The past few weeks have seen Indian users literally being deluged by tablets. After a relatively quiet start (there were only two major tabs in the legit market – the OlivePad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab – at the end of 2010), the Indian tablet market seems to have finally taken off. In the last two weeks itself, we have seen the arrival of the likes of the Motorola Xoom, the HTC Flyer, and the BlackBerry PlayBook, and are bracing ourselves for the 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab to descend any day now. You would think that buying a tablet would be a tough choice for the Indian consumer, with all these tablets floating around them. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Visit any electronic goods store and you will still see the iPad outselling its rivals by a considerable margin. Yes, there is interest in other tabs and thanks to price cuts, those at the lower end like the first Samsung Galaxy Tab and even the OlivePad are selling a lot more than they did, but for sheer value for money as well as aspirational value, the iPad remains the tab to beat. Hit the jump to see the reasons why we think the iPad is still standing tall. Also Read - How to use self-chat feature on WhatsApp to create notes, to-do list
- Apps: We are sick and tired of saying this, but all your dual core processors and multi-megapixel cameras are of little use if there are no apps to make the most of them. No one seems to have heard, alas. We really wish that we had a penny for every time we have held a tablet and uttered those words, “Yes, great hardware, but what do we do with it…” And do not give us numbers of apps on different app stores – the iPad has a hundred thousand apps designed solely for it, and all of them pass through a quality control test, unlike many of the “bookmarks-masquerading-as-apps” on the Android Marketplace. Android will have more apps than the iOS in the coming months, but it is the quality of apps that counts.
- Price: A few years ago, if you had told us that Apple would be battering its competitors on price, we would have leaned forward and smelt your breath in an attempt to work out what you had been drinking. Well, that is exactly what has happened. Apple is actually slaughtering its opponents in the Indian market with its pricing – among the new heavy-specced tablets, only the Acer Iconia 500 and the BlackBerry PlayBook have prices that can match the starting price of an iPad 2. And we are not buying the “we have better specs at a higher price” argument that has been put forward by the likes of the Flyer and Xoom. The stark fact is a person can get an iPad 2 for about Rs 27,900 – well below those worthies. The Iconia 500 and PlayBook match that tag, but alas, have not the apps to stand up to the iPad 2 – the PlayBook even has a smaller display.
- Performance: We have messed around with every tab that is in the Indian market at the moment and well, to be painfully blunt – none of them have yet come close to working the way the iPad does. Yes, each has some fantastic features – the PlayBook is an awesome browsing device, the USB port on the Acer Iconia A500 is very handy for those thumb drive times, the HTC Flyer’s Sense interface is brilliant to use, the Xoom is super for watching videos and playing games – but in sum, none of them really match the iPad’s ease of use and versatility (brought about to a large extent by that massive app library). In many cases, the good is being undone by serious flaws – the PlayBook’s dependence on BB for e-mail, the absence of apps for the Honeycomb tablets and their relatively dull interface, the Xoom’s non-functioning memory card port, the Flyer’s insanely high price, and so on.
- Non-existent weaknesses: Speaking of flaws, we have been reminded ad nauseum about the problems with the iPad: no Flash support in browsing, no USB ports, it is too big, its cameras are pathetic, etc. Well, the Acer Iconia A500 does have a USB port, all the new Android tabs and the PlayBook support Flash, the HTC Flyer and BlackBerry PlayBook have smaller form factors, and almost every tab out there flattens the iPad’s modest cameras in megapixel count. And yet… we have not seen people lining up for them, the way they did for the iPad in India. As Rajat Agrawal pointed out in a TV discussion – are these really weaknesses, or just a meandering opposition clutching at straws to stay afloat? So far, it definitely seems the latter. People are not exactly flocking to tablets screaming, “Hallelujah, Flash support,” or “Yipee! USB!”
- Design: Looks do matter when you are asking someone to invest as much as they would to get an iPad. And here we have to hand it to the folks at Cupertino – in spite of all the competition, the iPad still scores heavily in the look and feel department, even though it is more voluminous and heavier than some of the competition. It is matched to an extent by the compact PlayBook, but the others frankly are not going to turn heads. The Xoom feels bulkier, the HTC Flyer is sleek and has a few flashes of style but is not really exceptional, and the Iconia 500 is in best Acer tradition, designed more for function than flaunting.
- The aura, the aspiration: We would be the last ones to claim that the iPad is the perfect device, but the stark fact is that it has captured the imagination of the world (heck, it was on the cover of BOTH Time and Newsweek) . Now, that is a pretty difficult order to go up against. The Xoom and the PlayBook had perhaps the best chance of matching that – the Xoom because of Google’s endorsement and for being the first tablet to run Android 3.0 (a version designed especially for tablets) and the PlayBook for its appeal to the enterprise and BB-toting crowd. Both will have takers, but both have also disappointed to an extent – the Xoom by not really having enough apps and being released with non-functioning features (that memory card slot again!) and the PlayBook for being so dependent on BB for mail, and also having the same “appy” problem. Updates might fix both, but a fair deal of damage has been done to their credibility as iPad-killers. Take our word for it – the tab that slays the iPad will need to occupy the aspirational slot in the minds of the public, which in turn leads to retailers taking special attention to displaying and stocking the device. And that will take some doing.
Mind you, all this could soon change. The HP TouchPad might be able to offer stiff resistance with its WebOS interface and the next wave of Samsung Galaxy Tabs are on their way. Android might get a dramatic update and start attracting some great apps. A designer in some lab somewhere might come up with a device that makes the iPad look ungainly. Apple itself might stumble very badly and goof up on the hardware and/or software front. This is the world of technology, after all. Anything could happen. Two years ago, we would not have been on millions of people buying tablets. Also Read - Beware! this Squid game app can play off with your data
And it is not as if the iPad can’t be beaten. It can. And the ingredients to defeat it are in the Indian market at the moment. Let’s see: all you need is the PlayBook’s browsing brilliance and multitasking muscle, the Xoom’s processing power and multimedia skills, the Inconia A500’s USB port, the Flyer’s effortless portability and easy to use HTC Sense interface, a few thousand good apps (with a few dozen great ones), a design that is a blend of the PlayBook’s solidity and the Flyer’s stylishness, the cameras of the Xoom, and the price of the Acer Iconia A500. Also Read - Clubhouse will soon let users to pin links to the top of rooms
Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But until someone gets all that in one device, the iPad will rule in India. And I daresay, the world.
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