The Android-powered Aakash generated buzz in early October last year for being the “world’s cheapest tablet.” At a mere 2250RS ($35) for the government-subsidized release, it was hard to argue with. Since then, there have been a slew of very affordable 7-inch Android slates flooding the Asian market, particularly via China and India, and now we have the Aakash 2.
It missed its May release date target but is now ready to ship in time for the holidays—and students in India can have it for just a tad over $20.
Built by UK-based DataWind, the Aakash 2 will be available to students for 1130RS, or around $21, after applying the government subsidy. That’s like gift-certificate value right there. But that’s all in line with the drive to foster India’s e-learning program that involves thousands of colleges and hundreds of universities.
So the Aakash 2 is definitely cheaper, but don’t think it’s a step back—the specs alone have been much improved, and according to initial hands-on impressions, the Aakash 2 handles much better compared to its predecessor, and it puts a good range of functionality in the hands of students (and even consumers) at a very attractive price.
For the Aakash 2, the processor gets bumped up to a Cortex A8 1GHz unit, the RAM is doubled to 512MB, and internal memory is also doubled to 4GB (with a memory card slot for expansion up to 32GB). Considering the original carried a cumbersome 366-MHz processor, the Aakash 2 should be a welcome upgrade.
The battery got beefier, too, from 2100mAh on the original to 3000mAh. The slate will come with Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, and this allows for more flexibility and better handling of multiple apps. The Aakash 2 is equipped with a 7-inch 800×480 capacitive display that’s not going to give Retina-ish devices a run for their money, but it gets the job done. Of course, this unit is Wi-Fi only, but there’s also a GPRS-enabled but powered-down version that’s available at a higher price (4299RS, or under $80).
Since India has the third-largest population of Internet users in the world (behind China and USA), this kind of tablet makes a lot of sense. It’s especially useful for students, who really only need a basic tablet that can handle multitasking for productivity apps, browsing the Web, and reading ebooks and digital forms of their class readings—tasks that the Aakash 2 can readily handle.
There’s even a built-in mic and front-facing camera to handle VoIP service. You don’t need quad-core processors and Tegra 3 graphics for those functions, and if you do put those in, the tablet gets more expensive and the students might just get distracted.
Intel is working on a similar concept for the US, but there’s still no word on how far along the project is or which price points will be targeted. Making this kind of technology accessible to students and citizens at very cheap prices is a good way to advance literacy, since most people now consume texts and other types of content through increasingly digital ways.
In addition, it can inspire the students to work through and with the technology in order to create future technologies.