Who Says There Are Too Many Android Tablets! Orange/Huawei Add One More

CES, currently in full swing in Las Vegas, promises to bring out another wave of Android tablets, to add to the 40+ that were on the market before the week even started (if you don’t count e-readers built on the platform; if you do, it’s more like 50). Sound flooded? Not if the price and product are right — or so the thinking goes at France Telecom’s UK mobile operator Orange.

Orange today is introducing a new Android tablet, the first to come with Orange’s own branding instead of that of the tablet-maker. Called the Tahiti, the device, Orange tells me, was built by Huawei, sports a seven-inch screen and runs on Android Honeycomb, Google’s tablet-optimized version of the platform.

Possibly the most unique selling point — or at least the one that Orange is touting above others — is its price point. The 3G and WiFi-enabled tablet will cost users a mere £69.99 ($108), in addition to a commitment to a 24-month, £25/month contract. That sounds potentially reasonable until you work out the total cost: £669.99 ($1,036). That includes two gigabytes of data, 1 GB of which is during “quiet time” when fewer people use Orange’s network.

Prior to this, Huawei had developed two of its own-branded tablets to-date; both have seven-inch screens like the Tahiti. The IDEOS S7 is marketed as a content-friendly device, while the higher-specced MediaPad was the company’s first foray into using the Honeycomb OS.

By comparison, the Tahiti looks very much like the MediaPad (pictured) in its button-free face and camera positioning in the upper corner of the device. It may well be the MediaPad but under a different name. That would be a clever way for Huawei to shift stock further than its own retail steam might allow.

Orange tells me this is the first time it has launched an own-branded tablet in the UK, and the first time that it is selling this specific product. But that does not mean that it is new to the game. The company launched another own-branded tablet last year, which it distributed through its operations in Spain, Poland, Romania and Slovakia around the concept of offering inexpensive tablets against pricier branded products like the iPad.

That first tablet was a rebranded IDEOS S7, Orange told me at the time. Clearly that did well enough for them to try the concept out again with a more expensive tablet in a more developed market.

The Tahiti looks anything but exotic, so why the name? It could be a play on a type of fruit, the Tahiti Orange, AKA the Persian Lime. The other connection: Orange already has a line of own-brand handsets named after various destinations (San Francisco, Rio, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Atlanta).