By Harry McCracken | Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 2:19 am
Hardware maker Hannspree is best known–in the United States, at least–for idiosyncratic products such as TV sets shaped like fruit and zoo animals. But it makes some more straightforward stuff, too, including Android tablets. So far, its tablets, which aren’t sold in the US, have run Android 2.2–a fact that I instinctively want to squawk about, since that aging smartphone OS was never designed for large-screen devices. But I’m attending the IFA Global Press Conference in Spain, a preview event for September’s IFA consumer electronics megaevent in Berlin, and a Hannspree executive explained in an unusually straightforward and illuminating fashion why it’s using an old version of Android.
Here’s the scoop: Hannspree wants to hit a low price point for its tablets that will appeal to people who haven’t been ready to spring for any of these devices. But in order to use Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Hannspree says, manufacturers need to meet hardware specs set by Google–which include minimum screen requirements and which mandate the inclusion of two cameras. Hannspree plans to sell a Honeycomb tablet in the third quarter of this year, but for now, to keep prices low, it’s been avoiding Honeycomb and using a custom interface developed by a company named Tap ‘n Tap to make Android 2.2 more tablet-friendly.
Hannspree’s Android 2.2 tablet sells for 379 euros, or a bit under $550. (The iPad 2’s $499 starting price in the US is low by international standards: here in Spain, the most basic model costs 479 Euros, or about $690.)
Until recently, of course, Apple’s rivals have had trouble even matching the iPad’s starting price, let alone dipping below it; it’s only been recently that competitors such as RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook have managed to start at $499. I’d like to see tablets get even more affordable–so I’m at least vaguely sympathetic to the quandary that a company like Hannspree is in. The world could use decent basic tablets at $399 or even $299, but with respectable software; I hope that future versions of Android–and, of course, economies of scale–will help to make that possible.
So are you in favor of tablets sticking to beefy components–dual-core processors, high-resolution screens, twin cameras, and copious storage–or might you be interested in something less fancy as long as it was able to provide a smooth software experience?
(Full disclosure: Messe Berlin, the organizer of IFA, covered my travel costs to attend the IFA Global Press Conference event.)