zeepadIt can be risky looking for a cheap tablet—as a woman found out when she paid $200 at a gas station for what she thought was an $830 iPad but turned out to be a rewrapped mirror. (Hint: if someone offers to sell you a 75%-off iPad at a gas station, there’s probably something suspicious going on.)

But not all cheap tablets are necessarily bogus. Today a coworker told me that she paid $70 each on eBay for two brand new 7” 4-gig capacitive-touchscreen Android 4.0 tablets called ZeePads and was very happy with them. Curious, I went looking for them and found one for $90 via Amazon Prime, which I ordered to try out for myself. I figure I should start getting some Android experience since I’m soon going to be tasked with supporting a 10” Android tablet in my day job, and I can also let my one-armed Mom give it a try to see if a 7” Android tablet would work well for her. A friend said that it’s a “cheap build” and some people have had hardware problems with it, but it had about the same computing power as his Droid so it was a decent Android learning tablet.

And meanwhile, another $99 Android tablet with somewhat better specs is trying to get off the ground. Ars Technica reports that a company called Peacock Imports is trying to fund a $99, 8-gig 7” tablet or $185 10” tablet called the PengPod that will dual-boot Android and Linux via crowdsourcing site IndieGogo. It needs to raise $49,000 by December 2nd to make the project viable, and so far has only managed to rack up $1,349 in pledges. (I’m not sure how long it’s been since the campaign launched.)

It looks like sooner or later we’re going to see decent-quality sub-$100 Android tablets. The $90 ZeePad sounds like it’s almost there, and the FengPod (if it funds) might be even closer. I’ve already been impressed lately by just how many people I see on the bus or in the lunchroom at work using smartphones or e-readers. What’s the world going to be like when there’s a reliable, major-name two-digit-priced tablet out there?


  1. Here in Central Europe you can already get a 7″ MyAudio ICS tablet for $89, and MyAudio is a bit better than no-brand. It’s not hard to see where this is going. Low-end tablets are going to be tomorrow’s MP3 players or cheap dumphones, bottom-dollar low-margin ubiquitous consumer devices. That will spread adoption of ereading accordingly [though have a look here at how many – or few – use the devices they’ve got: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/gadget/3331538/amazon-kindle-tops-list-on-unused-christmas-gifts/%5D. Dedicated ereading devices are going to have to be very special to differentiate themselves with this race to the bottom going on. But we should worry: the tablet’s case as a mass-market reading device is clearly made.