The Aakash tablet almost got a hero’s status among the tablets during late 2011, when it was announced by Mr. Kapil Sibal, the then MHRD Union Minister and Datawind, the London based company that won the bid to supply the Aakash and Ubislate tablets to students and public at large. It was hard to believe that a modern device with relatively new technology was slated to be handed over to schools and colleges to aid the teaching process and the common man too can have such a tablet computer at affordable rates of Rs. 2500 to Rs. 2999.
This led to lot of hype and started the race that we see today pushing the various indigenous home grown companies to fight for a slice of low cost tablet market. However the customer feedback of Aakash tablets isn’t something that the Government or Datawind was hoping for.
The Aakash tablet features were a 366 MHz processor with 256 MB RAM, 2GB flash memory and WIFI only along with USB connectivity and a video accelerator chip that enabled HD video playback. The tablet also packed in a PDF and Document editor and reader. For students it additionally had a few topics from various syllabus preloaded. The upgraded Aakash 2 had a 700 MHz processor and GPRS connectivity for internet on the go. Both versions had the same 7 inch resistive touch screen and ran on Android’s 2.2 and 2.3 operating systems respectively.
Things looked good so far but problems soon mounted once the Aakash tablets were on sale online through the official site www.aakashtablet.com or www.ubislate.com and partner site www.ncarry.com. People wanting to buy Aakash tablet online were promised the scheduled deliveries within 3-4 months of booking that would be roughly around April and May 2012. However in Datawind’s own words, they received “overwhelming and unexpected” response for the products and were not able to deliver in time to all. Secondly, those few lucky ones who did receive the tablets were not pleased with it’s performance. The common gripe in the actual Aakash tablet review by users were as follows:
- The touch screen was unresponsive and at times took real hard knocks from the fingers to register a touch response.
- The performance was sluggish and the tablet has a tendency to heat up too quickly, that made it unsuitable for hot and humid Indian conditions.
- The battery life was very poor and was tough to get through 2-3 hours without charge on continued usage.
- The Aakash tablet which was mainly aimed at students had only WIFI connectivity which meant that if a student was outdoors or in a place without WIFI connection then he is stranded. This problem was however rectified to an extent by the Aakash tablet 2 having GPRS connectivity for internet on the go.
- It couldn’t play some video files even in a .avi format.
- Aakash tablet also lacked a speaker and a camera so those had to be bought elsewhere and attached via USB. Again these issues were addressed in the upgraded Aakash 2 tablet.
The positives in the reviews were as follows:
- The tablet was priced in a very affordable range and was a decent device for the price.
- It came with preloaded apps and games for recreation as well as educational purposes.
- The lack of access to Google Playstore was rectified in the Aakash 2 tablet.
- For additional Rs. 300, one could get a portable keyboard that could be attached to the tablet and used as a laptop for ease of working.
If the above mentioned performance issues weren’t enough, the customer feedback and complaints by those millions of buyers awaiting delivery sure would have given headaches to Datawind at least. The various customer complaint websites and forums are filled with complaints of the unresponsive customer care helpline and the lack of delivery of the tablets. Scores of buyers are still awaiting the deliveries even after almost 6-7 months of pre booking them and among those are the unfortunate thousands who have made online pre-payments as per Datawind’s suggestions of getting priority while deliveries.
Recently the MHRD Ministry announced an upgraded Aakash tablet with a 1 GHz processor and capacitive touch screen, running Android’s 4.0 ICS operating system, among other things. While this does show the Government and Datawind’s efforts to constantly improve on the product, one major factor that both need to understand is that technology is beneficial and intriguing only when made available at the right time. If people do not receive it for so long, it defeats the purpose of using ‘latest’ technology as by the time it reaches the end user, the thing is outdated. Good thing is that Datawind has admitted to its inability to meet the target and is ready to work on it, which gives us ‘hope’ that in future things might improve.