India’s Next Aakash Tablet Will Have 4G, Will Also Turn Sow’s Ear into Silk Purse
India’s subsidized Aakash tablets have been pretty conclusively proven to be horrible hardware, but that hasn’t stopped the Indian education ministry from throwing good money after bad. The Indian Telecom minister Kapil Sibal has just announced that the Aakash program would soon be launching a 4th Aakash tablet.
Specs are still vague on the Aakash 4 tablet, but we od know that it will be available in the market in around one and a half months for 3,999 rupees, or about $65 USD. Like the earlier Aakash tablets, this tablet will have a 7″ screen, 4GB of storage, card slot, camera, and Wifi. But unlike earlier Aakash models, the latest tablet is going to have "2G, 3G and 4G connectivity".
No, I don’t know what that means, exactly. That’s what my source wrote, and it looks like they were quoting some ministry official (who probably didn’t know what he was talking about, either).
Part of the reason why no one knows what that means is that the actual status of the tablet is still up in the air. My source has indicated that tenders have been floated, which is another way of saying that the Indian govt hasn’t bought any tablets yet – they’re still waiting for companies to bid on the contract to supply the tablet.
Since there’s no actual tablet, today’s announcement is really more of a vaporware launch than anything. Given that the Aakash tablet is widely regarded as a joke in India, this should probably come as no surprise.
The first Aakash tablet was launched in late 2011, and it reportedly received 1.4 million orders in just a few months. Given the early user reviews I found at the time, I suspect that many of those tablets were quickly shipped right back to Datawind, the device maker who was under contract to produce the tablet.
That first Aakash tablet was sold to students for $35. The price was subsidized by the Indian govt, and when the tablet was released commercially in India it cost around $60 on the open market.
$60 is a cheap tablet, so much so that it is rarely worth buying. I would bet that the same can be said for the new model, too. With a subsidized price of $60 and a 3G chip, the rest of the tablet probably consists of such low quality components and cheap construction that the tablet is almost certainly going to underwhelm anyone who buys it.
I reviewed one of the Aakash tablets a couple weeks, and at $48 it was both the cheapest and the worst tablet I had ever used. That matches with other reviews I found online.
Ebook Bargains UK February 19, 2014 um 4:45 am
While your observations on the Aakash’s past, current and future specs are no doubt spot on, this report is rather missing the point of the Aakash.
It’s easy for us rich westerners to dismiss the Asakash as a joke, but for many people in Third World countries the fancy gadgets and devices we take for granted are simply unaffordable luxuries.
The Aakash is meeting a demand the likes of Samsung and Apple are unable or unwilling to cater for, and from at least one credible report Datawind and the Aakash are doing extremely well.
"Between January and September of 2013, Datawind sold 431,793 tablets in India, slightly less than Samsung’s 507,140 and well above Apple with 223,902, according to Indian research firm Cyber Media. Datawind is also seeing strong sales in Mexico and Nicaragua."
When it’s a choice between an affordable low-spec tablet in your hands or an unaffordable fancy device in the shop window Indians seem to be ignoring the reviewers and voting with their feet.
Nate Hoffelder February 19, 2014 um 1:55 pm
Actually, I think you missed the part about Indians in India regarding it as a joke.
But since you’re defending it, do you think it’s better for poor people to have a poorly constructed, marginally functional, low quality tablet rather than nothing at all? Can you back that up with any real data?
The reason i ask is that it’s already quite clear that simply giving out the hardware doesn’t actually convey any gain in educational ability or opportunity, which was the original goal of this program. Heck, it doesn’t even guaranty that the device user will develop any competencies in using the device in question (how many technologically illiterate computer owners do you know?).
These kind of things can be taught, but that can be done in the classroom. There’s no need to waste taxpayer dollars to subsidize a crappy tablet, not when the money would be better spent in schools.