Amazon is said to be set to release a $50 tablet computer. The claim appears in the Wall Street Journal and is sourced to “people familiar with the matter” which most likely means either Amazon staff or one of its suppliers.
The only firm details are that Amazon plans to offer a $50 tablet with a six-inch screen in time for Christmas.
The only specific detail on the hardware is that it looks likely to have a mono rather than stereo speaker. However, the WSJ suggests many other specifications will be lower than on existing Fire models.
That certainly would make sense for one sector of the existing market for the Fire tablets: people who want to use the tablet mainly for media consumption rather than advanced gaming, productivity apps or anything else that needs high-specs, and don’t have any particular need to carry out the type of settings, tweaks or third-party software installation that’s more commonly associated with Android devices. (My mother and mother-in-law, both retirees, fall firmly — and happily — into this category.)
The question is then how far you can go in using cheaper components before the device’s performance is too compromised even for this group. For example, while a more basic camera would probably be fine, either a slow processor or a minuscule amount of RAM that would make the device feel sluggish would be too far.
The cheaper production would likely work in combination with Amazon’s existing pricing tactics in which it’s widely assumed the company is making little profit and possibly even taking a loss on the Fire tablets in the hope of making more money by making it more convenient for owners to buy Amazon services such as apps, videos and subscriptions to Prime.
It’s not clear whether the $50 would be a standard price or would incorporate a discount in return for having advertisements displayed on the lock screen.
Another question is whether the $50 model would bear the Fire branding. It might make sense to use a different term, not only to avoid the other models seeming expensive in comparison, but also to lower expectations and avoid tainting the brand if the cheap tablet gets a poor reception.