The options for consumers looking to buy a tablet are multiplying rapidly. This week, Google launched its Nexus 7 tablet in Japan and South Korea while Barnes & Noble brought out new versions of its Nook. Meanwhile rumors of an iPad Mini persist.
An employee holds up a Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab tablet computer (L) and an Apple iPad as he poses at a store in Seoul. (Reuters/Lee Jae-Won)
It's been a busy week in tablet computing. On Tuesday, Google launched its Nexus 7 tablet in Japan and then on Thursday introduced it to the South Korean public. After some supply and demand hiccups, Google's first real foray into hardware seems to have been the right decision. Though the Nexus 7 has only been available since July 2012 in the US and Europe, it has already set the benchmark for what an Android tablet can be and has underlined the importance of a smaller, more portable rival to the all-conquering iPad.
As the search giant's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said at the Japanese launch, "Android has grown so fast it's hard to keep up. There are more than 500 million Android users around the world." Google firmly believes that its tablet will be a hit in Asia because in Japan alone, 75 percent of smartphone owners use their devices for shopping.
Critics report: Google Nexus 7 tablet
Due to its slim size, the Nexus 7 is portable enough to enhance this experience. And at 19,800 Yen ($312) it's the right price.
Barnes & Noble
In the US and Europe, Google is likely to face much stiffer competition. Barnes & Noble this week revealed its Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets to no little praise. While the Nook HD is primarily designed for reading, it has an eight- 16GB capacity plus a 7-inch display with a higher resolution than either the Nexus 7 or Amazon's Kindle Fire. And, at 315 grams, it is also lighter.
Barnes & Noble unveils HD Nook tablets
However, many tech bloggers have criticized the decision to not include a forward-facing camera. Despite these shortfalls, the company's chief executive, William Lynch believes both devices will provide much needed competition: "With the combination of the highest resolution screen, lightest weight and expansive access to content rendered in a digital quality never before seen, Nook HD is the world's best seven-inch media tablet." The Nook HD and HD+ are available to pre-order now in the US and UK and are priced at $199 and $269 respectively.
Meanwhile Amazon's new Kindle Fire HD, launched to much fanfare on September 6, has been coming in for criticism. A survey of 2,103 people conducted by CouponCodes4U found that while 55 percent of respondents liked the tablet's appearance, the remaining 45 percent claimed to be unimpressed.
Rivals: Kindle Fire HD vs. New iPad
When asked if they would still be interested in a Kindle Fire if Apple launches a 7-inch iPad, 55 percent said that they would prefer the iPad and only 7 percent would consider both. Nevertheless, since its release, it has won praise for its increased storage capacity (8GB plus unlimited cloud storage for Amazon-purchased content), better wi-fi connectivity and the fact that it finally has a front-facing camera for Skype calls. And, according to Chitika Insights, the tablet already accounts for 11 percent of all Kindle web traffic. The 7-inch model, retailing for $199-249 in the US, is available for pre-order in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Finally to Apple. This week saw the publication of more spy shots of the much-rumored iPad Mini, complete with a re-worked Lightning Connector dock. But even if the rumors aren't true and Apple has no intention of adding another tablet to its range, a story that first appeared on DigiTimes suggests Google is not prepared to gamble and is making two new versions of its Nexus 7 tablets.
Apple to launch mini iPad in October
One of the new tablets is expected to retail for as little as $99 and be available to buy before the end of the year.