At today’s UKTI pre-Mobile World Congress media event in London we got chatting to Datawind and got to have a look at its Ubislate Android tablet.
The particular Wi-Fi-only model we spent some time playing with is a super-affordable Android 2.2 Froyo slate. Made to order for educational markets in India (where it’s known as the Aakash) the Ubisoft tablet costs just $35 (£22). This particular model is running on some pretty lowly specs; the 7-inch 800 x 480 WVGA screen is resistive and the processor clocks in at 366MHz.
Other specs include a microSD card slot (up to 32GB) and two full-sized USB ports, along with a proprietary connection for charging and a 3.5mm jack for headphones.
The Ubislate is a no frills tab that, like Kobo’s Vox eReader, is optimised for one purpose. In this case it’s fast, simple web browsing.
The Ubislate tablets feature a custom browser (i.e. not the stock Android browser) that Khan told us was optimised for developing markets where there’s little to no 3G coverage. The browser compresses data traffic by 30 to 40 times, offering download speeds “as good as any 3G,” which is a bit of a claim.
Sadly, we couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi at the UKTI event and, there not being a Wi-Fi and cellular version of the Ubislate to hand, we weren’t able to test out the browser.
Aakash 2 for the UK, it’s coming some time
Datawind’s Vice President of UK Operations Alia Khan told us that there’s a second model in the works, the Ubislate 7+ aka the Aakash 2.
The Ubislate 7+ will feature a faster processor (700MHz), a capacitive touchscreen and will run on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Apart from that, the design and spec will more or less be the same.
We understand that the UK-bound Ubislate 7+ will be heading to the UK this year. You can ‘pre-book’ the Ubislate 7+ now but there’s no release date to go on just yet. We were told that your £99 gives you a year’s worth of data access courtesy of Vodafone thrown in for good measure.
The model we saw didn’t have the Android Market installed, nor the Gmail app. Modders will do what modders do – we daresay that some intrepid soul will find a workaround.
Until we get some more info on the Ubislate 7+ coming to the UK, have a look at our hands on pics of the original Ubislate.
Yes the Ubislate 7 runs Froyo, but were you expecting Ice Cream Sandwich for the equivalent of £22? The resistive touchscreen (boo hiss) isn’t very responsive or pleasant to the touch; we hope that the Ubislate 7+ with a capacitive screen is more polished.
The Ubislate 7 has a chunky build but is pretty lightweight in the hand. It’s not really that much taller than a Google Nexus One on it’s shortest edge. In other words it’s pretty comfortable to hold and eminently portable.
You might have noticed by now that there’s no sign of the regular Android controls – no Home, Menu, or Back or anything like that. That’s because they’re hidden away, or the controls are on-screen. This plastic button here acts as a home button, with a long-press bringing up a list of the most recently used tasks.
This switch, next to the proprietary charger port, powers the screen on and off. There’s no external volume controls on any of the edges or any speakers on the hardware itself.
While there’s no speakers you can plug your headphones into the 3.5mm port on the adjacent corner.
Up on the opposite narrow edge there’s two full-sized USB 2.0 ports and a microSD slot.
Datawind’s Ubislate 7 is very basic but for £22 (or the equivalent therof) it’s so cheap. We’re looking forwards to seeing the £99 Ubislate 7+ later in the year.
It was also a shame we couldn’t play around with the browser. We’re hoping to catch up with these guys again at Mobile World Congress, so hopefully we’ll be able to have some hands-on time with it then.