There may be far more tablets available on the market this holiday season than there were last year, but two in particular will be vying for your purchase thanks to their low, attractive price points: the Kindle Fire and the NOOK Tablet. We’ve already helped you decide which one is right for you, so let’s now turn to the total cost of ownership of these consumption devices.
The two tablets, from retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble respectively, are affordably priced tablets, with the Fire priced at $199 and the NOOK Tablet going for $249. Both sport 7-inch, 1024 x 600 pixel displays and run heavily-skinned versions of Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread). The Fire and the NOOK Tablet are powered by 1 GHz, dual-core processors and feature Wi-Fi connectivity, but the NOOK has the edge when it comes to storage capacity; it ships with 16GB of onboard storage and is expandable up to 32GB via microSD, while the Fire only has 8GB onboard and is not expandable at all.
At least one device, the Fire, is poised for big holiday sales. Electronics review and shopping site Retrevo recently published the results of its Pulse Report, which revealed that 44% of people said they would consider buying the Fire this holiday season (over the iPad), while 27% of those who said they are planning on buying a tablet this season said that they would be getting a Fire (over the 20% that said they would be getting an iPad).
And while the survey results suggest that cheaper tablets are gaining popularity this holiday season and will soon be on the rise — especially in an attempt to compete with the ever-popular but more expensive iPad 2 — it also points to another impending trend: tablets with closed ecosystems. These retailers are presumably selling their devices at a loss because they’re so cheap, so the best way they can help make up for it is by controlling revenue through content.
The Fire, for instance, will only allow you to read eBooks purchased through Amazon in their proprietary format. The NOOK Tablet is slightly more open in that it is compatible with multiple eBook formats, but it does not have access to its own content well of TV shows and movies like Amazon does with its media services. Both tablets support Netflix and Hulu Plus, but Barnes & Noble has both services more tightly integrated within the UI, whereas the Fire runs them as standalone apps, similar to other tablets.
Despite the convenience of having all content, including third-party content, tightly integrated in the device, as it is with the NOOK Tablet, streaming media is where the Fire may ultimately have the advantage, because in the long run, the Fire may have a better or at least more extensive selection. Amazon is free to update its content however and whenever it wishes, while Barnes & Noble has to rely on its third parties to make those decisions. Though chances are that with both Netflix and Hulu Plus, NOOK Tablet owners will not be hurting for quality content.
But either way, most, if not all, media streaming services require subscription plans of some kind to capitalize on their multimedia capabilities. Amazon charges $79 per year for a Prime subscription, which offers a limited number of streaming movies and TV shows, and the subscription fees for Netflix and Hulu Plus both start at $7.99 a month. This is, of course, in addition to what you’ll be paying for eBooks and your other electronic publications, apps, etc. Both companies offer eBook lending and borrowing services, but if that is what you intend to do with your device, save some money and buy an $79 Kindle or $99 NOOK Simple Touch eReader.
Such is the case going forward, starting this holiday season, with these low-cost tablets: they’re simple devices that make it easy for users to adopt from both a technical and financial perspective, but you’ll need to keep paying long after your initial purchase to get full use from these devices.