The $47 Aakash Android Tablet Should Not Be Dismissed So Easily

January 30, 2012
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    Some people seem to think that because the $47 ($23 for students) Android tablet from the Indian Government is built with the minimum necessary specs for it to function, then it’s just a gimmicky tablet and no one will want it. First of all, a lot of people already want it and over 1.4 million units have been sold. So you can’t say people don’t want it. They clearly do.

    Now, the argument may be that “ok so they bought it, but now they are going to be very disappointed with it”. I wouldn’t be so sure to decide that. Why would they be disappointed with it? You can only be disappointed when you have something to compare it with. Will the performance be frustrating at times? Sure. But disappointing overall? I think that’s far from the truth. And here’s why.

    Not having a capacitive touchscreen is a first world problem. Resistive screens are definitely not as responsive as capacitive ones – but unusable? Far from it. Instead of touching it with the tip of your finger, you have to press a little harder, almost as if you were pressing a very sensitive physical button. Is that such a big deal that makes the tablet unusable? I don’t think so.

    Not having a dual core Cortex A9 processor is a first world problem. I probably hate the ARM11 processor, which is about a decade old (hard to believe, right?), probably more than anyone, and I think we should’ve gotten rid of it a long time ago. Cortex A5 was supposed to replace it, but for some reason it hasn’t so far, and now I’m starting to think they’re just waiting for Cortex A7 to appear and replace both ARM11 and Cortex A8, as a much cheaper and more efficient alternative.

    So yes, the ARM11 is barely suited for a full modern mobile OS like Android, and having it run at 333 Mhz, which is half of what low-end smartphones have today, is even worse. But you know what – as long as it doesn’t crash all the time, and the only downside is being slower, I think that’s more than ok for most Indian people.

    Here’s why people who argue against this are missing the point. The performance of the tablet is NOT the killer app. Having access to the World Wide Web, being able to read free e-books, perhaps from Google Books or from school, and play some low-end games, ARE the killer apps of a tablet. This may be hard to believe for many of us who take these for granted now, and to us is like having access to clean water. But to most of them it’s not like that at all.

    Having access to the web’s information is not something that comes easy for them or something they are used to. So having to wait say 1 minute instead of 15 seconds for a webpage to load on their tablet will not be a huge problem that makes such a cheap tablet unacceptable. That’s like us saying 10 years ago that 3.5 KB/s dial-up speeds were unacceptable because they made loading pages too slow.

    Does anyone still remember those days? Sure the pages loaded slow, but we were too excited to actually see that information and that website, to care about how slow it loaded. So this is exactly how most of the owners of this tablet will feel, too. The Aakash Android tablet will be a portal into a world of knowledge to which they didn’t have access before at all. Being 5x slower than what most of us can deal with will not stop the Indians from buying this very cheap tablet and be happy they did.

    Besides, the people buying this tablet now are only the “early adopters” from the “poor people” in India. And we all know that early adopter types are the ones who can deal with the bugs and slow performance the most, because of the “potential” of such a device. By the time the majority of Indians will want a $50 Android tablet, it will probably be 3 years from now, and it will have a dual core Cortex A7, and Android 5.0 on it.

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    • PAR

      Why are we trying to justify compromise in quality is okay? Why is it okay even if we ensure large volumes in the initial order?

      There are tons of Chinese tables available in the B2B websites of China and Taiwan available with better specifications than Aakash and for lower cost. Datawind is able to get the private buyers only because of the free publicity and endorsement by the Indian government order of 1Lakh pieces. Even without the $15 subsidy from the government, an initial assured order is part of the commercial calculation in subsidizing the cost.

      There is no other tablet in the world with $45 or less price tag is just utter lies. There are many tablets in the world with $45 or less price tag and with better specifications. Even those tablets have the same problems as Aakash tablet, fragile build quality and low of specs. Why are the chinese tablets not popular? Because they are do not have government endorsement. Simple fact. This has nothing to do with Aakash having better quality, they are all the same. Cheap components and very old technology.

      Capacitive touch screens and faster processors are not so expensive that they will make the cost of the tablet double. Mr. Tuli is not doing charity by selling the tablet at $45 to the government and at $60 in open market. He is still making and he must make profits right?

      And finally, coming to the military specs and $1000 laptops that Mr. Tuli has been comparing. There are many tablets and even smartphones that do not cost Rs. 1 Lakh but are still water, dust and shock proof. E.g., Motorola Defy (less than Rs. 20k), OLPC (less than Rs. 15k)

    • Anonymous

      IMO, the speed at which a web page loads is unlikely to be strongly related to the processor speed of the client device (assuming it’s the only work being done).