'Ice Cream Sandwich' makes the Galaxy Tab 2 a little sweeter

Samsung Android tablet hardware is essentially unchanged, but new UI is easier to use -- except for Web browsing

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Samsung provides a better calendar
There's not much business software included on the Galaxy Tab 2 tablets. The Contacts and Email apps are the stock Android versions, which are serviceable but unsophisticated. Well, almost stock: The Email app has a floating Top button that appears when you scroll through a message to bring you back quickly to the top -- a nice touch.

Samsung provides its own calendar app instead of Google's standard client -- and Samsung's S Planner is superior. The calendar display is quite readable, even on the 7-inch tablet's small screen and in the default text sizes. Believe me, that's not usually the case on Android. Navigation is easier, and the integration of the task manager is quite nice. Plus, a quick-view mode makes it even simpler to navigate your calendar regardless of your current view.

Then there's the ability to set sophisticated repeating patterns for events, such as every weekday or every third Tuesday, unavailable in the stock Android calendar or in iOS; there's also a year view unavailable in the stock Android calendar. S Planner for the Galaxy Tab 2 is much better than Samsung's poorly designed business apps for its Galaxy Note 5-inch "phablet" smartphone/tablet hybrid.

Android 4 and custom Samsung UI improvements
Beyond the surprisingly nice S Planner app, Samsung adds its own Task Manager app, which works like the OS X Dock or Windows 7 taskbar on which you pin frequently used apps for easy access. The task bar is hidden by default, but tapping an icon at the bottom of the screen brings up the scrollable tray of pinned apps for easy launch. You can edit the tray's apps easily as well.

The Galaxy Tab 2 tablets also use the running-apps dock that "Ice Cream Sandwich" debuted. When you tap its dedicated icon button, a vertical panel appears showing the running apps and a preview of their screens, again for one-touch access. The running-apps dock and the Task Manager are complementary capabilities, which I'm glad Samsung realized. You also get the customizable widgets capability from "Ice Cream Sandwich" that gives you quick access to the weather, new emails, and the like -- one of Android's key differentiators from iOS.

The Android 4 onscreen keyboard is nicely designed, with a row of numerals always visible to reduce mode switching when typing. But on the 7-inch version, it's too easy to tap the wrong key even when typing with a single finger; I routinely tapped Caps Lock instead of A, for example. You also can use the decent handwriting recognition tool that debuted in the Samsung Note, though you'll have to provide your own stylus.

The only weird thing that Samsung has done to the Galaxy Tab 2 series is add a dedicated icon button to take screenshots. Android 4 lets you do that by pressing the volume and power buttons simultaneously, so the rationale for an always-visible icon button for this task is a head-scratcher.

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