Two tech giants are preparing to launch new tablets, according to reports in the press. But while Amazon is thinking small for its next tablet, Apple is thinking big… very big.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon may soon offer a 6 inch Amazon Fire tablet with a starting price as low as $50, which would make it cheaper than the company’s least expensive eReader and half the price of the lowest-cost Fire tablet to date.
Meanwhile 9to5Mac reports Apple is expected to officially launch the iPad Pro on Wednesday. It’s said to be a tablet with a 12.9 inch display, premium specs, and a prices that could go as high as $1000.
While neither company has confirmed these reports yet, they both seem entirely plausible: Amazon tends to offer low-cost hardware in an effort to expand its user base and gain more revenue from sales of digital books, music, movies, apps, games, and other content. The company already offers tablets for as little as $99, but a model with a lower price tag could appeal to folks who might not otherwise buy a tablet, creating new potential customers for digital content.
Of course, that only works if the user experience is good enough for people to justify spending the money on a tablet. There are already competing tablets that sell for as little as $50, but they tend not to be very good.
Amazon’s $99 Fire tablet, on the other hand, gets generally positive reviews for its speed, display, build quality, and other features. The only ding against the tablet is that it runs Amazon’s Fire OS which is a custom version of Android that lacks Google services including the Google Play Store. As Amazon works to get more and more developers to distribute their apps through its own app store, this might not be as big a problem as it once was… although it’s still a factor that limits the appeal of a Fire tablet to some degree.
According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s likely that Amazon would keep the price down on the new $50 model by leaving out some features available on higher-priced models… such as stereo speakers. But the current $99 Fire tablet actually has only a mono speaker, so it’ll be interesting to see what other compromises Amazon makes to cut the price in half.
Apple, on the other hand, has always played in the premium range. When the company introduced its first iPad a number of years ago, the $499 price tag seemed like a bargain from a company that sells desktops notebooks, and phones that typically cost much more.
These days you can pick up some iPads for as little as $299. That still makes Apple’s tablets seem rather expensive when compared with Android, or even some Windows tablets. But it’s not a lot of money to spend for folks looking for a high quality device that fits into Apple’s ecosystem of smartphones, notebooks, TV boxes, and other products.
But what about folks that are willing to spend even more money on a tablet like a Microsoft Surface Pro, in order to get a device that offers a more PC-like experience? That’s where the iPad Pro may come in.
The tablets are expected to run iOS 9.1, which is the same operating system that runs on iPhones and smaller iPads. That means you won’t be able to run desktop-style OS X apps on the 12.9 inch tablet. But you will be able to run two apps side-by-side, connect a Bluetooth keyboard for a laptop-like typing experience, and 64GB to 128GB of storage.
According to 9to5Mac, the tablet will have four speakers, a new A9X processor, and optional accessories including a Force Touch capable stylus for writing or drawing.
With prices for an iPad Pro + keyboard + stylus expected to be around $1000 or more, it’ll be interesting to see how many people chose a big, expensive iPad instead of a small notebook like the latest MacBook or MacBook Air models. While the inability to run OS X apps might be a turnoff for some, Apple currently has no plans to offer a touchscreen laptop… so if you want touchscreen device, it seems like you’re going to have to stick with iOS for now. Or Android, Windows, Chrome OS, or some Linux-based operating systems, I suppose.