New twist in Aakash tablet controversy

The controversy over the Indian government’s $45 tablet, Aakash, has taken a fresh twist, with a scrap breaking out between the manufacturer, Canada’s DataWind Ltd, and its erstwhile assembly partner, Hyderabad’s Quad Electronics Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Meanwhile, thousands of people who have booked the tablet are bearing the brunt of the fight. Bookings for an upgraded version of Aakash, the UbiSlate 7+, opened late last year, but deliveries are yet to start. Many of those who have booked the tablet have paid an advance.

The fight between the two former partners, who have terminated their relationship and claim to have served legal notices to each other, is the latest chapter in the troubled saga of the government’s ambitious effort to bridge the digital divide with a low-cost product. The government was expected to buy 100,000 Aakash tablets, but stopped after the initial lot when serious quality problems surfaced. The number of tablets bought by the government in the initial lot isn’t known. The company, however, sold around 10,000 of the tablets (branded UbiSlate for the retail market) online for around Rs2,500 each before retiring, perhaps in the wake of the controversy, the first version of the tablet, and promising the launch of an upgrade, UbiSlate 7+. Communications and information technology minister Kapil Sibalrecently said on the sidelines of an education conclave in Kolkata that the process will start again in May.

While Quad claims DataWind hasn’t paid it, the Canadian company alleges that its former partner infringed its intellectual property rights and tried to sell directly to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Rajasthan, the government-run technology school vested with the responsibility of procuring the tablets.

“They did not pay us and we have already served them a legal notice,” said a Quad executive, who did not want to be identified. He added that the company’s lawyers are studying further options.

Suneet Singh Tuli, chief executive of DataWind, refuted this claim in an email to Mint. “DataWind’s relationship with Quad ended because Quad circumvented DataWind’s relationship with IIT-Rajasthan and signed a separate MoU (memorandum of understanding) directly with IIT-Rajasthan. The two of them collaborated to try and create an Aakash-2 competitor, but were unsuccessful.” He added that the company had been paid for most of the units it had assembled, barring 600 for which IIT- Rajasthan is yet to pay.

The Quad executive said his company assembled 20,000 tablets, but stopped delivery after 10,000. “They (DataWind) couldn’t work with the government, did not respect our contract, and are not even standing by their promises to the consumers,” he said.

Tuli didn’t disclose either the number of people who have booked the tablet or those who have paid an advance. “We will provide an update on the number of pre-bookings, units delivered and schedule to clear the backlog at our launch event, planned for the third week of this month,” he said in his mail. In an earlier interaction, on 6 March, he had said the company had received three million bookings for Ubislate 7+ and hoped to launch its new tablet in a few weeks.

Tuli said in his mail that the company had appointed new partners to assemble the tablet, but didn’t identify them.

New Delhi-based Panchanan Bisoi, though, is still waiting. He ordered a Ubislate 7+ online for Rs2,999 and paid the entire amount in February. He has since been corresponding with the company, but said he hasn’t heard back from it. “The toll-free number doesn’t work and emails are not being replied to. It may turn out to be a failed project,” he said.

Tuli ascribed the delay to the time it took to find a partner. “We do understand the concern customers have because of delays, but we expect to have caught up on deliveries for pre-paid customers shortly, and are actively offering full refunds to anybody that does not wish to wait any longer. The very large majority of customers are standing by us, and new pre-bookings keep flowing in at a very strong pace,” he wrote in his mail.

He also said that anyone who had paid in advance heard back from the company in 48 hours and was given an email address and phone number to call “instead of the toll-free number”.

Online consumer forums don’t bear that out. A consumer named Sandhya Bhadauria said on that she booked a tablet in December, paid the entire amount, and was promised delivery in the first week of April. She said she has been unable to reach the company since. Another, J.K. Soni, wrote in the same forum that he paid an advance for delivery of the UbiSlate 7 in February. He said the company hasn’t been responding to his emails and phone calls.

Mint couldn’t independently ascertain either the identity of these customers or the veracity of their claims.

Source: Livemint

Airtel launches 4G services at Rs 999/month

Bharti Airtel, has launched India’s first 4G services in Kolkata today. Airtel , which had bagged BWA spectrum in four telecom circles — Kolkata, Maharastra, Punjab and Karnataka — for Rs.3,314.36 crore in 2010, selected Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE to manage its services in Kolkata. The services are priced between Rs 999 per month to Rs 1999 per month for with a free quota of 6- 9 GB.

“High speed wireless broadband has the potential to transform India, provide a robust platform for building the country’s digital economy and truly empower people. With one of the largest pools of young population in the world, India will see massive growth in consumption of data and content over mobile devices and proliferation of mobile commerce. I look forward to Airtel playing a pivotal role in shaping this exciting future for India,” Bharti Airtel, Chairman Sunil Mittal said.

Airtel plans to launch its 4G services in Bangalore within 30 days. Bharti and its rivals paid a total 385.43 billion rupees to buy fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband spectrum in a 2010 government auction, which saw bids at much higher prices than initially expected.


What is 4G?

4G is short for Fourth (4th) Generation Technology  which is an extension on 3G  and 2G connection. What 4G technology will basically bring is high speed internet (upto 5 times faster than 3G). Compared to the existing 3G services that allow downloads speeds of up to 21 mbps (mega bytes per second), 4G allows download speeds of “upto 100 mbps’

This basically translates into high definition video streaming and instant photo and video downloads. It will also facilitate quicker uploads.

This move will help in bridging the digital divide and add to economic growth in rural areas by enhancing the reach of e-governance, e-health and e-education services.

Top 5 feature phones below Rs 5,000

In the under-Rs 5,000 segment you will find hundreds of mobile phones. However, most of them turn out to be paper tigers with impressive specifications but poor performance.

So we chose phones that have a useful list of features but also boast top notch quality.

Nokia C2-03 Touch and Type (Rs 4,425)

nokia c2

This is the most searched phone on The Mobile Indian (ranks 15th,) and that speaks volumes about its popularity. The phone is a touch and type slider device based on Nokia S40 operating system.

It offers dual SIM functionality, but unlike other dual SIM phones, this one does not require you to switch off the phone to change SIM cards. In fact, the second SIM card slot is located on the left edge of the device. The phone can remember the settings for up to five separate SIM cards. It has a 2 megapixel camera, which takes decent pictures, and the device supports a 32 GB micro SD card as well. It is powered by a 1020 mAh battery that can easily give you two days of backup with average use.

C2-03 has a 2.6 inch display which hides a multi-tap keypad under it. You can use a stylus to navigate the menu on the phone’s resistive touchscreen.

There are GPRS and Edge internet connectivity on the Nokia C2-03; while for file transfers you can use Bluetooth or USB. For our impression of the handset you can read our reviews.

Motorola Quartz EX212 (Rs 4,599)

motorola quartz

Remember Motorola Razr? Many of you might still have the phone. Apart from everything else, the design was its most standout feature, and it can perhaps be called the best looking handset so far.

That design is making a comeback with the Motorola Quartz, which is a dual SIM clamshell slim, smooth and shiny phone. But unlike Razr, Motorola Quartz is not a costly phone and comes with basic features like a 2.4 inch TFT that displays 262k colours, and a 2 megapixel camera with video recording at 15 frames per second.

The phone plays videos well and the sound output is good too. It has a 3.5 mm jack so you can connect any headphone of your choice. Besides, it has stereo FM and a music player too.

For connectivity, Motorola has provided GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, and a USB drive in the Quartz. The device has external memory capacity of 16 GB and is powered by a 750 mAh battery that gives talktime of up to 375 minutes according to the company. The phone comes with a one year warranty.

Though some might argue that the feature set of Quartz does not justify the Rs 4,600 price tag, we feel the combination of quality, design and features makes it good value for money.

Nokia Asha 200 (Rs 4,370)

nokia asha

Nokia recently introduced a new set of feature phones under its Asha series. Asha 200 is one of the first and the cheapest of the series to arrive in the market.

Asha 200 is a dual SIM phone running on Series 40 operating system. The phone has a 2.4 inch display screen and a well spaced Qwerty keypad that aids typing.

The phone sports a 2 megapixel camera, and weighs just 105 gram despite having a large 1430 mAh battery, which will last for days on a single charge.

Asha 200 has an internal memory of 10 MB which is expandable up to 32 GB through a micro SD card.

For connectivity, it has GPRS, Edge, Bluetooth and micro USB. There is also a 3.5 mm jack for earphones. Asha 200 comes with games, life tools, Nokia music unlimited and access to Nokia store – a big plus for any handset.

Samsung Chat C3222 (Rs 3,850)

samsung chat

This handset is one of our old favourites. It is easy to use thanks to a very well laid out user interface and has a lot of well implemented features including a dual SIM function.

The Samsung Chat C3222 comes with a Qwerty keypad and a 2.2 inch display. The dual SIM active mode renders both the SIM cards active at all times. Chat C3222 features a 1.3 megapixel camera.

A 1000 mAh battery powers the Samsung Chat C3222 and gives 12.8 hours of talktime. The 60 MB of internal memory on the phone can be expanded up to 8 GB via a micro SD card.

C3222 features a music player with 3D sound technology, FM radio with recording, and a 3.5 mm audio port.

Connectivity options on the Samsung Chat C3222 include GPRS, Bluetooth v2.1 and a micro USB port. The C3222 features an optical trackpad for better menu navigation.

Karbonn K1616 Magic (Rs 4,829)

karbonn k1616

This is the only handset in the list from an Indian brand. We have used this handset for quite some time and it impressed us with its features as well as stability and performance.

This is the most feature rich phone here with the largest screen of any feature phone currently available in the market.

Karbonn K1616 Magic looks like a smartphone with a sleek design and matte finish, a metallic battery cover and a highly sensitive 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen.

The phone has a 3D user interface, cut-copy-paste feature for SMS and notes, proximity sensor and gravity sensor. Karbonn K1616 is a dual SIM phone and comes with a 3.2 megapixel camera, 8 GB of external memory support, and Edge connectivity. It also has Bluetooth and USB.

This phone is powered by an 1150 mAh battery that offers very decent battery life (close to two days during our use).

Aakash still finds favour with govt agencies

While the central government has already started to look for other manufacturers to supply low cost tablet PCs, Aakash tablet still finds favour from state governments and universities.

Aakash, the Nano of the tablet industry, has run into rough weather with the central government looking to find other suppliers to supply low cost tablets. However, that hasn’t deterred state governments and universities from going ahead and placing requests for the supply of these low cost tablets to empower their students.

For example, University of Mumbai has so far received around 25,000 requests for the low-cost Aakash tablet which costs just Rs 1138 for students. The requests have come from around 90 colleges and departments across the university’s jurisdiction.

These numbers are part of the first phase and it is expected that similar numbers will be ordered in the subsequent phases.

Similarly Andhra Pradesh government has also decided to arm its students with the tablet. They have reportedly sent a proposal for 10,000 tablets to the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry.

In the first phase, state universities, engineering and polytechnic colleges in Andhra Pradesh will get these tablets followed by students of private colleges in the second phase.

We at ‘The Mobile Indian’ have been flooded by calls from schools and individuals enquiring about the tablet and all of them want to buy it immediately. What can however derail this opportunity for the company is its inability to fulfill these orders in time. So far the company has not really been up to the task constantly changing its plans and not having delivered the tablets in numbers that it is expected to.

Earlier, HRD ministry officials quoted as saying that the government may not procure more than initial quota of one lakh tablets from DataWind as they started the online booking of Aakash tablet before supplying it to the government.

Also, Aakash tablet has been criticised for its poor battery life, poor processor that is unable to do multi-tasking and below par display quality.

8 reasons that will make you buy the Aakash

Previously, a $35 laptop was said to be in preps for the Indian market, with a motive to make quality education an achievable target for students who couldn’t afford one. Just when the emergence of the device began seeming to be a distant dream, Telecom Minister, Kapil Sibal along with DataWind introduced the “world’s most affordable tablet”.

Tablets had become a rage by then and clearly seemed to be the next-gen computer. Although, the affordable laptop, which was the original plan, had been in the works, probably and obviously building a tablet may have seemed to be quicker. Tablets have been making a splash, worldwide, through the year and with Aakash, this segment received more boost. Aakash is a basic tablet, while it comes with some improvements in the form of the UbiSlate 7. The DataWind UbiSlate 7, or say the commercial version of Aakash has reached a milestone with over 14 lakh pre-orders, already.

A tear down, earlier by IBN Live clearly exposed the poor internal components and a questionable build quality. The resistive screen has been a big selling hindrance to several devices. But the question is how much are we supposed to ask from a 7-inch tablet, in a price range as low as Rs. 2,500 to 2,999. The device has been crafted to initiate tech-imbued technology for students in schools and colleges, across India. The commercial version brings the tablet within the reach of the masses. We’ve penned down 8 reasons that could make you buy the Aakash in India.

Affordable Price
It may sound clichéd, but everything boils down to the pricing considering the price sensitive Indian market. The key selling point of the tablet is evidently its pricing. In fact, it was meant to come with a price point, which would be as low as possible to reach wider audiences. Aakash sells for Rs. 2,500, while the UbiSlate for Rs. 2,999. For Rs. 2,999, the 7-inch UbiSlate has a decent set of specifications to be cheapest tablet in the world.

Another aspect worth considering is the support for call functionality that the tablet offers. Yes, it works as a phone using a SIM card. Unlike the Reliance 3G Tab, it isn’t SIM locked to any carrier and gives you the flexibility of choice. The call functionality is also one of the factors that distinguish it from the Aakash tablet. This sub-3K device has a standard 3.5mm jack, further adding to the convenience of making and receiving calls.

Android 2.3
There are devices still running on Froyo, so it’s good to see the UbiSlate run on the Android 2.3 Gingerbread platform. This will also bring in support for the Android Market.

Now, the UbiSlate 7 has a minimalist approach, but it has managed to have the connectivity aspect in place. Several connectivity options and ease of use are some factors that users look forward to, and the UbiSlate 7 strives to offer optimum features within a tiny budget. It supports GPRS, Wi-Fi and 3G dongle. Now, that’s a good deal for a device under Rs. 3,000.

External memory
On the memory front, the UbiSlate 7 is at par with many tablets. It has a 2GB internal memory, which can be further extended up to 32GB, using the external microSD card. The overall storage capacity of this tablet, is almost on the same level as other tablets carrying hefty price tags, comparatively. In fact, it takes a step ahead with support for two standard USB 2.0 ports, which allow connecting external storage devices like a flash drive, webcams and more.

Since the Aakash and its commercial version were announced, the question has been about its build quality and overall performance. How long can a Rs. 2,900 device last. Well, we presume at least a year. DataWind offers 30 days replacement warranty, along with a one year warranty.

Whether it’s the all-plastic body or weaker components, DataWind hasn’t compromised on the portability factor. The 7-incher tips the scale at 350 grams, which is quite decent. You can easily slip the 7-incher in your bag.

Display size and resolution
It is nice to see that UbiSlate 7 didn’t settle for a smaller screen and maintained the average or standard, if we may say so, 7-inch screen size (again we aren’t considering the screen performance). Again the screen carries a fairly acceptable resolution of 800×480.

Though debatable, these may be the selling points that would help make the Aakash UbiSlate 7 a success story in the Indian market. Now available for pre-order from here, it will start shipping by late January 2012. A more improved version is also expected sometime around next year, which will add in better processing speed, along with a few improvements like an external keyboard just for Rs. 3,500.

However, the views are based on the price and the spec sheet that the device carries, and things may change depending upon the performance it eventually delivers.

Source: Tech2

Aakash tablets coming to a college library near you

Don’t want to spend INR 2,500 to buy Akash tablet, well you might still be able to get your hands on it. According to a report, Government is planning to place Aakash tablets in School/College libraries, so that students can get them issued like normal books and then return after using.

These library editions of Aakash will have college specific curriculum pre-loaded on the tablet. According to Zee News, government wants Aakash to reach all 220 million school and college students. Hence this step of renting the tab will in a way help government to reach its target.

However, government has still not started selling Aakash to students and even the commercial availability of Ubislate is also in question. Government has told NYTimes that it has now decided to procure the upgraded version of the tablet thus this delay. This upgraded version will come with  3200 mAh battery instead of 2100 mAh, better firmware and a 700 MHz Cortex A8 processor instead of the 366 MHz ARM 11 processor initially supplied. These supplies for the upgraded Aakash are yet to be received.

On the other hand, Datawind is trying hard to cope with increased demand of the tablet and released the following statement on its Facebook page.

“Delivery Schedule for Aakash – Deliveries of Aakash are currently in progress. If you ordered online and still have not heard from us, please bear with us for a little more time. By end of January we intend to contact everyone who ordered an Aakash. We are contacting you via email/phone in the order that your bookings were received by us. Once we contact you, you’ll be given the option to make your payment and Aakash will be shipped to you via a courier service. Aakash will continue to be shipped till stocks last.”

For those of you looking to buy Aakash, it can try and place the order at, however there are very limited stocks and they might have been already finished. The upgraded version is expected to be available in late-January and that too has been pre-booked till February, so any new orders will only be fulfilled in March.

You can read our previous news post on Aakash Tablet here.

Classpad tablet launched for education sector

There is a new tablet in town for the education sector, the Classpad, developed by Classteacher Learning Systems as a “new generation tablet for personalized and interactive teaching & learning.” The tablet will be available in both OTPC (One-Tablet-Per-Child) and trolley variants, for multiple student usage. The Classpad apparently features a 1.3GHz processor, and 4GB of built-in storage.

Comparisons to the Aakash are inevitable, especially as the Classpad is being marketed as an educational tablet. We’ve also seen a presentation that favourably compares it to “popular tablet recently launched”, with a better display and performance, capacitive multi-touch, integrated speaker, protective casing, and, longer battery life. Of course, at Rs. 7,500 for the base model, the price difference is just as striking.

For now, the details in the press release and all over the web are contradictory, and we’ve contacted the company for clarification. We’ll update you as soon as we hear back from them, with detailed differences between variants, and re-confirmed specifications.

In the meanwhile, what is known is that the Classpad (OTPC version) will come in three variants – Classpad 7, Classpad 8, and Classpad 10 – which will be priced between Rs. 7,500 and Rs. 14,500. Specs of what we presume to be the 10-inch Classpad 10 were also sent across to us, and can be seen below:

Cortex A8 (1GHz)
512 MB DDR2
Display MID1024: 10.1″ TFT LCD (1024X600) Capacitive touchscreen
MicroSD card slot (max. 32 GB supported),
Wi-Fi Networking
IEEE 802.11 b/g
Video Output
Mini HDMI, type C (1080p and 720p supported)
Audio Output
3.5mm headphone
PC interface
USB 2.0 Hi-speed
Additional Features
Stereo speakers

Front-facing camera (0.3 MP)
Built-in microphone
Operating System
Android 2.2
Rechargeable Li-poly battery Power Adapter (DC 9V, 2A)
Playback Time (hours)
MIS 1024: Upto 17 hours music, 4.5 hours video, 6 hours web browsing