Motorola, Verizon Try 3G Tablets Again With New Xyboard Android Devices

Motorola Droid Xyboard Verizon

Tablets haven’t been as much of a boon for wireless carriers as smartphones, with many buyers opting for Wi-Fi only options. Motorola (NYSE: MMI) and Verizon are hoping to change that with two new Android tablets that connect to Verizon’s LTE network but they’ll have to convince prospective customers to sign a two-year contract.

The curiously named Droid Xyboard tablets come in two varieties: one with a 10.1-inch screen and one with an 8.2-inch screen. They’re running the latest version of Google’s Honeycomb tablet operating system but Motorola and Verizon said the devices would be upgradeable to Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. They seem like solid devices, but the market for Android tablets is pretty nonexistent at this point and it doesn’t seem that Motorola has really raised the bar with these devices.

But one curious part of the strategy behind these tablets involves the required two-year contract, which iPad owners are not required to sign should they wish to purchase an iPad 2 that works on Verizon’s network. Those iPad 2 devices are $130 more expensive than their Wi-Fi-only cousins. When Motorola and Verizon launched the Xoom tablet, they offered a non-contract option (albeit a ridiculously expensive one).

However, requiring a contract allows Motorola and Verizon to make the Xyboard tablets cheaper than 3G-equipped iPad 2s with the same storage capacity, and it will be interesting to see if consumers who are interested in 3G tablets pick up on the difference, especially considering the Xyboards use LTE. While carrier subsidies are nearly ubiquitous when it comes to reducing the price of smartphones in the U.S. (in exchange for the contract, of course), tablet sales have played out much differently thanks to the dominance of the iPad.

Tablets also seem to be used most often inside the home as opposed to on-the-go, reducing the need for 3G connectivity. It’s still very, very early in the development of usage models around tablets, however, so things could change.

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