BlackBerry 4G LTE PlayBook: Same tablet, crazy price.


The new 4G LTE PlayBook launched by RIM yesterday, with all three major carriers, is essentially the same PlayBook the company released a little over a year ago. To say this is a “new” PlayBook would be overstating things. Other than the 4G/LTE cellular data connection option indicated in the model’s name, the only difference is the processor, which received a modest speed bump from 1 GHZ to 1.5 GHZ.

Literally everything else about the 7″ tablet remains the same. Even the box it ships in.

So you’d think that this slightly updated PlayBook would be priced in-line with the non-LTE versions you can find on store shelves today i.e. $229 for a 32GB model. Nope, not even close.

Turns out the 4G/LTE PlayBook, which only comes in the 32GB capacity so far, retails at most carriers for the astonishing price of $549 without a contract.

Let that sink in for a moment…

If you want a PlayBook with 4G/LTE connectivity and a slightly faster processor, you’ll be shelling out an additional $320, or put another way, 139% more.

Just to be clear, this is not an indictment of the tablet itself. The PlayBook, while still under-appreciated by much of the tech media, and certainly not a fan-favourite with consumers, in nonetheless a very good tablet. To see how well it has aged, check out Marc Saltzman’s comparison between the PlayBook and the brand-new Google Nexus 7. The addition of 4G/LTE is a really great option – much like other 4G/LTE devices, it absolutely blazes along. In downtown Toronto at mid-day (peak network usage time) I was able to get speeds of 35Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. Not too shabby.

But poor sales numbers forced RIM to heavily discount all models of the PlayBook, thus changing the landscape dramatically. No longer were we to compare the PlayBook to its larger and more expensive competitor – the iPad. Instead, especially here in Canada where the Kindle Fire isn’t on sale, we now see the PlayBook as a great alternative for people who don’t want an ereader and a tablet – the PlayBook is small enough and inexpensive enough to be both (precisely the territory Google is hoping to exploit with the $209 Nexus 7).

All of which means, unfortunately for RIM, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

There is no world now, in which a 32GB PlayBook with 4G/LTE is worth $549.

The very most RIM can expect to people to pay for this mobile speed premium is $130 – the same price difference that Apple slaps on all 4G/LTE versions of the iPad – which means a new 4G/LTE PlayBook should actually cost $359. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) that is exactly $10 more than the 3-year term subsidized price of the new PlayBook: $349.

Now, I know there are folks out there who will point out that even at $549, the 4G/LTE PlayBook is still $100 cheaper than a comparably equipped 16GB iPad which only has half the storage. That’s absolutely correct. But don’t forget, Apple’s latest iPad is a technological tour-de-force with a screen resolution unmatched by any tablet. And even if comparisons to the iPad were meaningful (they aren’t at this point in time), it can’t change the fact that RIM’s own discounting of the original PlayBook has created this unfavourable situation.

RIM, expecting the backlash from the 4G/LTE pricing, has decided to throw the carriers under the bus. “RIM works closely with its carrier partners on its product launches. Pricing, plans and contracts are determined by the carrier,” according to RIM’s agency, Brodeur Partners of New York.

This seemingly out-of-touch-with-reality pricing  might be, in some twisted way, RIM’s way of getting you to buy a BlackBerry. I know, sounds wacky, but hear me out:

For $99 on a 3-year contract, you can get RIM’s range-topping Bold 9900 4G. It may not have LTE speeds, but it’s still a great device for productivity. And because the PlayBook’s biggest draw for BlackBerry owners is the ability to tether the two devices seamlessly, sharing one data connection, you could pick up a 32GB non-4G/LTE PlayBook for $229. Since you’ll already be paying for the monthly carrier charges on the Bold, there’s no need to pay again just to provide the PlayBook with its own data connection.

If RIM still has a surplus of PlayBooks it’s trying to get rid of, which the current pricing seems to confirm, this strategy might make sense: in giving people lots of incentive to buy BlackBerrys and PlayBooks together instead of just PlayBooks on their own, the company addresses two problems at once – getting rid of their soon-to-be-obsolete BlackBerrys and surplus PlayBooks.

It’s a long-shot, to be sure, but these days – sadly – everything about RIM is looking like a long-shot.

I like the PlayBook. Especially at its current $200 price point for 16GB. Everyone I’ve spoken to who owns one still enjoys using it and has no regrets. But I can’t get behind a $320 premium for 4G/LTE connectivity, the value simply isn’t there.

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13 comments

  1. Guy

    The lte when compared to other brands shows more bang for the buck

    The comparison looks bad only when compared to their wifi models

    The wifi only are ridiculously cheap

    The cellular carriers need to mark it down with a plan which they are BTW

    At least bell and rogers are
    Telus needs to join the club

    Like

  2. James

    $200 for a 16G?

    We bought a 32 about 6 months back for $149.99. And I am quite happy without 4G LTE so my purchase seems to be quite the bargain.

    Like

  3. Billy

    I bought 7 of the 32 last Christmas. It’s all you need. I was very happy with the product and still am. I bought 7 and gave away 6 to my grandkids and kept 1 for myself. Because I bought 7 the retailer cut the price even more. I paid $134.99 each. That seems like a huge bargain now considering the price of these new tablets.

    Like

  4. Jon

    Price wise it seems reasonably priced compared to an Apple product that has way less storage. The screen is overblown on the ipad as many people don’t like it because its imply too big. The price could be prohibitive to many but personally still prefer a laptop for mobile computing.
    Strange thing though that most people are wiling to pay $600-$700 dollars for a phone with a 4″ screen but complain about the price of a product with a 7″ screen for almost a 1/3rd – 1/2 of the price. Pricing is pathetic in these two markets and consumers get what they deserve so long as they keep paying these ridiculous prices for products. People should try keeping their money in their pockets for a year and see how cheap these products will become then.

    Like

  5. James

    I have just received a notification from Blackberry showing 32GB at $249 and Best Buy showing $229 so where do you get your information?

    Like

      • Simon Cohen

        Hi James, I provided a link in the article. The prices are from The Source stores which currently have the 32GB model on sale for $229 and the 16GB for $179 – a fantastic price for this tablet.

        Like

  6. John J.

    – – – August 11, 2012

    – – – To Mr. Cohen, let’s ; ” PLAY A GAME “. This is citation from Mr. Buce Willis’s Movie LoL ;-) . Ehhhhh !!!!! Why HIM? He’s a good actor amongs many other’s .

    – – – The game will be called ; ” SIMON SAYS ” LoL
    I’m sure Marcia will get a hoot out of this one LoL . It’s all good fun because if we dont like what we do, right ” SIMON ” if I may call you by your first name,then what’s the point .

    – – – They say that what ever a person does determine’s one’s happiness or Misery 1) Job / 2) whom you frequent, and or Marria OUpssss LoL TYPO ,LoL .
    Whom a person marries 3) Etc… 4)Etc… 5)Etc… // And so forth .

    – – – So What is the, ” VERDICT SIMON “, dont you think we have PRETTY Ladies to announce use the News LoL Miss Laflamme == Flame Outch Can’t touch this ,LoL ;-P .

    – – – Then there’s Miss Marcia or Maria, anyhow the pretty Blonde News lady, LoL ;-P . Now here’s a question for you simon ? If you had the choice Between a Pretty Lady which would it be… Now becarefull this may determine LoL, how they respond to yourself in the futur .

    – – – A Friend ;-) // Just thought I’d put yourself on the HOT SEAT LoL .

    – – – As for Technology it evolves so fast, it’s unbeleivable .

    Like

    • Cone Head

      WTF!?

      Who is John J.?

      Where did he learn how to spell?

      What is his mission?

      Is his brain starving for oxygen?

      Why is he failing miserably at trying to talk in riddles? Maybe he always talks like this?

      I think he is an alien.

      Like

  7. Jim

    I have had my playbook for almost a month now.
    I chose the 64 gig for 299.00.The I love the most is I have access to Word and Exel. I can send my file to my laptop and continue my work at home.On the road it is like a 7 inch laptop. Compared to other tablet it is more convienient and much better value. For the only thing that would make it better is the addition of Skype. There is no app and no access to Skype.

    Jim

    Like

  8. Dan White

    Hi…
    As far as I am concerned, RIM is still out of touch with reality. Had the price came in in the area of $300., I would have immediately gone out and bought one to replace my existing Playbook, but at $400 I would have thought about … was it worth it? … at $500 + is RIM on GLUE????? There is not a snow ball’s chance in hell that I would pay that much for something that will be dropped to $250…a year from now… when the existing inventory does not sell. Likely by that time, there will be other bigger and better options then, so it will be too little too late.

    This is was RIM’s golden opportunity to capitalize on a good piece of hardware and some cool features…. but in my opinion, they have blown their last chance. Now RIM will become RIP.

    It is a sad thing that a good Canadian company, can be so out of touch with realty that they self destruct.

    Like

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