every year but since 2016 the new models have arrived infrequently. The last major update came in 2021 when a redesigned iPad mini was launched with Apple's flagship A15 Bionic chipset. It remains available for purchase at $499, $100 cheaper than the latest iPad Air, and $300 cheaper than the base iPad Pro. There are rumors now that Apple may launch a new iPad mini with spec upgrades this year.
Apple doesn't feel the need to refresh the iPad mini every year because there's no real competitor for the tablet. At $529.99, the Galaxy Tab S7 FE comes the closest but its performance is no match for the iPad minis. It also has a massive 12.4-inch display compared to the mini's 8.3-inch panel. So even if you had no problem paying more for it, if the larger screen size is a dealbreaker for you, you wouldn't consider the Galaxy Tab S7 FE.
That will also be true for the Galaxy Tab S8 FE that's currently in development and expected to arrive later this year. We're not considering the Galaxy Tab A series here as those are mid-range and entry-level models with a night and day performance difference compared to the iPad mini.
The question remains, why is Samsung not challenging Apple in this segment of the market? Surely a compact, premium Galaxy Tab in this price range will find many takers. It would also enable the company to truly compete with the iPad mini, much like it does with the current high-end iPads with its Galaxy Tab S8+ and Ultra models.
The iPad mini is proof that millions of customers still want tablets with smaller displays. Some of you may also remember that the original flagship Galaxy Tab S was available in 8.4-inch and 10.5-inch sizes. Samsung itself has made many 8.4-inch Galaxy Tab A tablets recently. If there is demand, why not cater to it with a flagship compact tablet?
It may be difficult to comprehend at first why someone wouldn't want a big display on their tablet, particularly when they want to use it as an entertainment device. The fact of the matter is that many don't. They like the portability and versatility of the smaller form factor. It's easier to handle when you want to get some reading done before bed, more comfortable to play a casual game on, safer in the hands of young children, etc. The lower price point certainly helps, too.
Galaxy Z Fold devices are arguably one solution, but not the best solution
One could argue that the Galaxy Z Fold handsets are effectively an iPad mini competitor, at least as far as the screen size is concerned. The Galaxy Z Fold 4's foldable 7.6-inch display in the closest in size but the aspect ratio is off, the crease may be a dealbreaker for some, and it doesn't have as big of a battery. Let's also not forget that many users prefer keeping their work and entertainment devices separate.
Since the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a full-fledged smartphone, using it simply as a compact table will be a tremendous waste of the device's potential. Let's not forget that you can buy three iPad minis for the price of one Galaxy Z Fold 4 and still have some money left over.
A tablet is also a way for users to disconnect from their main devices. Despite having the latest foldables and Galaxy S flagships at my disposal, I never keep streaming apps or even games on my personal device, all of them go on my trusty Galaxy Tab. I'm free from distractions when I stream a show, play a game or read an e-book. It lets me have a break from the neverending email, Slack, social media, and other notifications when I've disconnected for the day. A lot of customers comprehend the tablet's value proposition as being entirely different than that of the smartphone and that's largely why they buy one.
Samsung has never been wary of expanding its product lineup when it feels there's a market to be captured. If anything, the company has always had a reputation of launching way too many devices. It's surprising to see that it has never really considered taking the fight to the iPad mini. For all intents and purposes, Samsung has left the ground open for the iPad mini, choosing not to fight with it at all.
Samsung can breathe new life into its tablet lineup by launching a compact, flagship Galaxy Tab that has a smaller AMOLED display with other high-end specs. Customers who want a tablet that fits this description have no other option than the iPad mini. Give them a choice, bring them into the Galaxy ecosystem and perhaps most importantly, prevent those already in it from jumping ship to Apple.