Sub $200 Android tablets arrives: is the iPad doomed?

Posted on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 by Erlik

When the $499 iPad tablet was announced last month, many journalists commented that the device was surprisingly affordable for an Apple product. This may not actually be the case however, as several sub $200 competitors running the Android operating system have appeared. Will the iPad be able to gain major market share when it costs more than twice the price of other tablets or is the iPad doomed to be a "high-end only" product like the Mac?

The $179 Archos 7 vs the $ 499 iPad

The Archos 5 inch tablet has never really been a competitor to the iPad, as the screen size did put it more in the MID / media player category than the tablet category. The new 7 Inch Archos tablet running Android on the other hand is clearly aiming at the iPad crowd. Its major selling point: the price, with some models going for as low as $179 (for the 2GB version), less than half the price of the iPad. Spec-wize the Archos tablet is somewhat inferior to the iPad: it uses an older ARM 9 processor (but then the iPad A4 processor is not very fast either), has less storage (but allows for an SD card to be used), has a lower resolution screen and a more limited choice of application, but on the other hand it has a better media player (more formats are supported), do offer a browsing experience on par with the iPad and may support flash lite (flash 10.1 won't be possible however). You probably will not get an integration as good as between the iPad and iTunes, but then you won't have to deal with Apple censorship (you can install ANY working application just by downloading the apk file) and Linux is officially supported as your desktop OS.

Can the iPad survive?

The big problem for Apple is that for most common tasks such as surfing, reading eBooks or playing audio and video the Archos tablet will will perform as well as the iPad for less than half the price. The only usage scenarios where Apple dominate is mobile gaming, will that be enough to justify the price? For some people most certainly, and you can expect a lot of Apple fans to be ready to pony up the cash too, but I am afraid that the average user won't see it that way and that the iPad will stay an high end device with limited market share. When Apple launched the iPhone they were miles ahead of the competition and thus could justify the premium price, but with the iPad they will have to face aggressive competition from day one, and not only from Archos. When you add to that the recent shenanigans concerning "sexy apps" (not so much a problem in the US, but much more here in Europe where we are not used to that kind of censorship) I can see Android tablets winning the tablet war on the long term.

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9 Responses to "Sub $200 Android tablets arrives: is the iPad doomed?":

Anonymous says:

I love this article. To sum it up...the Archos will beat the iPad. It's a true competitor. Its bundled media player is better, is cheaper and might possibly support flash.

Except that it is slower, has less storage, lower resolution, no 3G, less apps and is smaller.

Yep. True competitor.

4ebees says:

It would seem quite balanced:

lists good and bad.

Apple iPad? Not going to make it other than on glitz.

It will soon be overtaken in performance and ability by a number of other offerings...but it has the Apple distortion field and so will appeal to those who are more interested in form over function.

Anonymous says:

A complete new range of ARCHOS Internet Tablets, based on an ARM Cortex up to 1 GHz, will also be launched in the summer 2010 offering a richer set of features with screen sizes from 3” to 10”.

RIP iPad!

Also towards the end of this year, various Google Chrome OS based devices will also flood the market as well from big name manufacturers like Acer, HP and Asus.

I don't think there is enough time for the Apple factor which allows under performing devices to sell at overpriced cost will have time to develop traction in this case.

Aeiluindae says:

The reason tablets other than the iPad will fail is from lack of publicity. Everyone knows about the iPad. Nobody knows about the Notion Ink Adam, the tablet/netbook Lenovo announed at CES, or the Archos tablet dicussed above. Then the one actual feature where the iPad is better than any of the tablets I just mentioned is the built-in app store, which far exceeds anything on Android, even if it does have draconian restrictions, and the deals with publishers for eBooks. Those are the things that will matter to the general population. That being said, if another company can publicize their product well, and get the other things in line, then they'll kill it for sure.

Anonymous says:

What, nobody knows Google? Acer? Asus? HP? Nokia?

Who wants mobile phone apps of a big tablet? Besides most Apple fanatics who might be potential customers already have an Apple iPhone. Who would want another (oversized) iPhone to run iPhone applications?

People buying iPad will be looking for applications specific to tablets of which there are virtually none yet.

On the other hand, tablets for use for Internet browsing and cloud computing, is what the majority would use a tablet for, and iPad doesn't support Flash media. For its Internet browsing competitors, the vast Internet and any cloud application is a free appstore, whereas iPad is restricted to its costly phone gizmo apps on the iPhone appstore.

On top of that the Internet is there now, Apples tablet apps aren't, so iPad doesn't have enough time to gain traction before its better cheaper competitors arrive.

Roland says:

AAPL is suing HTC over Android, which is open source. AAPL is now behaving worse than MS. But the future of Android and this suit, and this tablet and the HTC smartphone, may depend on how the Supremes rule on Bilski, due out RealSoonNow. Software patents are evil!

Jeremy A says:

Am I missing something or is the author of this article speaking in some other currency or just crazy? The Archos 7 tablet retails at $449.99

The cheapest I could find it anywhere was from at $300.

Where are you getting this $179 figure? The Archos 5 even retails more than that, $250 for the 8GB version (which is the cheapest one available).

Anonymous says:

We have two netbooks already at home (we have two boys that play sports so a looooot of practice time to kill) and I dont see a need for a tablet even if we might buy a new netbook soon (were giving our 9inch to a niece).
But at under 199$, we might buy one just for the can but Im not crazy about having to hold it all the time.

The one way a tablet might be interesting is to make it like the Lenovo U1 where you have the tablet which connects to a keyboard and base and transforms to a laptop.
The U1 is expensive because it uses two CPUs; an ARM for the tablet and then some high powered DuoCore for when you put the tablet to the laptop base.

But it wont be long till many manufacturers make an ARM powered netbook where you will be able to remove the touchscreen and use as tablet. (I actually saw it about a month ago, so its something already out)

THAT is the only way I see tablet being useful.

Tablet/netbook is more useful and can do more than simple tablet.

MikeFM says:

I may get a Archos tablet as I've been considering a Archos 5 (will have to compare 7) but I will probably pick up a couple iPads. Android devices are okay for a geek like me but for gifts to people like my parents that get themselves into trouble I want something with a really clean UI and no way to get themselves into trouble. If Android would offer a sandbox mode more like the iPhone OS and had a cleaner UI I think they'd sell more. Most consumers don't want choices. The lower price is the main thing Android currently has going for it but I think they could easily put real pressure on Apple.

I'd like to see Apple offer a less sandboxed mode too as an option to jailbreaking. I think Apple should also stop any effort to block jailbreaking of the iPad and iTouch and unlocked iPhones. It's not hard but they shouldn't make an effort to block me from using my legally purchased device.

Not that Google is any better. I own a Google Search Appliance and Google blocks accessing my own software/hardware with that and it costs a lot more than any iPhone.