Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to launch new Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablets

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Samsung Electronics unveiled two new high-end tablets to challenge Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad and lined up strong U.S. carrier support for the gadgets.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) will launch the Galaxy Tab S tablets later this year with LTE support, and Sprint's model will support its tri-band Spark service. However, Samsung did not provide launch dates or pricing for the LTE models of the devices, one of which has an 8.4-inch display and the other has 10.5-inch display.

Samsung said the Wi-Fi version of the Tab S 8.4 will be available for $400, while the Wi-Fi-only Tab S 10.5 will cost $500.  Samsung said its taking pre-orders now and the devices will be available in July at Samsung.com, Amazon, Best Buy, Fry's, Office Depot, Office Max, PC Richard & Son, Sears, Tiger Direct and Walmart.com

Samsung's new tablets are a direct challenge to the price points of Apple's iPad mini with Retina display and iPad Air. Samsung emphasized the devices' slim dimensions -- both tablets are 6.6 mm thin. The Tab S 8.4 weighs less than one pound. Both run on Android 4.4, have octa-core processors, 8-megapixel rear cameras and 2.1-megapixel front-facing cameras and WQXGA Super AMOLED displays.   

The tablets also feature a built-in fingerprint sensor and offer more apps compatible with Samsung's "Multi Window" software, which lets users to open up to two windows at once. Additionally, with Samsung's WatchON service, users can access a TV program guide directly from the Tab S, or use Tab S as a remote control. Samsung also said the tablets come with one-year free of Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi access, a 12-month subscription to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, a six-month trial subscription to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, a three-month subscription to the New York Times, three months of free Sirius XM Radio and three months free service to Audible.

As CNET notes, Samsung has more than a dozen tablets on the market, but did not think it had a truly high-end tablet product until now. The Galaxy Tab S boasts a vivid and colorful display. "There was a clear gap in the flagship space that we wanted to fill," Nick DiCarlo, vice president of portfolio planning and product marketing at Samsung's U.S. mobile arm, told CNET.

Samsung remains the world's largest smartphone maker by volume but some analysts are worried that the company is too dependent on mobile for its revenue and profits. Competitors such as LG Electronics are starting to close the gap on design and features, which could make it difficult for Samsung to differentiate its products.  "LG is using Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) chips and Android software, and Samsung is using Qualcomm chips and Android software," Nomura analyst C.W. Chung told the Journal.

Chung expects operating profit at the Samsung's mobile unit, which accounts for three-quarters of Samsung's total earnings, to fall 13 percent this year from last year, and drop by a further 16 percent  in 2015. Margins, he worried, could drop into the teens.

Samsung said in a statement  to the Journal that the company has been growing in other core areas of its business even as it has taken leadership in the smartphone and wider handset markets, and "continues to invest heavily in R&D to ensure future growth," including in healthcare.

For more:
- see this release
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this separate WSJ article (sub. req.)

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