Android This Week: Cheap Tablets; Nook Apps; Market Tweaks


After seeing a number of Android tablets demonstrated in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, only one became available in the three months that followed. The $799 Motorola Xoom was priced high for many but this week saw news of at least three tablets coming soon at far lower price points. All are Wi-Fi models, so there’s no carrier contract nor monthly fee, which should also help spur consumer interest although Android for tablet use may still fall short when compared the iPad 2 experience.

ASUS kicked of the tablet price wars at the end of March by introducing the Eee Pad Transformer in the UK at £379 ($608 USD), but the 10.1-inch device is expected to launch in the U.S. with a low $399 price tag. Acer followed suit with not one, but two tablet announcements in the past few days. The A100, likely the first 7-inch slate to ship with Android 3.0, will cost £299 ($483 USD) abroad, which may equate to a price range of $299 to $349 in the U.S., while the larger A500 tablet and its 10.1-inch screen will cost $449.

Samsung too is finally making a Wi-Fi tablet by taking the mobile broadband radio out of its popular 7-inch Galaxy Tab. The device will sell for $349 and will see a storage boost to 32 GB over the 3G models. In lieu of Honeycomb, Samsung is staying with its customized Android 2.2 platform, however.

An even cheaper tablet available now, isn’t officially at tablet at all; at least not yet. Many have turned the $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-reader into a tablet by rooting the device’s underlying Android operating system. It’s not a complicated process to do so, but Barnes & Noble will be making it an unnecessary one for some. The bookseller will offer a software update to the Nook Color in mid-spring that will bring third-party Android apps and other tablet enhancements to the device. The company began soliciting software from developers this week and will curate the app store through similar standards used to curate the e-book storefront.

While B&N is planning its own Android app store, Google appears to have tweaked the Android Market. According to one developer, its download numbers rapidly rose through the use of Google rewarding apps that offer greater user engagement: myYearbook jumped from #63 to #11 in the Top Free Social category on Android Market in a short time. If Google has changed its Android Market algorithm, apps that see more daily or regular usage could gain a discovery advantage.

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