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India's $35 tablet faces backlash after quality complaints

updated 01:45 pm EST, Wed February 22, 2012

India looks beyond DataWind after Aakash concerns

Plans by India's government to roll out the $35 Aakash tablet were thrown into turmoil Wednesday after the country's Human Resource Development Ministry cast doubts on whether the Android device would survive the second wave of adoption. Despite hopes of providing a rough equivalent to the iPad for education, contracted supplier DataWind was no longer guaranteed to move on to a second phase of production after a research institution raised major complaints about the Aakash's quality. Early users complained about low battery life, sluggish performance, and an unworkable resistive touchscreen.

An unnamed official explained to Reuters that there was hopes a company could produce better hardware at a similar price or even lower. The Indian Institute of Technology believed to be pushing DataWind to ruggedize the tablet to US armed forces' MIL standards for splashes, shock, and other factors, forcing expenses to go into toughening the body instead of improving the core experience.

DataWind has responded by resisting the call and was hoping to negotiate with the Human Resource Development Ministry to possibly avoid having to ruggedize the design. There weren't any immediate signs of progress, although a $61 version for the regular public was still selling to the order of "tens of thousands" a day.

The Aakash had been development largely as a reaction to the iPad and a desire to get some of its benefits for education without the cost. By subsidizing the price for end users to $35, the aim was to give university students in Indian schools a tablet that could modernize learning, including through e-books.

Quality concerns were factored in almost as soon as hardware details were made public. Getting to even the higher $61 price meant a 366MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, and 2GB of storage, features that are considered below standard even among other economy tablet designers. Apple is largely out of contention given that its American price is 14 times higher than that of the subsidized Aakash, but many of the complaints about the current hardware would require significantly more expensive parts like capacitive displays in order to get relatively close to the iPad.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. facebook_John

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    +19

    $35? What do you expect?

    For $35 what do you expect? iPad performance? Really?
    You think if Apple could make an iPad and make money off of it they wouldn't sell it for $35?
    The technology isn't there yet to make anything close to an iPad for that little amount of money. This company was lying if it told anyone it could make something equivalent to an iPad for $35.
    You want iPad performance, buy an iPad!

  1. facebook_James

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    +9

    Its about the overall experience

    So many places forget that hardware is only a part of what makes the iPad so successful - the software, experience, and massive content library. When you look at the big picture and benefits, the cost of an iPad is actually amazingly affordable. If I had a young child I'd get him or her an iPad right away to help to learn and set them up for a better path in life - those benefits are priceless.

    It's admirable that the Indian government wants to make the benefits of the iPad available to everyone - but an underpowered $35 knock-off isn't going to have the same experience and will ultimately discourage usage.

  1. psdenno

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2003

    +8

    Just more believers....

    ...that it's the "Wand" and not the "Magician" that makes the magic happen. Whether students get a $35 device or a $500 iPad, it's the teacher and not the wonder device that makes learning happen. People were learning 3,000 years ago when the only technology available was a rock and a stick. Money spent on making teachers more effective might just be a better solution. Not that I mind what iPad sales have done for the value of my Apple stock.

  1. global.philosopher

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2010

    +3

    The pitcure tells it all

    The reflection is curved which shows the platic resistive touch screen is not even stable.

  1. koolkid1976

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2003

    +1

    re: Just more believers....

    Sometimes the Magician can be limited by the quality of his or her wand. You can't expect a teacher to accomplish the same thing on a $35 device that they can on a $500 device.

  1. brainiac

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2003

    +3

    I heard that

    if you are not careful, the two k**** at the bottom fall off.

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008

    +3

    I can understand this type of

    product for third-world countries. I just don't understand why the cheapskates in America are asking for such cheap hardware. Anything high-quality that comes with good customer service is always going to be relatively expensive. Android OS certainly ends up on all sorts of c*** hardware since Google doesn't set any hardware quality standards for Android usage.

  1. brainiac

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2003

    +8

    WOW

    You can't even allude to an etch a sketch without being censored.

    For those who could not figure it out, my dirty word was k-n-o-b-s

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