Android tablet pc are not “iPad Juniors” any more!

It is turning out to be a pretty good year for consumers who want to buy a Android Tablet pc on 2013. Better processors, thinner and lighter devices, sharper screens and faster GPUs are now being featured in a host of new 7-Inch Tablet devices coming out this year from Samsung, ZTE, Velocity Micro, OrientDeal and many other unbranded.

Kindle Fire “Sparking” 7-Inch Market

Although Samsung was the first Android Tablet maker to come out with a 7-Inch Tablet in 2010, the sudden interest in the smaller tablet form is primarily due to the huge initial wave of enthusiasm for the Kindle Fire. Will the success of Amazon’s New Tablet, which many consider to be an entry-level tab, prompt consumers to seriously consider an alternative, low-cost 7-Inch Android Tablet that packs a bigger punch in terms of features?

Manufacturers are banking that the 7-inch form will catch on due to its greater mobility and lower price. They are probably right this time. The success of the Kindle Fire is quickly transforming the 7-Inch Tablet form into its own distinct segment, competing with each other for market share rather than competing with Apple as “iPad Juniors.”

Android Making Significant Tablet Headway

A number of the new 7-Inch Tablets coming out this year include the more stable Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, and other tablet makers are promising upgrades to the new OS soon(er or later). Ice Cream Sandwich has been developed specifically to close the gap between Android smartphones and tablets.

Although it remains highly fragmented, Android is finally starting to make significant headway in the tablet market.Strategy Analytics recently reported that Android had captured 39% share of global tablets shipped in the 4th quarter of last year – a rise of 10 percentage points over 2010. If Android can do this again, then it will be running neck-to-neck with the iPad.

Price Is Key

The success of the Kindle Fire, not to mention the lines of people wrapped around city blocks last year for a chance to buy discontinued HP Touchpads at fire sale prices, clearly demonstrated that price is key. Android Tablet makers have gotten the message. Prices for many smaller Android Tablets are hundreds of dollars cheaper than the current entry-level IPad. And some new 7-Inch Tablets sold with data plans are even cheaper than the Kindle Fire and have more high-end features than Amazon’s tablet.

Sprint, for example, has just added a 7-Inch Tablet from ZTE to its tablet portfolio that’s priced just under $100 (with a two-year contract). The ZTE Optik features a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM. It runs on Android Honeycomb, has a 1280 x 800 capacitive touchscreen display, Bluetooth and GPS antennas. It also features stereo speakers as well as dual cameras — 5MP rear and 2MP front-facing — plus 16GB of storage and a MicroSD slot.

At CES last month, Samsung and Verizon Wireless introduced the Galaxy Tab 7.7 with LTE for Verizon’s LTE network. It has a 7.7-inch 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED Plus display, a 1.4-GHz dual-core processor and 16 GB of internal storage. The tablet uses Android 3.2 Honeycomb with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. It has a Wi-Fi, a 3.2-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, and full 720p recording. Verizon will soon be selling this at a subsidized price to gain contracts. No details on price yet for this new tab, but the earlier model, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0, is currently going for $229.99 with 2-year contract on Verizon’s website.

There were also a number of new, inexpensive 7-Inch Tablets at CES preloaded with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. This includes the ViewPad E70 from ViewSonic, which has front and rear cameras, mini-HDMI and mini-USB ports, and a 1-GHz processor. The tab includes 4 GB of storage plus microSD expandable storage for up to 32 GB. It reportedly will launch in April for $169.00.

There’s also the OrientDeal. It will be coming soon with a 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor, a 7-inch 1024 x 768 TFT LED display and discrete 400MHz 3D graphics acceleration, plus 1024MB of RAM, and 16GB internal storage. The Android 4.2-based tablet also will have front and back cameras, Mini USB and Mini HDMI ports, and a microSD slot. The OrientDeal Goopad mini is expected to be priced under $200.

Thin, Light, Palm-Friendly

Next to price, portability appears to be the second major selling point for 7-Inch Tablets. Tablets are inherently all about portability, and the 7-inch form can be comfortably held in one hand, leaving the other hand available for scrolling and tapping — a good choice for travelers and readers, for surfing the web, playing games, checking email.

But is a new 7-Inch Android Tablet for you? Only you can decide, because everybody has his or her own individual demands and preferences. Best to go to your mobile and big box stores when these come out soon and spend some time with them. There will likely be enough choices out there this year for you to fully determine your own tablet sweet spot.

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