updated 08:30 pm EDT, Mon August 1, 2011
Teardown experts compared six competitors
Teardown and technology analysts iSuppli have done a comparative analysis of the design of the iPad and iPad 2 against five of its main competitors and found that, from a design standpoint, the non-Apple tablets can't compete with the efficiency of Apple's design. The company compared 16GB models of the iPad 1 and 2, the Motorola Xoom, the Blackberry Playbook, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Asus Eee Pad and HP's Touchpad.
The iSuppli team credit Apple's in-house design, control of both OS and components and more-efficient use of RAM as the main factor behind the competitive edge. Almost all non-Apple tablets comprise a combination of outside-contractor hardware design with off-the-shelf processors and an OS not developed by the manufacturer, leading to inefficiencies. Of the five non-Apple tablets tested, only the Playbook and HP's Touchpad utilized an OS that was developed in-house.
For example, because Apple also controls the operating system used in the iPad and also designed the processor, it can achieve performance as good or better than competitors with half the RAM found on non-Apple tablets, saving the company $14 per unit in basic material costs. Apple's ability to know in advance every component that will go into iPad hardware allows them to customize and leverage hardware to maximize performance, as well as significantly reduce costs -- a factor that allowed Apple to set the bar for tablet pricing at $499, which in turn has cost competitors dearly in terms of quick profitability.
The iSuppli analysis also credits the custom-designed battery of the iPad as a factor, allowing Apple to shape the iPad for the best feel rather than let the battery dictate design. Most non-Apple tablets feature a more squarish, thicker and heavier backing that feels less comfortable to hold, but was necessary to approach the standard of battery life Apple set 15 months ago.
The report also notes that Apple CEO Steve Jobs' prediction that tablets smaller than the 9.7-inch iPad screen would not find wide acceptance appears to have come true, with 10.1- and 9.7-inch displays proving most popular. RIM's seven-inch Blackberry Playbook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab in particular did not meet sales expectations, with Samsung now having launched a 10-inch version.
Because of the smaller size of their offerings, RIM and Samsung's seven-inch models both rated lower "bill of materials" (raw component, or BOM) costs than any model of iPad. The seven-inch Playbook had a BOM cost of $271 with a retail price of $499, while the Galaxy Tab had a BOM cost of $262 with an original retail price of $749 (off contract). The original iPad had a BOM cost of $268, while the current model has a BOM cost of $310.
Buyers should expect the next generation tablets to make quad-core processors a standard item, likely beginning next year, the report notes. The analysis found other interesting comparisons as well, noting that only Asus and HP's offerings incorporated the higher-quality IPS multitouch displays like the iPad uses (of the brands compared), that the iPad 2's camera was significantly lower resolution than any of the compared tablets, and that the iPad 2's battery was the largest capacity (6930mAh) of the models looked at in the report.