HP has confirmed rumors that it’s planning a smartphone comeback with Android — though it’s targeting a curious market at first: India.
The computer maker is planning two large Android devices — a six-inch smartphone and a seven-inch tablet — for release in India next month, HP told Re/code.
The smaller Slate 6 is what’s known as a “phablet,” a smartphone that’s so large it approaches the size of a tablet. The Slate 7 VoiceTab sounds like a more traditional Android tablet, along the lines of Google’s Nexus 7, but which can also make voice calls. HP isn’t yet saying when the devices will be available in other countries, but given that it’s focusing on India first, I figure it will focus more on emerging markets before it enters the cutthroat smartphone market in more connected countries.
Why India? The company saw a need there that it could fill, HP’s VP of consumer PC business Ron Coughlin told Re/Code. It also helps that India is one of the few markets that Apple hasn’t penetrated much with the iPhone. Apple is reportedly gearing up to offer a cheaper iPhone 4 model to tempt more Indian consumers, but at this point it ranks at the bottom of India’s top 10 smartphone vendors, according to research firm Gartner.
Apple is planning to relaunch an 8-gigabyte version of the iPhone 4 for around $250 in India, according to the Times of India. Currently, the cheapest iPhone in India goes for around $525. I wouldn’t be surprised if HP ends up undercutting Apple’s potential cheap iPhone plans with a $200 price for the Slate 6.
HP has notably had a contentious history with smartphones: Former CEO Leo Apotheker killed HP’s mobile business back in 2011, which was built on the WebOS-powered software and hardware from its $1 billion Palm acquisition. Though WebOS had plenty of potential, HP just couldn’t deliver a device that successfully competed against the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. (Though the firesale prices of HP’s TouchPad tablet proved the need for ultra-cheap tablets.)
While HP hasn’t divulged the pricing of its new Android devices, the specs hint that they will be affordable (a necessity for India). They both feature 720P HD displays, stereo front speakers, a 5 megapixel camera, and will run Android 4.2. Storage-wise, both come with 16 gigabytes and can be expanded with MicroSD cards. HP says they’ll be powered by quad-core processors but hasn’t yet divulged who’s making them.
HP also notes that the devices are fairly thin, with the Slate 6 at under 9 millimeters thick, and the Slate 7 at 9.5 millimeters.