Datawind’s $38 Tablet Looks like a $38 Tablet

The price alone is impressive, but don't expect much.

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For tablets, the race to the bottom has just reached a new low with Datawind’s Ubislate 7Ci, an Android tablet that’s on sale now for $38.

The Ubislate 7Ci has an interesting history. It started out as a project by India’s government to get cheap tablets into the hands of students, under the name Aakash. After being announced in 2010 with a target price of $35, the finished product arrived a year later with a $45 bill of materials, and DataWind as the manufacturer.

But back then, it wasn’t possible to buy the Aakash outside of India, and a comparable tablet from DataWind cost well over $100. It’s taken a couple years, but Datawind has finally managed to reach a sub-$40 price for U.S. consumers. You can buy the Ubislate 7Ci straight from Datawind’s website.

Here’s what $38 gets you:

  • 7-inch, 800-by-480 resolution capacitive touchscreen
  • 1 GHz single-core processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 4 GB of storage
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 0.3-megapixel front camera
  • Android 4.0.3

Basically, these are the specs we were seeing on smartphones a few years ago, and tablets of this quality were showing up for $100 as early as 2011. You get what you pay for with these devices, and that generally translates to poor viewing angles, weak battery life and so-so performance. The meager 4 GB of storage doesn’t leave much room for apps, though the inclusion of a MicroSD slot is helpful.

Even if you don’t find this tablet appealing, the price point alone is impressive. The average tablet today could reach a similar price in a few years, opening up new uses and business models. Magazines or newspapers could bundle their subscription costs into cheap tablet instead of paper. Schools could install a touchscreen on every desk. Touchscreens and Internet connectivity could become much more commonplace in appliances like ovens, washers and dryers and kitchen tables.

For those uses, cheap and “good enough” are all that are required, and that’s exactly where Datawind is headed. Suneet Singh Tuli, Datawind’s CEO, told the Washington Post that the company hopes to be producing $20 tablets in a year or two. For now, Datawind is targeting students and users who don’t have an Internet connection.

Word is that DataWind will be showing off its $38 tablet at the CES trade show next month, so hopefully we’ll be able to check it out then.