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Can Cheap Android Tablets Bridge the Digital Divide? (teleread.org) 111

It's now possible to buy a 7-inch Android tablet for under $50 -- for example, the Nook Tablet 7 or Amazon's cheapest Fire tablet. "Since the Fire can now easily install regular Android apps, it has become useful out of all proportion to its price," writes long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master, noting that for many applications tablets can replace a desktop or laptop computer. TeleRead.org is even arguing this could be what bridges the digital divide: [N]ot just for reading ebooks and assisting in education, but for more basic tasks. People with low or no incomes could search and apply for better jobs. Students could do homework and term papers on their tablet if their siblings or parents are using the desktop.
Besides the obvious applications like email and web browsing, $50 Android tablets also offer cheap phone calls via Google Hangouts. (You can even get your own phone number through Google Voice.) Calling the tablets "a full-fledged internet terminal... easily within reach of even the lowest-income families," the article concludes "I can hardly wait to see where these tablets go from here."
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Can Cheap Android Tablets Bridge the Digital Divide?

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  • " $50 Android tablets also offer cheap phone calls via Google Hangouts."

    Or just buy an empty prepaid simcard on ebay or for 50 cents, (or an actual one on the corner bodega) to receive the install SMS (on your cellphone) and install Whatsapp. (on the tablet)

    I have been doing that for years for the oldsters in our family on 50$ tablets, so they can text and phone for free all around the house.

    • I have been doing that for years for the oldsters in our family on 50$ tablets, so they can text and phone for free all around the house.

      You've (probably unintentionally) pointed out something which works against the premise of the submission itself.

      Cheap Android tablets have been around for years - this is not new, and they haven't "bridged the digital divide" up to this point.

      The people who buy these sorts of devices seem to be middle class and up. $50-$100 is the "I can give a cheap tablet to each of the kids without going nuts if they break them" price range.

      • Most cheap Android tablets are shoddily constructed, malware-laden crap, running security-hole-riddled older versions of Android, that you have to seek out in obscure online stores to get your hands on. Much like early e-readers, they might appeal to geeks and early adopters but not so much the average person. The Fire is well-made, widely available, and even able to easily install regular Android apps now. The operating system is based on an older version of Android, yes, but Amazon keeps it up-to-date as
        • I had one of those for a while. I wasn't very careful with it at all, and it still managed to run for almost 3 years. It ran stock Android too, which puts it above tablets from major manufacturers like Samsung in that regard.

          Performance wasn't that great, it really was just fast enough to be useable.

          A piece of advice is that in this price range, the Intel Atom based tablets are way slower than the ARM ones.

      • Been trying to give myself reason to get a tablet but in my case their are none. I already have a smartphone with games to keep me busy when im bored. I have my desktop for everything else. I think if i had kids it would make since for long car rides and so on but kids grew up years ago lol. And i enjoy watching the world go by if im a passenger in cars.I would just get a laptop if im going to go small, might as well get the more powerful useful tool.
        • I got a cheap one with a large screen mostly as a PDF reader. It works great for that. It doesn't do what my laptop and smartphone can do, at least not very well, but a page-sized screen that works in portrait mode is great.

      • I would just point out that there are very inexpensive, but not all together bad, smartphones in the 50$ range, that can be loaded with sensible service.

        Take for instance, an LG Optimus Zone 3. It's a 45$ prepaid thing on Verizon's network. It *CAN* work on ATT's network after being SIM unlocked, and it can work just fine with something like FreedomPop. (which you can get the SIM card in the mail for 1$. Their lowest level service is literally 0$ a month, as long as you remain inside the 250minutes/500text

    • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Saturday October 07, 2017 @02:16PM (#55328175) Homepage

      " $50 Android tablets also offer cheap phone calls via Google Hangouts."

      Or just buy an empty prepaid simcard on ebay or for 50 cents, (or an actual one on the corner bodega) to receive the install SMS (on your cellphone) and install Whatsapp. (on the tablet)

      I have been doing that for years for the oldsters in our family on 50$ tablets, so they can text and phone for free all around the house.

      The digital divide isn't about hardware. I picked up an iphone 5s a few months ago for my kids for $50 to use on wifi. Our school issues ipads to every student in middle school and high school. The problem is access to the internet. Even free hardware is pretty useless if you don't have reliable internet. In my area, options start at about $50/month (which comes out to $600/year) and even if you can afford that, that assumes you even have the ability to install it. Plenty of poor people live in situations like subsidized housing, a friend's basement, or some odd-ball living situation where getting internet installed isn't even an option. One of my son's friend literally lived in tent with his parents for a while and now has upgraded to living in a pop-up camper. Getting broadband in a situation like this is pretty much impossible.

      • The cost of the Device even spending a couple thousand dollars for one isn't the big issue, it is monthly fees.
        Buying an expensive device even for a lower middle class family can be done with saving up for it. However the monthly fees for services is constantly affecting quality of life.
        So if you need a $2k device every 3 years that is saving $13 every month.

    • WhatsApp is proprietary, privacy-invading Facebook garbage. No one should use it when the are two perfectly good, *interoperable* standards available (SMS and RCS).

  • by fubarrr ( 884157 ) on Saturday October 07, 2017 @01:42PM (#55328073)

    China was already pumping ~$25 android crapphones for half a decade.

    Those things sell like hot cakes in South Asia and Africa.

    For an even longer period, they were selling $70 arm6 based crapbooks. First ones came during netbook boom, and they are being sold to this day to the same markets I named above. You can't do anything with them other than checking email, playing mp3s, or browsing nineties level websites, but for most people there it is more than enough.

  • I renewed my tabs online and went to pick it up at an office once (my procrastination my fault), granted there are some transactions that can't be done online but I feel like a lot of people in the walk up line good have done their stuff online and just jumped in the Internet pickup line.

    There seemed like there were 10 or 20 people in the walk up line whereas there were 3 off us in the Internet line. Maybe the digital divide exists and some just want to do it the old fashion way and wait in line.

    Another si

  • by Monster_user ( 5075027 ) on Saturday October 07, 2017 @01:56PM (#55328113)
    I've been called upon to restore apps from backup when the latest update doesn't work with the device. OS updates are usually not available for these devices. You just use it until most of your apps stop working and then buy a new one to get a more current OS. Such is a hidden cost which severely limits the life span, and increases the cost of the device.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You just use it until most of your apps stop working and then buy a new one to get a more current OS.

      So, just like a cellphone.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday October 07, 2017 @02:07PM (#55328155)
    Cheap phones can. Tablets are really only useful for consuming content. Now, cheap laptops yes. A keyboard, word processor, spreadsheets, programming environment, etc. Eg a full on PC. The truncated experience you get on a tablet doesn't cut it.
  • A couple of years ago I got a cheap (~$200) 10" Windows tablet. It came with 8.1 but I was able to upgrade to Windows 10. It's not fast and it can't multitask worth a damn with only 2GB RAM but it blows any Android/Chromebook/iPad out of the water for actually doing what I need to get done. The fact Apple crippled the iPad Pro with iOS instead of a touch friendly MacOS boggles the mind. The only time I pull out my Android tablet these days is to play a game. Unless you ave a specific use case where Android
  • If you are poor, you have other concerns like a place to live, food to eat (especially something that doesn't give you diabetes at 25), somone to watch kids while you go to an interview. A cheap prepaid phone with mobile data, has not been a limiting factor for many years. It's not that tech does not help at all, it's just that the potential has been tapped out at this point and other kinds of help are needed. At least in US, obviously greater access to cell phones has important practical uses in developing

  • Unless you can get free or cheap wi-fi, a decent internet connection costs more than the tablet.
    Perhaps this will drive making low price internet service available to low income households.
  • "People with no or low income could search for better jobs". Yeah, right. Dead giveaway it's a shill talking. So if they want more than H1B pay...they'd better be pretty accomplished at something already - which means they have associations and connections in whatever business.
    Manufacturers complaining about a lack of talent mean "I can't find anyone who can walk in the door with 5 year experience running this cad/cam/cnc that's only existed for 1 or 2 and who will work for...minimum wage...".
    Or maybe
  • If cheaptastic silicon can fix the "divide," than all of 3rd Worldistan would have been on Packard Bell pizza box form factor machines like fifteen years ago, complete with 72-pin EDO sticks for the RAM on a daughterboard.
  • Anyone who wanted a cheap device could already get a used one for very low cost.

    • Anyone who wanted a cheap device could already get a used one for very low cost.

      Anyone who has bought used Android hardware knows precisely why it was available used, and that reason is that it is no longer supported. Never buy used Android hardware unless it's barely used, and comes from a reputable manufacturer known to release updates.

      • Last 2 phones came from swappa.com. I have no complaints. Of course, every Android device I own gets rooted & has a 3rd party build installed before I start using it.

  • by hackel ( 10452 ) on Saturday October 07, 2017 @03:35PM (#55328431) Journal

    Not only is Google Voice only available in the States, it also requires a real, physical phone line (land line or mobile) to activate. I really don't think that does anything for people whose lives might be changed by a $50 tablet.

  • In terms of technology the Race to the bottom has been a failing proposition.
    Mid 1990's There is a computer called Gateway 2000. During this time they were a bit more expensive then the other PC makers, but in general they were built with good quality components. By the late 1990's and early 2000's Gateway had more or less peaked in their market, so they tried doing little tings over time to make their products, cheaper, to a point where Gateway 2000 PC were a joke.
    In the late 1990's there is a company ca

  • Will low prices contribute to getting devices into the hands of those who don't have them? Certainly.

    Do tablets enable anyone to participate in a digital world? Only to an extent. Tablets, as a hardware form factor, are far better at consumption than production. Anything with audio output and a 24-bit display can consume digital content. But typing on a screen is awkward if not tedious, and touch interfaces are primitive and imprecise compared to traditional pointer hardware. It's entirely possible fo

  • .. to that project? One lap top per child? Their goal was a 100$ laptop right?
  • First of all, it is a stupid idea to force poor people in the arms of big companies like amazon and google. And even, if they could buy a cheap device for mail and web, they also need Internet access. As this either requires money for a connection at home or the money of a latte at the local coffee place, this is out of scope for them financially. Also the digital divide is not only a monetary issue, but also an education issue. If you want to help, train them in how to use a library and how to read and und

  • I know 4-5 people on welfare. They all have cable TV ($140+/month). Most smoke cigarettes (around here, $4-$5 per cig).

    It ain't the price of a laptop + internet keeping them offline, it is the want/need that needs to be addressed.

    / gonna go on a limb here, if you can afford cable TV you don't get welfare.
    // if you smoke, you don't get welfare
    ///If you use EBT (food stamps) to buy anything but dried beans, rice, and canned tomatoes, you don't get welfare.

    I may sound like a Trumper here, but I
    • I know 4-5 people on welfare. They all have cable TV ($140+/month)

      Are you sure they're paying that much, because locally the cable company has a basic service for about $20.

      ///If you use EBT (food stamps) to buy anything but dried beans, rice, and canned tomatoes, you don't get welfare.

      Really? You did know the largest demographic of poor people is children right? And what about people with disabilities? People who lost their jobs when a factory shut down? Rice and beans only for them as well?

      I may sound like a Trumper here, but I work and pay my taxes and I'm fucking tired of supporting these leeches.

      Nice dehumanization there. Did you ever think that they have also worked in the past? That they basically might be between jobs?

    • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
      obligatory Samuel Johnson quotes incoming:

      "Poverty has, in large cities, very different appearances: it is often concealed in splendor, and often in extravagance. It is the care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest; they support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost in contriving for the morrow."

      What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to beggars? they only lay it out in gin or tobacco. "And why should they be denied such sweeteners of the
  • Reading all this I came to a thought. The posters are all pathetic. Why? Because they mostly say that tablets are only good for content consumption. They all ignore the question of what the content is. Nowadays you can go on youtube and watch enough videos to get the equivalent of a bachelors in most topics. Given the choice of teachers, you can even do better then a standard university where you will be forced to learn from a couple of dud professors. You can buy any text book, or obtain it for free if yo
  • Heh. I'm reading this story on my Rooted & re-imaged 7" Amazon Fire, running lp-fire-nexus-rom-20161124 (Android 5.1). It's a nice little machine, but it took me a full day to get the Exploit that gave me control to work. Not so simple for someone on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

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