A few months ago, I wrote that the $100 laptop was now the $100 tablet. It turns out that now, it’s the $50 tablet. First they were on sale for that at Office Depot. Since, I’ve seen them around the same price in Fry’s. Now Nate reports on The Digital Reader that Best Buy has a $50 dual-core Android 4.4 tablet, and I just got a Wal-Mart sales circular email advertising Ematic 7” tablets for $55 and $60. It also features a number of other tablets in the $70 to $100 range, including the HP Mesquite tablet Nate called the best deal in a sub-$100 Android tablet a few months back.
Isn’t that amazing? We live in a world where $50 in 2014 dollars can buy you a device that can hook onto the Internet via WiFi, browse the web, read e-books, do email and social networking, and even stream Netflix videos. And it can buy you that device in person, so you can return it right away if it doesn’t work, rather than having to wait for it to come from Amazon or eBay and then have to send it back. (Though when it comes to that, there are plenty of tablets in that price range on Amazon, too.)
Sure, it might not do those things very well, compared to that $230 Nexus 7 (or even the $144 2012 Nexus 7 that Wal-Mart also carries). But if the choice is between having a personal Internet device and having nothing, and the only disposable income you have is $50, well, there you go.
They’ve got better specs and a better price than the $90 Zeepad I used for months, and I was able to get by with that. And the quality will have to improve over time as newer, faster tablets push out the current batch, causing the price of better processors to drop to where they’ll be the next generation of $50 (or cheaper) devices. (And maybe the current run of $50 tablets might drop to $40 or $30, though given how expensive even the cheapest LCD screens are I expect there will be a lower limit.) And for people who can save up to spend a little more, the current batch of $100 tablets is considerably better than what you used to be able to get for $100. And those will only improve as well.
Low-income folks can use these to apply for benefits, or to run educational software for their kids. They might even use them to apply for jobs (with a little help from a cheap micro-USB keyboard and Google Drive to do their resume). And better-off people could get them as “disposable” tablets for their kids to use until they prove they can be trusted with something more expensive.
A $50 tablet. Who’d have expected that?