Yesterday, I wrote about Apple’s laughable iPhone market share in India that, according to IDC, was only 1.2 percent of all handset sales during the second quarter of this year, half the level a year earlier. It’s hard to justify a $800+ phone in a country where folks make an average of $200 a month, if they’re lucky. Meanwhile, cheap Android handsets have taken India by storm and now enjoy a commanding 50+ percent market share.

Though it remains to be seen if Apple’s inexpensive smaller iPad fits the big picture in the 1.24 billion people country, a new report out today by The New York Times makes the case for a sub-$50 Android tablet specifically made for students in India…

The tablet is called the Ubislate 7Ci, made by London-based Datawind.

The device runs Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, sports a seven-inch 800-by-480 screen and also has WiFi (with GPRS data support), a mic, a headphone jack, a front-facing camera and a USB port.

It’s powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor with 512MB of RAM and has four gigabytes of internal storage.

Bare essentials, one might say.

Qenting Hardy has more in his write-up for The Times:

Every criticism a Western reviewer might have with this tablet (the keyboard is small for big American fingers, the camera resolution is low, the software has lots of ads) must also meet with the riposte, “Yeah, but…it’s only $40.” For people who can’t dream of owning even a first-generation iPad, it’s more than enough.

Despite criticism, it’s a friggin’ $40.

Datawind accepted more than 2.5 million orders to buy the device when it was announced. Company CEO Suneet Singh Tuli observes:

The biggest problem we have with this device is that none of the decision makers, the reviewers, or the trend setters are our customer.

Personal computers caught on in the U.S. when the price got to about 25 percent of the average person’s monthly income. In India, where people make $200 a month, that is about $50.

But How does it manage to make such a cheap tablet and turn profit in the process?

Mr. Singh says his cost of assembly for a Ubislate is about $37, and he sells it to the Indian government for $40. He keeps the price low by using Google’s free Android operating system and cheap semiconductors found in low-end cellphones.

In addition, he says, his company figured out how to make its own touch panel to fit behind the liquid crystal display screen. The LCD is still manufactured by an outside company.

It should be noted that the press in India slammed the company over a severe cash crunch and lack of manufacturing capacity to make these at needed scale.

Here’s a more detailed video overview of the Ubislate.

As you can see, the Ubislate is not exactly a speed demon but that’s beyond the point.

You get what you pay for.

While I have no doubt that the iPad would have been a far better choice given the breadth and availability of education-focused apps, not everyone can afford a $499 tablet, or even a $249 one – which is what the media believes the iPad mini will begin at (and you concur).

India has about 220 million students and the government plans to equip nearly all of them with a tablet. Somebody is going to make serious money selling seven-inchers to the government and it’s not going to be Apple.

Developing markets by all accounts will fuel growth in tablets and smartphones in the future and Apple could be missing out on ample opportunity to establish a foothold in those countries in terms of market share.

Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect a sub-$100 iPad for the developing world because that’s just not how Apple plays this game.

But given the iPad’s strong focus in education, and considering that Amazon is looking to displace iPads in U.S. schools (and they’re selling Kindles at cost), it’s Apple’s market to lose, no?

  • Demo

    🙂 Í am Indian

    • Are you a rich Indian 😛 you have an iPhone I think.

      • Demo

        I’m not rich, but I’m not poor too. Yes I have an iPhone 🙂

    • pawfyd

      You are a native American? 😮

      • Demo

        No I’m not

      • pawfyd

        It was supposed to be a joke, aren’t native American’s (you know, those that used to live there before Europeans arrived) called Indians and people living in India Hindus?

        I’m not a native speaker, so I may be wrong, but that’s how it is in most countries. 😛

      • Demo

        I know its a joke. I dont take it seriously 🙂

      • The reason Native Americans are called “Indians” is because Columbus thought he landed in India. He called the people “Indians” because of that, and it just stuck.

      • Hindu = religion, not nationality

  • Even me an indian !!

    • Demo

      Welcome to club 🙂

  • RK

    Our fucking government named it as AKASH TABLET I guess

  • i dont like these kind of articles yes i know ppl are poor in india but my friend bought an iPhone 5 32 GB for around 60000 INR (1200 $) how many foreigners or americans can buy an iphone worth 1200 USD upfront?

    I own an iPad 3 and iPhone 4 so whats the deal?

    • mbkarki

      not everybody is like you…. How many percentage of people are below poverty line in India???

      • yea i know but i am just saying not all indians are poor i am dying for iPhone 5 hope apple will release it soon

  • CollegiateLad

    Let the $40 tablets reign supreme. Apple doesn’t address this market, nor does it care to.

  • $200 a month, if you’re lucky? Where do you get that number from?

    • That’s an average. It doesn’t mean everyone makes $200 a month. Look for yourself how much population your country have and how many of them are below poverty line.

  • Mahi

    i also bought iphone 4s but a 2500 INR would be ideal all INDIAn students i guess

  • I am from india and m on ipad rite now ….. Were did u get dat numer from $200 ????.. Apple make product costly thats why people in india dnt buy em …
    If apple starts contract based iphone like u guyz in USA iphone will be largest selling mobile pone in asia .. …

  • Thomas

    How many people in the rich USA will buy an iPhone if they don’t get it for as CHEAP as $199?!

  • It will be a great idea for Apple to launch its cellphones @ $199, $299 & $399 in India with different carrier plans for 2 years. People in India just want the iPhone to show more than use it as a phone.. And if they are planning to sell it unlocked then $650 will be a competitive price for iPhone 5 in India which most the smartphone lovers can easily afford. This $200 a month thing is far more away from reality. People can spend $650-$750 for a smartphone with very ease. So it will be great to see will Apple look Indian market as an option for new growing opportunities or will it dump it and let the cheap Android rule here.. I wonder Indians will export iPhone 5 if its price will be as low as $600-700..

  • notewar

    Don’t look down on Indian like that..Indians are cool

  • Lordthree

    Apple will never win India

  • shankness

    You might want to check that 200$ figure again. India is still a developing country, but its not too poor. The average salary of indian middle class man is more than 500$ a month. Please check your facts properly.

  • I wish my country’s government focused on getting the poor people jobs instead of tablets. That way they could at least afford a descent computer than this crap tablet. Seriously, I sell tablets at my store and the cheapest one I sell is retailed at 3500. A resistive touchscreen, extremely laggy. One cannot even use the browser comfortably. Giving this 40$ tablet to the people is a waste of money.

  • I purchased a $40 tablet just like this one a few months ago, except mine is an OEM on Amazon and I love it. It’s a bit slow at loading, but I can’t justify playing $200+ to read e-books and watch movies. I have Dos-Box and iMameforall installed which play perfectly and those are the only two game apps I need.

  • even iam indian too, only big metro city have 3g services available, i know so many persons personal; who bought iphones just for showoff.

  • and thank god govt is giving atleast something, i doubt it will happen in reality to all of students in india, i hope we dont read another scam related to this in newspaper.

  • raski kujo

    Where can i buy this tablet? im from europe…

  • I hope the manufacturer can keep up with demand, great idea

  • That Tablet is a big fail which is not even a fruitful investment. 🙁 Akash Tablet sucks.

  • Such a nice Android Tablet…