Apple iSlate popular with the ladies, but price could be a deal killer, survey says

24 Jan 2010

The rumoured iPad, or iSlate, tablet device predicted to be launched this week by Apple will prove popular with e-book reading ladies. However, any price for the device above US$700 may prove to be a deal breaker, a survey by a top US online retailer suggests.

Online US electronics retailer Retrevo conducted a survey of 500 customers and found there’s a strong consensus that we’ll see a media device with a 10-inch touchscreen that runs iPhone apps or Mac OS apps.

The big questions everyone is asking are will anyone actually want one of these devices, how much will they pay and what will the content access model look like?

“How much are tablet owners going to have to pay to access all that wonderful content like newspapers, magazines, digital books, TV shows and movies from the ‘i-Store’ and how about just accessing the web using 3G?,” Retrevo asked in its blog and mused Apple might also simply use the Kindle pay-as-you-go model with 3G connectivity included in the price of the device and the content?

Retrevo asked consumers what would encourage or discourage them from buying an Apple tablet, and the data or “content” plan came up on top.iPad 1

In the study, more than 39pc of the respondents said 3G was needed to make them want to buy a tablet but more interestingly, 44pc said they wouldn’t buy a tablet if it required a monthly data plan. We wonder how many more monthly subscriptions consumers will tolerate.

“Will Apple innovate and offer more than one plan? Will they give away connectivity to sell books, music, TV shows, newspapers, and other content? Will they bundle a tablet data plan with an iPhone plan? OK, Steve, here’s your chance to innovate with an irresistible offer or maybe two irresistible plans?” “Steve” being a reference to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Retrevo asked consumers what features they’d like to see on a tablet. No 1 on the list was solar charging, which beat out a forward-looking video camera and 4G connectivity.

“We have to admit leaving your tablet on a sunny table to add battery life sounds attractive. Supporting the call for supplemental charging is the fact that when Retrevo asked consumers which features they needed most in a tablet, 75pc of respondents wanted a battery life or more than six hours.”

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Female tablet buyers (38pc) rated an e-book store high on their must-have list, compared to 25pc of men. Women also expressed a stronger interest in seeing iPhone features on a tablet, with 46pc rating iPhone features high on the list compared to 35pc of men. Women also indicated a stronger interest in solar charging, with 40pc of women wanting to see solar power on the tablet compared to only 33pc of men.

In terms of operating system, respondents were equally divided between the iPhone OS and Mac OS (Snow Leopard), with most of them saying they didn’t care which OS the tablet ran. iPhone owners expressed a preference for running iPhone apps over Mac apps by a 3:2 margin.

“When we asked consumers what price would discourage them from buying an Apple tablet, (and) 70pc of respondents said anything over $700 would be a deal killer. On the other hand, 30pc appear to have the desire, deep pockets, and willingness to spend more than $700, which isn’t bad,” Retrevo said.

But is there a pent-up desire for a tablet-format device in the first place? “Retrevo found roughly half the respondents said they didn’t think they needed a tablet computer.

“Admittedly, participants in the study didn’t have any idea what an Apple tablet was and how much one would cost except for what they might have read in the press so it didn’t surprise us that roughly 30pc of respondents said they wanted more information before they decided one way or the other.

“Even now though, it looks like there are plenty of tablet buyers ready to plunk down the $700, rumoured price to be among the first tablet owners,” the retailer said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: An artist’s rendition of the possible Apple iTablet or iPad device

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years