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Tired of paying too much for tech? Try a $38 tablet computer

Posting in Technology

True confession from a SmartPlaneteer: I think the world has gone nuts in its eagerness to spend on information technology and the gadgets that deliver it.

I watch in wonderment as practically everyone I know routinely finds hundreds and hundreds of spare dollars in their pockets to bring home the latest slab of glass and electronics. 

My tech budget: I buy a laptop - a Mac - about every five years, basically because the old one starts wheezing. That's it for me. No tablets. No fancy phones. No MP3s (they don't call them that anymore, do they?). And absolutely positively no digital eye ware or no mind-warping game consoles. Not even a smartwatch! I occasionally write about apps, but - and with this I'm really opening the kimono - I've never used one. At least not willingly or knowingly. 

An Apple iPad? Nice product, but here in the U.K. they cost the equivalent of $600 or so. Why does anyone even think of spending that?

Suddenly though, my attitude changed this morning. No, I did not have a tech-loving epiphany. And I certainly didn't get a pay raise – you don't generally get those in the economic ruins of modern bloggo-journalism.

Rather, I saw this BBC headline: Tablet goes on sale for £30 in UK. £30 is about $49. It's the price that a British company called Datawind has set for a tablet computer called the UbiSlate 7Ci, launched here for general commercial sale yesterday after a successful run as an educational device in India where it's called the Aakash.

I read that and thought, “£30. Hmmmm. Maybe....”

The truth is, maybe not. I won't even spend £30. Because I don't need no stinking tablet!

But maybe you do. If so, check out the UbiSlate 7Ci. Apparently, you get what you pay for. I've read a few short accounts mentioning that it doesn't stack up to the pricey brands in features including screen resolution, processing speed and storage. But for £30, I'm going to guess that those features are good enough.

Oh, one other thing. Datawind reminds us that European consumers remain bigger suckers than their U.S. counterparts when it comes to buying tech. Just after I read about the $49 price in Britain, I learned from Time Magazine that Datawind set the price at $38 in the U.S. – a good 20 percent below prices in the home market.

I'm an American who has been living in the U.K. for fourteen years. I've long noticed that technology vendors charge between 20 percent and 30 percent more in the old country than they do in the States. After endless pondering as to why, I've come up with this answer: Because they can.

If anyone else has a better explanation, feel free to write in below – assuming you can figure out how to use SmartPlanet's rubic cube of a new comments system. I do hope the techies are working on it. It can't be that hard to repair. But what would I know about tech.


— By on December 17, 2013, 4:44 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure