Buying a non-branded Android tablet might be something that many frown upon, but a no-brainer for others. If you're a member of the second category, you probably don’t care the first thing about branding and you are likely to be satisfied with the purchase, as long as the product is cheap enough to justify its not-so-impressive quality and features.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a good number of white-label Android tablets entering the market, which have, gasp, more than a decent set of specs, yet are still priced competitively compared to brand name devices. The common conception that paying a hundred bucks or less for a tablet will get you a lemon isn’t necessarily true anymore.
Judging by the impressive shipment numbers of China-based white-label Android tablets, which according to market researcher eMedia Asia, reach three million units every month this year, you shouldn’t be surprised to see tablets becoming an increasingly common sight, not only in Silicon Valley or Manhattan, but in developing countries as well.
By comparison, in 2011, the average number of white-label slates shipped every month reached just shy of a million. According to the same research firm, up to 50 million units of white-label Android tablets will be shipped in 2012.
Given the dominance enjoyed by iOS and Android in North America and Western Europe, Chinese OEMs are focusing their attention to markets in Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. A flurry of tablets coming in all shapes and sizes, from 7-inch to 10.1-inch and larger, are mass produced in China to meet the growing appetite for tablets of the developing world.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to find a reasonable quality Android tablet that comes with 1024 x 600 resolution and 4GB of internal storage at $100. More often than not, these “no-name” devices will even ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. They also come with some features that are not present on pricier competing products, such as HDMI out and regular USB slots. Ultimately, we may have to thank these small manufacturers, as they put pressure on big vendors to reduce the prices of their own Android tablets.
What’s next for white-label Android tablet manufacturers? The market for affordable Android tablets may not be able to sustain the hundred or so China-based manufacturers – according to Digitimes — that are now churning tablets out by the millions. We may see one or two becoming the next HTC, while the rest will remain in the background until the trend fades away.
What’s clear though, there'll always be a market for cheap but reasonably well-built Android tablets.