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China white-box makers add extra value to tablets as cost reduction is no longer possible
Anthony Chen, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Thursday 16 January 2014]

China white-box players have not been able to lower their Wi-Fi-based tablets' prices since the third quarter of 2013 because there is no room for further reductions in their BOM costs.

The average BOM cost for a white-box tablet - most of which adopted a dual-core processors - stood at about US$25 as of the fourth quarter of 2013. Dual-core processor pricing could not drop any furrther, as their average prices came to about US$4, only less than US$1 higher than that of a single-core one.

Memory and 7-inch TN LCD panels are the two key components that account for major shares of white-box tablet BOM costs. However, most panel suppliers have been only willing to upgrade specifications instead of dropping their quotes, and therefore, white-box players have been left with upgrading their devices with better panels without an option of reducing the panel cost.

While cost reduction is no longer a feasible way to attract consumers, many white-box players have turned to push tablets with phone functions to increase their devices' functionalities and value. The devices also provide higher gross margins for vendors.

Digitimes Research estimates that currently, 80% of white-box tablets are available in countries other than China, because white-box tablets with phone functions have seen rising demand in Russia and other markets in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia since the second half of 2013.

China white-box players' partnerships with regional brand vendors in emerging markets have also helped raise local consumers' demand for tablets with phone functions.

In the first half of 2013, most white-box tablets with phone functions adopted China-based Allwinner Technology's solution which combined an entry-level single-core processor with a discrete baseband module. However, many white-box device makers have turned to MediaTek solutions for their tablets since thesecond half of 2013 after the Taiwan-based chipmaker also integrated a baseband chip into its tablet processor solution.

MediaTek's solution is more expensive, but its support for product development and hardware design has given it an upper hand over competitions. Meanwhile, independent design houses (IDHs), which provide white-box players with product design services, also started to design tablets using MediaTek's smartphone processors in the second half of 2013, which prompted white-box players to adopt MediaTek's solutions.

Digitimes Research estimates that tablets with phone functions will account for 40% of 7-inch white-box tablet shipments in 2014, up from 20% in 2013.

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