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Tesco shelves its smartphone plans to focus on Hudl 2 tablet

Jamie Rigg, @jmerigg
September 9, 2014
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Tesco makes its own affordable range of everyday products for penny-conscious consumers, and last year the supermarket extended this concept to tablets. The Hudl slate wasn't just cheap, but also the perfect vehicle for showcasing Tesco's various streaming services. Despite a few hardware teething problems, the Hudl has gone on to sell over half a million units, prompting the commission of a sequel earlier this year. Alongside the Hudl 2, Tesco also said it would launch an affordable Android smartphone, but now the chain's announced those plans have been shelved while it focuses on the new tablet, which is due out "in the next few weeks." As Robin Terrell, Group Multi-Channel Director at Tesco explains, since the plan was revealed "the mobile market has become even more competitive," leading the supermarket to "put the phone on hold."

Where Tesco previously saw space for "an affordable, quality 4G handset," it's clearly no longer confident it can deliver a competitive product. Since it announced the phone, of course, we've seen the arrival of several budget handsets that fit that description, like the Moto G with 4G and Lumia 635. Perhaps it's also a case of Tesco being too ambitious with its hardware. Former CEO Philip Clarke said the Hudl phone would be comparable to Samsung's Galaxy S5, which makes us wonder whether hitting the right price point was simply unachievable. Clarke was all but sacked recently, leaving new head Dave Lewis with the task of clawing back lost market share. While Terrell states he decided to put the phone on hiatus in early July (before the new CEO stepped up), the move fits nicely with Lewis' plan to refocus on being the best supermarket around. We doubt money-hungry projects like creating a own-brand smartphone fit with this policy, and it could mean the team at Tesco Labs might have to spend less time on fun stuff, and more stacking shelves.

The Hudl tablet line is surviving for now, however, and the next one is launching imminently. Terrell has spilled a bean or two on the upcoming device, saying it's "improved on just about every area of its predecessor, from screen size to speed, design and accessories." He also said the sequel has the potential to "take its place as customer's primary tablet," but regardless of how much more powerful it ends up being, we expect the price will remain the slate's most important spec, and its biggest selling point.

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