Verizon Jumps Into the Tablet Game

Determined not to leave all the tablet fun to its hardware partners, Verizon Wireless announced its own branded device, the LTE-powered Ellipsis 7 tablet, on Tuesday.

While it's somewhat unexpected for a carrier to offer a branded tablet, Verizon Wireless has been dropping hints along the way. The carrier filed for a trademark last month for the Ellipsis 7 name, as well as for a new mobile video, voice, and data service also sporting the Ellipsis name. Today we get the device, although Verizon doesn't seem to be preloading it with any such service.

Verizon Ellipsis 7

The Android tablet will feature a Redbox Instant app for streaming videos, Amazon Kindle for ebooks, a front-facing camera plus LTE for video chat, and Verizon Messages, the carrier's own tablet chat app. It will be sold online and in Verizon stores starting Thursday November 7 for $250. It's also offering $100 off the purchase of any new tablet, including the new iPad Air, for those that sign up for a new two-year service contract. (See Texting Goes to the Cloud and Tablet Hunting: New 4G iPads in Manhattan.)

Verizon did write in a blog post that the Ellipsis 7 was the first product from Verizon Wireless in the Ellipsis family, suggesting that more devices, and perhaps the mysterious Ellipsis service, are in the works.

It's usually a hard sell when a carrier tries to compete in an area that others -- established tablet brands such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Samsung Corp. , in this case -- already dominate. But, it's not a bad idea for Verizon to introduce a low-cost tablet on which it can showcase its LTE connectivity and its own services.

It doesn't appear to be doing that so far, although Verizon Messages and the Redbox partnership are unique to the carrier. But the Ellipsis 7 is just a first move: Verizon's public relations team did not immediately respond to questions about long-term plans for the Ellipsis family. (See Verizon/Redbox Take a Swing at Netflix.)

Now that it is free from Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s ownership and no longer co-marketing its cable joint venture, the operator should be free to focus on building tightly integrated Verizon/Verizon Wireless services. Video and Verizon's multiscreen ambitions certainly fit the bill, and tablets are a perfect vehicle for viewing. (See Verizon, MSOs Kill Wireless JV and Vodafone Agrees to $130B Verizon Stake Sale.)

Hopefully this is just the start of Verizon's tablet-plus-services foray. It has the potential to be pretty exciting and certainly would answer the question -- "Why is Verizon doing its own a tablet?"

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas 11/5/2013 | 12:24:58 PM
Just another cheap Android? Let's say this just does amount to a cheap, Android tablet competitor. Do you all think it's a smart move for Verizon to offer its own branded one? Think it'll drive contract sign ups, with the $100 off offer too? At $250, it is significantly cheaper than most high-end ones on the market today.
KBode 11/5/2013 | 1:26:20 PM
Re: Just another cheap Android? I think the move represents part of a larger bit of tone deafness on the part of Verizon in terms of openness and what consumers really want. Verizon really wants to foist their vision of approved hardware on users (and all the infernal bloatware that entails), whereas users really just want Verizon to get out of the way. Note how this news is going to be well overshadowed by Verizon's lack of the Nexus 5, something most put down to that same Verizon need for control (they'd much rather you buy a Droid with associated Verizon lameware installed).
Sarah Thomas 11/5/2013 | 1:32:03 PM
Re: Just another cheap Android? It's true that there isn't much unique about this tablet, at least not as far as I can tell, but I do think it has potential and could appeal to people who are both Verizon Wireless and FioS customers. At the low price point, some people might like that it's more Verizon controlled too. Could suggest its more secure and suited for younger tablet owners, perhaps? Again, they aren't saying much about it yet, and i'm more curious to see what comes next.
DanJones 11/5/2013 | 1:40:35 PM
Re: Just another cheap Android? What an odd move. I could walk out of the office door and buy a cheap $99 Android tablet right now. No LTE but I don't see nothing that would make me want this just because it is LTE.
KBode 11/5/2013 | 2:01:49 PM
Re: Just another cheap Android? I would actually want it less, given Verizon isn't very good at updating their software.

Funny how the Nexus 7 is stuck in Verizon device approval purgatory, but here's a Verizon 7 tablet. Or how Google Wallet simply can't be supported because of obscure technical reasons, but here's Isis. Or how Verizon can't be bothered to support the Nexus 5, but here's some more Verizon bloatware-loaded Droids.

Verizon clearly wants to capitalize on their retail presence to push their products and services harder, and that idea might actually work if Verizon's products and services didn't often suffer from being poor mimics of better-designed and more innovative products and services (remember VCast video? the Verizon app store?).

I think it's all bad judgement by Verizon, and I think they'd be better served by getting out of the consumers way, but I do suppose that once you've got somebody in your shops you can probably sell them anything. We'll see. Traditionally tablet sales through carriers have not been particularly hot anyway.
DanJones 11/5/2013 | 2:13:28 PM
Re: Carrier Tablet Sales Re: Carrier sales

That might be changing though, consider AT&T's Q3 tablet sales somewhat saved its bacon.

Still don't think *this* tablet will do much for Verizon however.
KBode 11/5/2013 | 2:27:16 PM
Re: Carrier Tablet Sales Curious to see what the Ellipsis family of products entails moving forward, and if that's what was referenced the other day in this piece at The Verge:

"However, it sounds like the biggest US carrier and Google will have something to show us next year. Pichai also made it a point to mention that Google was "working with [Verizon] on a set of projects for 2014." Whether Verizon's collaboration with Google is a modified version of the Nexus 5, a new tablet, or something else entirely remains to be seen — but we'll have to wait until next year to find out."
wanlord 11/6/2013 | 10:12:20 AM
Re: Just another cheap Android? Probably a  longer term negotiating strategy.  They may lose money on this device, but it's a message to vendors that they are not just the "network" and shows that they can develop and produce their own devices so it's in the vendors best interest to keep up their evolution and reduce costs & subsidies. 
Sarah Thomas 11/6/2013 | 10:23:38 AM
Re: Just another cheap Android? Funny how the Nexus 7 is stuck in Verizon device approval purgatory, but here's a Verizon 7 tablet. Or how Google Wallet simply can't be supported because of obscure technical reasons, but here's Isis. Or how Verizon can't be bothered to support the Nexus 5, but here's some more Verizon bloatware-loaded Droids.

Well, gotta admit, I didn't think of it that way. Doesn't seem so customer-friendly in that context. I see why Verizon wants to do the tablet, and I think it could have potential with new serivces on it, mainly from a FiOS perspective, but I suppose it could've done all that without its own hardware.

I wonder how much they'll market and promote it. Doesn't seem like they're making a big deal of it so far.
KBode 11/6/2013 | 10:25:43 AM
Re: Just another cheap Android? Yes the announcement seemed rather quiet. I do think they could have success but primarily among a less tech savvy set that gets hard sold when in store.

Not seeing too much of a positive reaction from consumers thus far. First reaction seems to be "wow, those bezels are really kind of large, why would I buy this instead of the Nexus 7?" The second reaction seems to be "Wow, Verizon rarely updates software in a timely manner, why would I buy this instead of the Nexus 7?"

But since Verizon refuses to approve the Nexus 7 to run on its network in a timely manner, Verizon clealy hopes that answer answers itself.
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