Budget tablets maintain a significant portion of the tablet market, the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire are direct proof of that fact. Asus and Amazon, along with several other manufacturers like Archos, Barnes and Noble and even Acer have seen a tremendous amount of success in lower-end tablet sales.
What seems to be the secret to achieving success in the current market, is to undercut features so as to reduce the overall cost of the device, whilst still including sound hardware. Google and Asus did this flawlessly with the Nexus 7, and again with the Nexus 10 (although, that was with Samsung and not Asus).
Naturally, the demand for budget tablets has increased, so it only makes sense that other manufacturers would come swooping in to taste a bit of profit. According to TrendForce analysts, we can expect to see a lot more tablets that are priced less than $150 in 2013.
That begs the question though, what features will be cut to make that $150 limit. TrendForce seems to believe that the best way to cut costs is to reduce the quality of the display:
"As panels and touch modules together account for 35-40% of the total material costs of a 7-inch tablet, replacing the commonly used 7-inch FFS panels with 7-inch TN LCD panels accompanied by additional wide-view angle compensation could save over 50% in panel costs"
Just as the quote from TrendForce implies, the difference between the TN displays and the standard IPS panels can be attributed to the viewing angle. TN LCD Panels have much smaller viewing angles.
That's not to say that TN displays are a lousy element to include in current tablets though. TN LCD screens usually have much faster response times and better power consumption ratings, in addition to the smaller viewing angles.
Narrow viewing angles are not actually an issue with tablets because the screens are so small. It's not like when you're viewing a large TV because a tablet is usually held closer to the subject. A TV, on the other hand, needs to be viewed from several different locations in a room.
TrendForce claims that manufacturers could deduct as much as $25 off the full retail price, by using a more cost effective display like a TN LCD screen.
What Else Could They Undermine to Make the $150 Limit
TrendForce also seems to think that using more cost effective DRAM and NAND storage components could save even more money, up to an additional $10 off the total price. Remaining frugal when it comes to DRAM and ROM storage could result in longer loading times and disc access periods for consumers. In higher end tablets, especially with devices that are designed specifically for media and gaming, more power is required, and that means better suited components.
The last significant change for budget tablets will undoubtedly include the processor. Here is what TrendForce has to say on the matter:
"For CPUs, China-based IC design houses, including Allwinner Technology, Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics, Ingenic Semiconductor, Amlogic and Nufront Software Technology (Beijing), provide 40-55nm-based processors at about US$12 per chip which could be alternatives to chips used in high-end tablets which cost about US$24"
Is Price Really a Major Factor Anymore?
Budget tablets are certainly here to stay, and that means there will always be a few devices out there that sacrifice higher-end components just to maintain a specific cost limit. Where do we draw the line, though?
Personally, I wholeheartedly disagree with most of what TrendForce is saying. The screen is a good place to start when trying to maintain a budget, and perhaps even the ROM/NAND storage is an okay place to cut costs, but everything else is needed.
If you reduce the cost of DRAM, or the Processor, it's just going to cause more issues in the long term. Less RAM, or more cost effective modules, are going to mean longer load times, and maybe even hourglassing issues. In today's world, who the hell wants to wait ten minutes for their tablet to boot up, or load the latest Sports scores? The answer is no one. I mean, the Blackberry platform almost died because of undesirable loading issues, among other things, of course.
Moving on to the processor, if you reduce the cost here, then you are going to end up with poor battery life and increased operating temperatures. It's no secret that older processors suck when compared to modern ones. Older processors consume more power and therefore will translate to worse battery life.
That's why companies developed better components and hardware, there was a need for it. It's not a good idea to sacrifice quality for the main component of any computer, and tablets are essentially just stripped down computers.
Consumers are certainly more concerned about battery life these days because when your most trusted device can't even make it through half a day, it's a problem.
Is price ultimately what is going to shoot the Android platform into the realm of success? The answer is unequivocally no, especially if we're always sacrificing the necessary equipment and components just to lower the price.
Hell, the Android device market is already fragmented enough.
Now, I'd love to hear from the rest of the community. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinion on this news in the comments below. I'm curious to see who wants more budget tablets under $150, and who thinks we already have enough?