Apple, Google and Amazon Accused of Profiteering on Flash Memory In Their Tablet Offerings

November 21, 2013 - Written By Peter Holden

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s never been more important to choose the correct tablet when deciding to give one as a gift to the nearest and dearest (at least since last Christmas). An important choice when choosing a tablet is the size of the internal storage. With most manufacturers offering anything from 8GB upwards, and each incremental increase being paired with an increase in cost, it should come as no surprise to learn that the various manufacturers have seen the increased storage options as an easy way to line their pockets, this is according to a Which? report. In case you are wondering, Which? is a shrewd UK consumer magazine that focuses on reviewing consumer products in categories ranging from electronics to utilities, with a close eye on value-for-money.

You may be asking, just which manufacturers are overcharging, and by how much? Well, the answer is pretty much all of them; Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Sony are some of the big names. When Which? magazine asked leading UK PC manufacturer, Chilliblast, just how expensive Flash memory is to purchase, Chilliblast’s Ben Miles said that 16GB modules of Flash memory is ‘mind-numbingly cheap now’. He went on the state that:

“As a general rule, for manufacturers like ourselves, Flash costs less than 40p($0.65) per GB, so for companies to charge so much for an extra 16GB seems scandalous, with the difference in cost between manufacturing a product with 16GB and 32GB of memory would probably equating to less than £6 ($10).”

DRAMeXchange has tracked the market price of Flash memory from August-October this year, and 16GB modules of the type of memory used in tablets costs an average of £5.85 ($3.63). This is a generic figure, which doesn’t take into account exclusive deals that the tech giants have made with memory manufacturers in order to gain a better price on the components. But it does give a good idea of just how much profit is derived from the prices charged for tablets offering memory upgrades.

So, just how much are you being paying when choosing to purchase a tablet with a memory upgrade? The price seems to vary, with Android tablet prices generally charging around £40-£50 ($64-$80) extra for doubling from 16GB to 32GB storage, although the Nexus 10 requires a £70 ($112) increase.

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Infographic courtesy of Which?

Of course, when comparing tablets, it’s only right to include Apple, who have naturally charged an even greater premium for the privilege of owning an iPad Air with increased storage, adding a profitable mark-up of at least 1,267%, based on the market price of £5.85 ($3.63),as you can see below.

iPadAirIt also wouldn’t be fair to leave Microsoft out of the equation, their Surface 2 tablet with 32GB of internal storage sells for £359 ($579), and they ask for a surcharge of £80 ($129) for an increase to 64Gb. This is all the more galling when you consider that when you buy the 32GB version, you only have 18GB available to use. Although at least you can add extra storage via a memory card, unlike the iDevices.

Overall, consumers are overcharged by manufacturers attempting to distinguish their various models by the level of internal storage and price. One wonders just how much extra we pay for the privilege of having a tablet that accepts a 3G/LTE sim-card?

Which? magazine have advised consumers to buy tablets that come with MicroSD card support. And, whilst this makes some sense, it does ignore other reasons one might have for buying a Nexus tablet; faster updates being an example of just one of them.

As Android consumers, we appear to be getting a better deal than iPad or Surface tablet buyers. Do you think the premium for a memory upgrade is still too much? Are you outraged? What do you think about this practice? What would be a fair price to pay for an upgrade in storage? And which tablet will you be buying this Christmas?

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