Asus has announced today that the Nexus 7 will go on sale in India from tomorrow, November 8, for Rs.19,900. It’s one of the few devices running Android 4.1 (also known as Jelly Bean) and both the Nexus 7 and the Jelly Bean OS were almost universally praised when they launched internationally in June. Since then, Asus, which manufactures the Nexus 7 for Google, has been suggesting for a while that it will bring the tablet to India.
The Nexus devices are meant to serve as a template from Google (which makes Android) to device manufacturers such as LG, Samsung, HTC and others who make Android phones and tablets, to highlight the capabilities of their operating system. The OEMs usually customize Android to have unique differentiators for their devices, which means that if you want to use Android without any modifications, then the Nexus hardware is the best. This is particularly good for consumers because Nexus devices get software updates much faster than OEMs which need to customize it. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note is slated to get the Jelly Bean update only in December.
So someone looking for a budget tablet has good reason to want a Nexus 7. However, the pricing in India is a little hard to swallow – it’s definitely higher than what most people expected.
In the US, at $199 it offers quality hardware and shows exactly what a budget tablet should deliver. The iPad Mini has a bigger screen, many more apps which are suitable for the tablet size, and a better build quality but costs $329. The price difference is pretty big and the Mini isn’t a clear winner.
Expecting the Nexus 7 to be available at a direct dollar to rupee conversion would be too hopeful, of course – otherwise we’d be getting it for around Rs.10,000. Taking into account customs duties over this price though, it still works out to under Rs.12,500. And Asus is based in Taiwan, so technically, they could be selling the device for even less since $199 includes US taxes.
That doesn’t take factors like logistics into account though, but a price of Rs.15-16,000 or a little more would have been ideal for most, and it’s what most industry watchers have been predicting. At Rs.19,990, the Nexus 7 starts to cost pretty close to what one can expect from the iPad Mini. Based on the cost of an iPad 2 in India, and on the price difference between the iPad 2 and the iPad Mini in the US, it seems likely that it will be available for Rs.20-21,000, which isn’t much more than the cost of the Nexus 7.
So why is the Nexus more expensive here? The reason is simple – Google sells the Nexus 7 in the US, where it subsidizes the cost of the device. Google (like Amazon) has gone on the record to say that they’re selling the tablets at cost – they’re not out to make a profit on the hardware itself, but rather, to grow their ecosystem of users, and to build value for developers. The company will recover the money through gains in Android over time. Amazon’s strategy of selling Kindle’s at cost to market their library of books, movies and music is similar.
In India though, Google isn’t selling the Nexus 7, Asus is. They don’t have the option of taking the money back over the long term – Asus has to make a profit on the units sold, or they won’t be able to keep selling them. And that means that the Nexus 7 is available for Rs.19,990. Is this a good price for India? Not really, but there might have been other factors which haven’t come to light as yet, which limited the pricing options available to the Taiwanese manufacturer. And for now, the iPad Mini being around Rs.20-21,000 is also speculation, so it might yet be a competitive price.
That said, the reasons for buying the Nexus 7 remain. It’s still one of the best Android tablets available, and Jelly Bean is a big step forward. Apple’s build quality and app library are definite advantages, but the iPad Mini isn’t officially in India yet, so if you want something right away, the Nexus is the best option on the market.