The attack of the cheap Android tablets
Lately the internet has been abuzz with cheap Android tablet talk. This last week it was all about the Augen GenBook78 which appeared in a K-Mart circular for $150. This is not the first affordable Android tablet to get people excited, nor will it be the last. The thing that bothers us about this craze (and after the sheer amount of tweets and posts that the GenBook received last week, we’re comfortable in calling it that) is that people expect a good product for such a cheap price.
That that will never be the case.
Cheap tablets mean cheap parts. Cheap parts mean slow performance and aggravating interfacing. Ultimately, cheap tablets mean a poor experience. Paying $100 or $150 won’t get you the vital hardware that makes a tablet worthwhile; the processor will be to slow, the touch screen will be resistive, battery life will be minimal, memory pitifully weak and common ports will be mysteriously absent.
Then you have the multitude of problems with Android. There’s version fragmentation, application resolutions, lack of marketplace connection and a few smaller items. Some of these cheap Android tablet ship with Android 2.1, but most are still dredging up the past with bad quality builds of 1.5 or 1.6. Even if people buy these tablet and get past the performance issues, learn to enter the zen-like state necessary to operate a resistive touchscreen without turning a tablet into a Frisbee and have a near-constant power connect, you still have to struggle with applications to put on it. Sure, people can find ways around just about anything, but after a while is the time and frustration worth being able to open a Playstation emulator on a tablet that can barely run it?
To get a quality tablet you’re going to have to pay for it. You’ll have to pay for the faster processor, higher resolution screen, capacitive touch, larger SSD, bigger battery and better connection hardware. More importantly you’re going to have to find a manufacturer that is willing to create or modify an OS for that tablet, not just slap a “mobile” operating system on it and put it in a box. There’s no secret alchemist formula that turns junk into gold. The real formula is simple: you get what you pay for. And if you’re happy to pay very little for a tablet slightly more powerful than a digital picture frame, then the more power to you.