Tesco is dipping its toes into the competitive yet lucrative tablet market with Hudl - pronounced ‘huddle’.
Hitting over 1,000 stores from the end of September, if you are a Tesco shopper you’ll see a lot of this seven-inch Android tablet before Christmas.
But what’s so good about the Tesco Hudl? And is it worth buying?
Why is Tesco making a tablet?
Research from IDC found that in 2012, Apple had a 43.6% market share of the worldwide tablet market. It’s a slight drop from 2011, but still gives it nearly three times as much of the market as the number two and three vendors, Samsung (15.1%) and Amazon (11.5%).
In short, the tablet market is dominated by one manufacturer and massively competitive for its other entrants. So why would Tesco want to make its own tablet?
According to Ofcom, a quarter of UK households own a tablet. That’s three quarters that do not, and it’s these people that Tesco is targeting.
According to Tesco’s research, potential tablet owners are put off by the expense of tablets and intimidated by the technology.
“We want more of our customers to access the benefits of tablets. It’s for the many, not for the few,” said Tesco’s Chief Executive Philip Clarke.
Retailing for £119, the Hudl is certainly affordable, yet Tesco confirmed that it’s a price point it can still make money from.
The tablet market is competitive, but the number of Tesco stores in the UK mean the Hudle can reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers.
And let’s not forget it’s also a useful device for pushing the supermarket giants’ other products and services.
Who is it aimed at?
Tesco thinks tablets – essentially large smartphones - are more accessible than PCs.
With the Hudl Chief Marketing Officer Matt Atkinson said: “We want it to be something all our customers can embrace and enjoy. Affordable, accessible and colourful.”
The supermarket giant worked with customers to develop and test the Hudl – in fact the name (which if you ask us is pretty terrible), was chosen by customers – signifying a way of bringing people together.
At the launch Tesco previewed a couple of television adverts which focused on very different types of users – elderly people, children and young people – some who may not traditionally be seen as tablet users.
The Hudl is very much a family tablet. The first time the tablet is launched, an on-screen overlay appears asking parents if the tablet will be used by children and providing advice on how to set up the device to ensure your child uses it safely.
Is it any good?
Tesco seems pretty confident the Hudl’s specifications can stand up to its rivals. Certainly the spec sheet looks impressive.
Pick up the device and it feels well built – certainly nicer than some of the cheaper tablets we’ve used, with a comfortable soft-touch back. Uniquely for some tablets, it comes in four colours - black, blue, red and purple.
Inside there’s a quad-core 1.5GHz processor, which should ensure it can handle gaming, streaming music and movies as well as day-to-day tasks like browsing.
It runs Android Jelly Bean, which is the most popular version of Google’s operating system used. Specifically 4.2, with 4.3 still only available to Nexus devices. Tesco could not confirm to us yet whether it would be updated to Android KitKat when the new OS is released later this year.
The Hudl has a seven-inch 1440x900-pixel HD screen, which should be sharper than the iPad Mini’s 7.9-inch 1024x769 pixel resolution, but not as sharp as the Nexus 7’s seven-inch Full HD 1920x1200 display. Bear in mind, though, that both these tablets are significantly more expensive than the Hudl at £269 and £199 respectively.
There’s a fairly standard 16GB of storage, which is expandable using a memory card. Wi-fi and Bluetooth are on board and the Hudl also includes an HDMI out – a useful feature for playing back movies on a flatscreen television.
There’s no 3G for getting online on the go.
At 3-megapixels and 2-megapixels respectively (without a flash), the camera specs aren’t fantastic, but will be fine for video calls.
Surely Tesco is going to use it to push its other services?
Over the last few years Tesco has shown it’s not afraid to diversify into new areas. It sells mobile phones and in 2011 it bought movie streaming service BlinkBox.
The tablet will include a dedicated button providing access to Tesco services such as BlinkBox, Groceries and Clubcard.
Three bespoke apps have been designed for the device - BlinkBox Movies, BlinkBox Music and ClubCard TV, while BlinkBox Books is coming soon.
Tesco also hopes you’ll use the tablet to shop. It confirmed the tablet is part of its multichannel strategy where customers can use the tablet to shop “whenever, however and wherever they want”.
Certainly if you are a Tesco customer, the Hudl provides instant and convenient access to multiple services.
However If you are not a Tesco customer you’ll still be able to access alternative services and apps from the Google Play Store - unlike Amazon’s Kindle tablets, which only provide access to the Amazon App Store.
Should I get the Tesco Hudl?
First impressions of the Tesco Hudl are impressive. It offers great functionality at a very reasonable price.
There are cheaper tablets out there, but they don’t offer specs like quad-core processor or run the latest version of Android. And it’s £80 cheaper than the Google Nexus 7.
If you have been collecting Clubcard points, the Hudl is even better value – you can exchange it for £60’s worth of vouchers.
And as Tesco points out – with 1,000 stores around the UK, customers can easily bring it back into a store for customer support.
So what’s the catch?
Well the tablet doesn’t offer 3G, but that’s not particularly problematic - there are more wi-fi only tablets, than 3G-ready tablets.
Certainly selling the Hudl for just £119, Tesco isn’t going to make a great deal of money from each tablet. Instead it will be hoping, when customers buy it, they'll experiment with services like Blinkbox for movies, and later (we expect) download e-books from Blinkbox Books, spending more money. Tesco isn’t forcing users to download purely from its own app store and it's own eco-system.
So at the moment, we can’t see a catch. Tesco could just be expecting high sales from its huge customer base.
We only had a brief hands-on with the Hudl, but first impressions are promising. We’ll bring you a full review very soon.