Samsung to launch Galaxy Note 10.1

Samsung Electronics is taking another shot at the dominance of Apple's iPad with a tablet equipped with a digital pen and a faster processor at the same price tag.

The wi-fi-only version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 will go on sale in the US on Thursday. The price starts at 499 US dollars (£318) for the basic model with 16 gigabytes of storage and 549 dollars (£350) for the 32-gigabyte model, expandable with an external memory card. It will also go on sale in the UK.

Apple's latest iPad starts at the same price but the Note 10.1 offers some features that the iPad does not have, while its screen resolution is lower than the iPad's.

It is Samsung's first Android tablet equipped with a digital pen and can run two applications side-by-side on a screen divided in half. The split screen, made possible by the quad-core processor and two gigabytes of RAM, can be useful when taking notes while watching a video or surfing the internet.

Samsung has released about half a dozen Android tablets in the last two years under the Galaxy Tab series but none of them has been as popular as the iPad. Analysts say Android tablets are less successful because of a dearth of applications and higher prices.

But with the Note 10.1, the South Korean company believes it has a product that will find favour with corporations and schools despite the iPad's rich pool of applications and sharper screen.

While Apple makes one new model for the iPhone and iPad every year to meet demand from all around the world, Samsung releases multiple mobile products with variations in prices, screen sizes, hardware and operating systems. This strategy helped Samsung edge pass Apple in smartphone sales but has not paid off in the tablet area, probably because Samsung's previous tablets were not differentiated enough from the iPad. Samsung's second-quarter market share in the global tablet market fell to 9%, while nearly seven out of 10 tablets in the market were emblazoned with the Apple logo, according to IHS iSuppli.

Samsung has improved the pressure-sensitive pen to make it feel more natural and accurate since the "S Pen" digital pen was first introduced with the Galaxy Note last year. The unexpected success of the 5.3-inch hybrid of a smartphone and a tablet emboldened Samsung to further explore the digital pen features.

There are also some 30 applications for sketching and note-taking as well as Adobe Photoshop Touch and games where S Pen comes in handier than touching the screen. Samsung plans to expand the list of applications that support multitasking, which is currently limited to six, an official said.

Other features indicate that Samsung developed the products with the education and corporate markets in sight. The updated S Note app can recognise handwritten maths formula, geometric shapes, English alphabets and Chinese characters, allowing the digital pen to function as an input device in the absence of a physical keyboard.