It might not be a Christmas of Android tablets after all

Three showcases the best tablets for thw holidays

Last night I had the pleasure to meet Three's gadget specialists to talk about their line-up of tablets for this Christmas. A little concerned about the prospects of spending the evening talking about cheap Android devices, I packed my blogger bag and went to see what the mobile operator had prepared for its Festive Tablet Event.

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I think there's some justification for these concerns — maybe more like preconceptions or fears. Whenever I walk past any high street phone shop all I see are Androids. I have this idea that whenever someone walks in to buy just a basic phone they'll end up with the underpowered Android smartphone being promoted that week. And this should be applicable for tablets too, right?

As expected, the range on show started from the lowest end with the Gemini D7. Undercutting the price of the already very affordable Hudl from Tesco, the 7-inch Gemini D7 runs Jelly Bean, is fitted with Amazon's store and humble storage. Although the specs of a tablet under £100 are not going to be super impressive, Three is adding more fun with a MiFi unit from Huawei as part of the offer. This little device works like a 3G mobile broadband dongle that creates a mobile hotspot wherever you go. The key advantage of MiFi is that it allows multiple devices to connect the same internet connection simultaneously, which is perfect for a household with several gadgets. There are more sophisticated MiFi (routers?) but a maximum of four devices connected at the same time sounds quite good to me.

Right above this tier but still on the low end are the Asus Fonepad and the Alcatel One Touch Tab 7 (also bundled with MiFi), which are arguably more recognisable household names. Speaking to the people involved with manufacturer partnerships I realised how the UK market is very conservative when it comes to brands. There's this feeling that your average buyer will remain wary of a deal "too good to be true" and will choose instead a more familiar brand paying more.

It's also really interesting seeing more and more tablets catering to different markets segments. The affordable Gemini along with the Hudl and the more modest of the Kindle Fires are pretty much marketed at children, creating this concept of a family tablet. Now that I was starting to believe that the 7-inch tablet was something as personal as a phone! But then there's the people that won't typically spend a lot on tech and want something convenient to get online, read and game. These have to be a fantastic option for a price last Christmas got you a black and white e-reader.

Faced with this assemble of Android tablets on the day the sought-after Retina iPad mini launches there's one clear realisation: people who know their tablets will come to the shop and ask for a mini or an Air. The three members of the Apple family, including the old iPad 2, are still very popular for the mobile operator.

Now, there's one nice thing I learned at the event. If you're thinking of buying a Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad model with Three, you are all set to start using LTE next year. Getting a data plan now gets you 3G speeds but as soon as 4G is available in your area — when it's rolled out next year — your connection gets upgraded at no extra cost!