Last week, a Harare company called William Over called us over to have a feel of the WeTab tablet, a device they just got exclusive reseller partnership for in the southern Africa region. The tablet is made by a German company called 4tiitoo. It was covered on international tech blogs like Engadget and arstechnica starting mid last year and got quite some positive reviews.
The hardware of the WeTab looks and feels quite solid. So solid it actually feels a bit too heavy for everyday tablet handling. In terms of accessory friendliness the tablet spots 2 full size USB ports, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and a front facing 1.3megapixel camera. Connectivity-wise the WePad comes in 2 versions, a 16GB one that has WiFi and a 32GB one with Wi-Fi plus 3G (and GPS). Both versions come with 1GB RAM. Display size is 29.4 centimeters and the screen is multi-touch.
Inside, the WeTab has a Linux based MeeGo mobile operating system customized by 4tiitoo into what they call the WeTab OS. It comes with open source office productivity suite OpenOffice.org. What we founds quite impressive is that even though it’s based on Linux, the tablet’s customized user interface hides the underlying operating system so well it has a new era device feel that’s so removed from traditional computing. You won’t even realise (and you don’t need to) there’s a Linux core unless you’re a techie trying some geek stuff out. To the regular user, it’s just a great looking intuitive interface.
Besides the programs it comes with, you can easily add on more through an inbuilt app store. The app store has most of the open source free apps you love and considering credit cards are an issue these parts of the world, the free factor does mean a lot.
We got to play with the device, trying out a couple of things and the experience is quite pleasing. It’s easy to like the WeTab.
Everything does feel great except the weight. We felt the thing was too heavy to handle for lengthy amounts of time without the support of something else like a desk or lap. It weighs 1kgs. In comparison the Apple iPad 2 is about 0.6kgs, the Motorola `Xoom some 0.7kgs and the Samsung Galaxy Tab only 0.4kgs. Gemma Parvin, the Distribution Manager over at William Over, says once you get used to it the weight ceases to be an issue.
There’s the price factor too. This will probably be the deal breaker for a lot of people. The WiFi-only version will retail at US $970 and the 3G one at US $1,200 (that’s excluding VAT). Parvin says the price might be a bit less depending on distribution logistics and retail markup. It’s not that other tablets on the market are priced lower. No. The prices are about the average tablet price in Zimbabwe.
Basically price-wise the WeTab doesn’t change the game. And that’s the problem. See, not many consumers locally will part with that kind of money for an additional computing device. At this price the tablets are not about to replace the one device that makes them look so unattractive; the netbook. Locally, netbooks are retailing at less than half the price.
Price issues aside, this is a great tablet we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone. It’s one of the few devices we’ve used that lets you do the regular computing stuff without having to deal with the traditional techie installations and complicated configurations. We can confidently say that the average person, even with no prior computer experience and without being taught how, will understand how to effectively use the WeTab in under 15 minutes. We think this is important for a lot of people; using a computer doesn’t need to be a complicated exercise.
Parvin says William Over is planning an official local launch of the WeTab soon, and to have the tablets distributed to retailers soon after launch. In the meantime, you can sample the devices at their offices in Workington. We’d provide a link to their website but Parvin says that it’s still in the works. Here’s a link to the 4tiitoo website: http://wetab.mobi/en/