This week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we’re likely to see dozens of new tablets and smartphones from the usual suspects — and at least one surprise entrant. Vizio today announced both an Android tablet and an Android smartphone to complement its line of televisions. Unlike most competing tablets and phones that have limited connectivity to TV sets, Vizio is leveraging its existing product line by adding an infrared blaster to both the tablet and smartphone, allowing both to serve as remote controls for any Vizio television.
Both devices are part of Vizio’s VIA Plus ecosystem, which includes Internet apps usable on the new devices as well as future Vizio televisions and Blu-ray players. Each has similar specifications within the different form factors. Vizio’s VIA phone uses a 4-inch capacitive touch display, 1 GHz processor, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI output, 5-megapixel camera for stills and HD video capture, front-facing camera and microSD card for memory expansion. The 8-inch VIA tablet offers the same internals but appears to drop the rear camera in favor of a three-speaker design and is a Wi-Fi only model, which means no 3G connectivity.
The new Vizio phone and tablet may not compare to the super-high end devices expected to debut at this week’s CES; after all, we’re sure to see handsets and tablets running with dual-core processors and utilizing high-speed LTE networks, for example. But Vizio, and consumers that buy its products, may not care, because Vizio is a value brand and that strategy has worked well for it. The small company founded in 2002 now generates an estimated $2.5 billion in yearly sales and has been a top seller of LCD televisions in North America since 2007.
I’ll be watching Vizio’s new product lines closely because I expect them to be part of that value strategy: solid devices for a price that’s lower than competing products. That could give some additional insight into the low- and mid-priced smartphone market that companies such as LG have entered with Android smartphones priced at $30 or less with contract. Android is the enabling factor here; according to the Wall Street Journal, Vizio needed only a team of fewer than 10 people and some wireless hires from Nokia to design its new phone around Google’s free mobile platform.
A related Google tie-in comes in the form of expected Google TV devices from Vizio, which Ryan Lawler notes could help “save” Google’s fledgling television platform. Value pricing from Vizio combined with a rich ecosystem of Android devices for both the home and for mobile use might help spur Google TV adoption.
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