Buying A Full-Price Android Tablet Looks Risky

Android tablets are great for entertainment: they work with Flash, they offer a huge and open market of free and paid apps, and you can set one up easily without needing to hook into a computer. The one thing you shouldn’t do? Buy one the second it hits the market.

Right now, you can purchase the Optus MyTab for $99. When I tested it late last year, it was a pretty impressive device — even the resistive screen wasn’t that big a problem. However, back then, it cost $279. That was still cheaper than more expensive rivals, but six months later it has been slashed to just over a third of that original price.

We’ve seen the same pattern with lots of other first-generation Android tablets. The most dramatic example was the original Galaxy Tab, which started out priced at just under $1000 but has been on sale more recently for less than half that price. Telstra’s T-Touch Tab has also fallen below $200.

Most of the attention in the Android tablet space has now shifted to devices that use Honeycomb, which has an interface primarily optimised for tablets rather than phones. Many of those devices are already cheaper than the first-generation Android tablets were; the Galaxy Tab 10.1v is priced at $729, while the Toshiba AT100 is $579. And given what has happened so far and the schedule of new devices due between now and the end of the year, I’ll be amazed if those prices haven’t fallen further before Christmas comes around.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all: competition and constant technical evolution mean we’re getting better, cheaper devices all the time. (Pricing on the iPad also dropped dramatically when the iPad 2 was announced, but the process took much longer — close on a year — because Apple controls the entire process.)

However, it does mean that if you buy a new Android tablet the second it comes out, the chances are you’ll be cursing a little three or six months down the line. Obviously, if you’ve enjoyed using the device over that period, you might not care. But if you’ve signed up for a long-term contract, you’re likely to feel more than a little ripped off.

Lifehacker’s weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.


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