The idea of low-cost Android tablets is not new in the slightest. Many affordable models have already been made available in the past, and there will surely be many others introduced in the future.
Indeed, an entire market filled with low-cost models exists outside of the mainstream, where the big players play. It’s called the “white-box” market and it is where lesser known electronics manufacturers set to conquer the hearts — and wallets — of those who are working on a tight budget.
The white-box tablet market has been chugging along quite nicely, with unit sales expected to hit the 40 million mark by the end of 2012. And there is still absolutely no involvement from big-name companies at all. However, all of this is about to change if a new report from the Taiwanese at DigiTimes is to be believed.
Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and Samsung are all reportedly going to compete in a new tablet war. The white-box tablet war, if you will. And for actual white-box players, 2013 could be the beginning of one very rough ride.
According to the above-mentioned report, the impending introduction of low-cost tablets ($99-$149) from both Acer and Asus will spark a new competition that is inevitably going to drive many of today’s low-cost tablet makers out of business. Sources cited in the report say that they expect about one-third of all existing white-box players to exit the market before the first half of 2013 is even over. And that’s not the worst part.
The same sources paint an even grimmer picture for the second half of 2013, saying that by then, only one-third of current white-box players will remain. What exactly is going to cause all of this?
As mentioned earlier, it’s going to be the launch of the latest low-cost tablets from Acer and Asus that does it. Lenovo and Samsung are said to be eyeing the low-cost tablet market as well, but neither of them are going to get into the game just yet. Evidently, they’d rather sit back and watch as their competitors make mistakes — if any — and learn from them.
Here’s how the white-box tablet war will unfold. First, Acer will introduce a new low-end Android tablet called the Iconia B1. It is expected to become available early next year with a very enticing $99 price tag. And then there’s also Asus, which is said to be gearing up to launch a new $149 tablet (or two) early next year. Thanks to these moves and similar ones from other big-name companies, all but one-third of current white-box market players will manage to stick around by the second half of 2013.
If you’re a white-box player, this news is certainly scary. But can you imagine how scared Acer and Asus are right now? To take on “the little guy” after failing to hold their own in the big leagues. What ever happened to picking on someone your own size?
The truth is, big players like Acer and Asus know that the white-box market is eating them alive. If you’re a big-name company that sells mid-range to high-end tablets right now, you’re in trouble. Some exceptions to this are Apple, Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble. But a lot of today’s tablets are wasted efforts, lost in a sea of little green robot clones all dressed in slightly different outfits.
White-box players know what sells: devices with acceptable entry-level features and ridiculously low price tags. Some models can even be purchased for as low as $50 now. For bigger companies, which tend to charge upwards of $500 for their own entry-level units, this is a huge blow. Cutting the price down to about $100 is a step in the right direction.
So now that the low-cost tablet market is going to get some attention from the big guys, what kind of changes could a consumer reasonably expect?
First, there will be more and more affordable models made available from big companies that most people know and trust. This will surely drive the quality of the tablets up by a considerable measure, and perhaps it might even cause white-box players to work harder on ensuring quality on their end as well.
There’s also the possibility that white-box players will step up to compete against the big companies with their own high-end offerings. This will likely drive the prices of high-end models down to a point where it will again be possible to completely overlook how much a product costs. Instead, a buyer would need only to consider the actual pros and cons of one product when compared against another that lies in its price range.
No one really knows for sure how this will all turn out in the end. But one thing that’s clear is that more competition means happier consumers. Competition drives companies to work harder at delivering interesting products at affordable prices. This gives prospective buyers a clear chance of effecting change by way of simply voting with their wallet.