If you’ve wandered by an Apple store and seen the artwork, products, and huge lines of people, you know that the new iPad is here, upgraded and refreshed for 2012.

A new iPad means that most of last year’s competing tablets are now out of date, especially since these were designed to compete with the Apple iPad 2. This year, Apple has kept the iPad 2 in place and dropped its price significantly, so much that you can find them at Apple for $429 or at resellers for around the $400 mark.

With a cheaper iPad available, manufacturers with competing tablets have to step up their game to win customers over against the juggernaut, and for many, that means dropping the price of tablets across the board.

So what’s happening? Are the major names going to drop some dollars and make a loss for a while, or will they just hope consumers choose their products instead?

Samsung

Probably the biggest competitor Apple has, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was the closest tablet to reach the thickness and build quality seen in the iPad 2. It was such a contender for the iPad throne that Samsung and Apple have been engaged in legal battles to stop it from being released locally since it was unveiled overseas in 2011.

Late last year, Samsung won and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was released in Australia. Since then, we’ve seen the excellent Galaxy Tab 7.7 as well as a 4G compatible Galaxy Tab 8.9 make its way out to stores across the country.

A quick glance at Samsung’s current street pricing shows that the 16GB WiFi Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes in at roughly $450 while the 64GB 3G/WiFi model fetches an iPad busting $800. The smaller models on offer from Samsung haven’t been out for very long, and as such, their street values haven’t dropped considerably from the RRPs.

We did ask Samsung if it was going to drop prices in response to Apple, but it specified that its Australian pricing included “localised content offerings, including the full version of the Navigon navigation app with maps on board; the 2012 Good Food Guide app, which is exclusive to Samsung; andany additional local apps that Samsung chooses to release during the life of the product, which are pushed out via Samsung apps on a country by country basis.”

Further, the company stressed that its devices had “been tested for interoperability with the Telstra, Vodafone and Optus networks” and “bears the compliance labelling required by the ACMA to confirm that it meets Australian safety and technical standards, including emergency calling and sound pressure limits.”

This is likely a response to Apple’s new iPad which, while advertised as 4G, doesn’t actually work on Australia’s 4G networks.

Before Apple dropped the iPad 2 price to $429, Samsung was competing well, undercutting Apple. Since the price shift, Samsung has been silent, and right now, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 costs more than Apple’s iPad 2. Hopefully we’ll see a dollar dropping response in the coming weeks.

We loved the Galaxy Tab 7.7, though it's a little strange that a smaller WiFi only device costs more than the iPad 2.

Sony

Rating among the most unique tablets we’ve seen, Sony’s Tablet S and Tablet P present completely different takes of what a slate can be.

The folded page design makes the Tablet S automatically different, with home entertainment connectivity for both DLNA and remote control use, it’s also perfect for home theatres.

Meanwhile, the Tablet P is so compact, it folds up like a Nintendo DS, offering two touch screens in a small format.

But both of these tablets originally came with larger than life price tags, fetching $499 for the Tablet S and $729 for the Tablet P earlier this year.

Now that the iPad 2 has come down in price with the release of the new iPad, here’s what Sony had to say:

“We have no information to provide at this time.”

Whether that means Sony is thinking of something, we can’t be sure, but given how much the competition is heating up, we can’t see how it can be avoided. Rumours are currently suggesting a Tablet S successor will arrive soon, likely with Nvidia’s Tegra 3 processor powering it.

 

Asus

The Asus Transformer series of tablets was one of the most promising takes on the format, and we loved the recently released Transformer Prime so much, it almost managed a perfect score in our review.

But Asus also has its older Transformer TF101 and EeePad Slider in the market, and with a new iPad model, we’re anticipating some urgent price drops.

Asus told us that:

“The RRPs issued by ASUS remain as follows:

  • Transformer Prime 32GB: $799
  • Transformer Prime 64GB: $899
  • Slider 16GB: $649
  • Slider 32GB: $749
  • Transformer 16GB stand alone: $599
  • Transformer 32GB bundle with keyboard: $799

Pricing may vary depending on the retailer.”

While we find it odd that Asus won’t be shifting its older product pricing given the new iPad pricing, our own research found that some stores seemed willing to drop prices considerably, with the keyboard-less Transformer TF101 16GB WiFi found for $388 on street price in Australia, well below the recommended retail price of $599.

Motorola

One of the first companies out with an iPad competitor in 2011, Motorola has only recently updated the Xoom with a slightly revamped version. While we’ve yet to review this newly announced model, the upgrades seem minor and we doubt there’d be much to compete against in Apple’s new iPad.

As such, we’d really expect Motorola to have some sense and shed some dollars, but were told this:

“Motorola do not comment on competitor pricing strategies.”

Here’s hoping that Motorola considers a price drop urgently, because with the new Xoom 2 fetching $720 for 3G and 32GB, and Apple’s new iPad only $69 more than this, Motorola will be hard pressed to find consumers preferring a barely updated model to Apple’s new juggernaut.

Toshiba

In the past year, Toshiba has tried its hand with three tablets, with the 10.1 inch AT100, AT200, and 7 inch AT1S0.

While we’ve yet to play with the AT200, neither of the AT100 series tablets were true standouts, but have managed to play quite well on price.

In fact, in researching this article, we found last year’s AT100 on sale at street price for just under $400, with some stores possibly willing to drop further.

Toshiba, however, didn’t have much to say on the issue of official price drops, a spokesperson merely saying:

“Toshiba has no plans to change the pricing of its tablets.”

The street prices of Toshiba’s tablets are – like some of the Asus products – shifting below what competitors charge, so this may help the company in the end. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Toshiba's 7 inch AT1S0.

 

Lenovo

Lenovo’s tablet approach has been two pronged, looking after both the business and consumer markets with two different tablets.

We looked at the ThinkPad Tablet last year and found that Lenovo’s combination of a stylus, 3G-ready, and upgradeable tablet worked well, but haven’t yet seen the consumer-styled IdeaPad.

Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet threw in a stylus that allowed you to take notes on the device.

In any case, Lenovo has already announced plans for a tablet similar to the Asus Transformer, with CES providing a perfect place to show it off. While we don’t have that available yet, we’d be surprised if Lenovo rested on its laurels and hoped customers bought its now outdated devices.

Lenovo never got back to us about a price drop, but a quick glance to its page told us that its pricing hadn’t really been changed to compete with the new Apple pricing.

UPDATE (2.33pm, 23/03/12): Lenovo did finally give us a quote on its pricing, telling us:

“Lenovo’s pricing structure is developed based on a number of elements within the local Australian market including competition and the unique value proposition that our products have, and is constantly under review. At this point, we do not have any pricing changes to announce. As the ThinkPad tablet has been developed for high performance and productivity beyond what the multitude of consumer tablets can deliver,  Lenovo’s ThinkPad tablet is designed with the business user in mind.”

So there. No pricing changes… for now.

Acer

Acer has been pretty active in coming up with tablets for release in Australia, so much that the company has released at least three Android tablets locally since mid-last year.

While the slates do need some updating, we’ve heard that new models are on the way with high speed processors and better screens.

Right now, the closest we could find to $429 iPad 2 16GB was the original Acer Iconia A500, a model we’re now seeing for roughly $450 at street price. Some models are available for less from Acer, but all of these had 8GB of storage compared to the 16GB on offer.

We asked Acer if it would shift prices in response to the new iPad pricing and were told:

“Acer will be watching the launch of the new iPad closely. Acer does not have any plans to alter its pricing. Our difference is that we do support our retail and channel partners business models and support them should they position their Acer stock more aggressively in the near future.”

That could mean that if a gadget store – say Dick Smith or Harvey Norman – decides to push its pricing of Iconia tablets to undercut Apple, Acer may actually support them. We’ll just have to see whether companies really want to sell these tablets hard.

BlackBerry

Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook didn’t have the best start in the tablet wars, with the initial release requiring a BlackBerry smartphone to use email. As weird as that was, the tablet had some positives to it, with a unique button-less design relying on gestures.

RIM recently updated the PlayBook to a new version of its operating system, eliminating the smartphone requirement to use email and adding compatibility for Android apps.

As for the pricing, we were told that:

“While there may be specials offered by carriers and retailers themselves, the RIM RRP for the BlackBerry PlayBook remains the same, as follows:

16GB – MSRP $579AUD

32GB – MSRP $689AUD

64GB – MSRP $799AUD”

Since the PlayBook is now over a year old and lacks 3G, we’d be surprised to see anyone pay these prices.

Viewsonic

ViewSonic’s range of tablets have never been the best in their class, but have sometimes offered bargain prices when tablets weren’t so common.

Truth be told, we haven’t seen a ViewSonic tablet for some time, and a ViewSonic representative told us why:

“ViewSonic is not currently selling Android tablets in the Australian market, only Windows platform tablets which are usually sold based on the requirement of organisations that do not want to go down the iOS integration route.”

If you see a ViewSonic tablet, you may be able to pick it up cheaply given that they’re not officially sold here at the moment. In the past, we’ve been pretty critical of ViewSonic’s tablet computers, but if the price was right, you might be persuaded.

What do you think?

While we believe the price drop of the Apple iPad 2 will be a pretty serious threat to Android tablets, manufacturers don’t appear to be flinching much.

Regardless, we’re curious what you think about this. Would you pay more money for a tablet that wasn’t an iPad?

Should the manufacturers be doing their best to compete at a lower price point, or is it completely fine that their tablets cost the same as an Apple iPad?

Time to tell the manufacturers what you really think.

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