Chua Hian Hou – Straits Times Indonesia
Singapore. So, you want that must-have touch-screen tablet computer but are unwilling to fork out hard-earned money for the likes of big brands Apple and Samsung?
Well, you can look forward to a slew of cheaper options – mostly the lesser-known Chinese electronics brands – within the year.
At last week’s CommunicAsia technology show in Singapore, there were easily a dozen such electronics manufacturers showing off their tablets to crowds of trade visitors.
It was easy to see the attraction: Prices for these tablets were as low as $85 for lower-end models, up to $150 for machines claiming to be as good as those from Apple, Samsung and Motorola, which can cost four times more.
While these low-cost tablets are not in wide circulation at present, since small manufacturers typically do not have the distribution networks or marketing budgets to showcase their products like the big brands do, industry observers expect them to make their presence felt over time.
Already, one can buy a cheap tablet online via sites such as eBay, or at tech haunts in Singapore or Jakarta, where several shops have imported them in limited quantities.
It is only a matter of time before these models appear in mainstream electronics superstores, said technology consulting firm Ovum’s analyst for consumer IT, Tim Renowden.
While there are no figures showing how well such tablets are doing, some Singapore consumers like businessman Gerard Tan are already biting.
The 36-year-old, who was at Sim Lim Square shopping for such a device, said he had “wanted a tablet for some time but I don’t want to spend too much in case my kids break it.”
Some analysts, however, said would-be customers should keep the adage “buyer beware” in mind.
Renowden said discount tablets “vary in quality, but typically cheap tablets have a lower-quality screen (and) a slower processor as well as an older version of the operating system. These factors can limit their usability.”
Despite such limitations, these tablets could appeal to price-sensitive buyers who may just want a basic device for Web browsing, e-mail and reading.
In defense of the branded tablets’ turf, Samsung Asia product marketing manager Winston Goh said that just because the same software or hardware parts are used, it does not mean the cheap end-products are the same.
Other factors to consider include quality control at the factory where the device was made, he said. Consumers, he added, should “get some hands-on experience before putting hard-earned cash on the table.”
That was what Tan was mulling over at Sim Lim. The father of two, whose budget was S$300, said the sets he had tried out were “not as good as the iPad, but not bad considering the price.”
Both Goh and Renowden expect that, over time, branded tablets will become cheaper. Goh said: “Average retail prices of tablets will come down over time. The interesting questions are how much, how far, and how fast.”
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to
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