January 2013, in spite of its awfully freezing weather, was a good month. Besides the abundance of new contracts and projects, it marked the arrival of a new piece of technology in our home office; the Nexus 7. We bought it as a productivity tool and for leisure. After over 2 weeks of testing, here’s what we have to say about it.
Handling the Nexus 7
One of the main reasons that made us choose the Nexus 7 over an iPad or any other 10-inch tablet is the size; at 7 inches, it is easy to hold single-handedly and it is ideal to take notes during a meeting. It is also very light and weights almost nothing in a handbag, the perfect companion for someone who values the lightness of their tools.
During a client meeting in late 2012, a good friend lent me her iPad for a client meeting out of town. At that point we were already considering to buy a tablet but we were not fixed on the brand and model. Using her bulky and heavy iPad confirmed that, as a lady with small hands, I definitely needed something smaller to take notes and present to my prospects and clients. For all its merits, the regular iPad was just not an option.
The Nexus 7, on the other hand, meets my needs perfectly.
Design: Less is more
The motto “less is more” from Bauhaus’ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe serves to describe the design of Google’s Nexus 7 very well. It is simple, yet functional and beautiful. The tablet has only three subtle physical buttons on its right side for power/sleep/airplane mode and volume. Coming from iOS, it was a tedious transition for me not to have a physical Home button below the screen at first but one gets used to it quite fast. After two weeks of regular use of both my iPhone and our Nexus 7, I actually came to prefer Android’s three on-screen virtual buttons for usability and speed.
The plastic back cover of the Nexus offers a nice grip and the touch screen is perfectly soft and has a slick quality to it. All in all, I am completely in love with the look of the tablet and the feel of it.
Using Android Jelly Bean 4.2
Using the Nexus 7 is pleasant. Powered by Android Jelly Bean 4.2, the interface is very intuitive and beautiful, even though it lacks some of the polish of Apple’s iOS. The keyboard for one is great to use both in vertical mode with two thumbs or in horizontal mode with two to four (or more if you can) fingers. I cannot type as fast on the Nexus as on my keyboard but writing can still be qualified as comfortable. In fact, to add some authenticity to this review, I decided to write it from beginning to end on the Nexus using an app called Writer.
The interface is welcoming even for an iOS user and pretty much all the basic features of customization found on an iPad are also present on the Nexus… and more. In fact, not only can one create icon groups on Android, they can also use or create widgets to display information or access different apps.
Quick access to both the notification center and the settings by sliding down the top right and left corners is great, and so is the marvellous recent apps button which allows the user to switch effortlessly between apps in one tap.
Surfing the web and reading on the Nexus 7 are a breeze. If I did not have work to do, I would be tempted to spend all day in bed enjoying our tablet. Writing, as I have mentioned previously, is not perfect but still a good alternative to using a bulky laptop or an unmovable desktop. 635 words and counting. No finger cramps yet!
Some nice surprises
Although we did not purchase the Nexus to watch movies, we were positively surprised by the stunning video quality on screen, something we did not expect.
Another nice surprise was the front-facing camera‘s performance and quality. Slightly better than my iPhone 4’s and Emilio’s Galaxy Ace II’s front cameras, it rendered very nicely in the darkness whereas our smartphones show only black blobs where the interlocutor’s face should appear.
Finally, it is also worth mentioning that the Nexus 7 is extremely well integrated with all Google services including Gmail and Talk as one would expect.
In all honesty, there is not much missing in the Nexus 7. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of a back camera but we find this silly; tablets are in our opinion too big to be comfortably used as a camera.
No, what could be considered missing is the possibility to add external memory to the Nexus. Although we do not necessarily miss that feature ourselves, preferring not to use our device as a storage unit, we agree it would be nice to give the customers more flexibility in those regards.
Finally, the only other feature which lacks a bit is the variety of good quality apps in the Android app store (Google Play). Numbers show that although Android is slowly “taking over the world”, app sales are still slow to pick up. Why is that? Like I said, variety and, most importantly, quality. As a longtime iPhone user, I must have spent over 30-40$ in app purchases over the last 2-3 years. I probably would have bought more if I had not watched my wallet closely. On Android however, I have not felt the desire to purchase anything and it is not for lack of looking around. Most apps have very bland interfaces and do not stand out. Even using them feels boring sometime. Creative apps are also a rarity on Android, at least in comparison with iOS. There’s is still much work to do on Google’s part to lure smaller but talented developers towards their app store.
Last but not least: Why didn’t we buy the iPad Mini?
I foresee this question coming up in the comments or in social media, so allow me to address this point already. The iPad Mini uses after all Apple’s iOS, a good operative system that we already know well, and it is also slightly lighter than the Nexus 7. So why didn’t we buy it?
The reasons are few and simple: First, we did not see any reason to pay an extra $150 for a device which in terms of specifications is pretty much the same as the Nexus. It did not advantage us in any way to pay more and get nothing back. At $209 CAD, the Nexus 7, currently considered the best 7-inch tablet on the market, is a tough deal to beat. Second, since the Apple maps fiasco and the release of a uncompetitive product which is a set-back in terms of technology (yes, I’m looking at you iPad Mini), we find it risky business to invest in Apple technology in early 2013. Although we are not dooming them (yet), we feel like Apple has hit an iceberg and we’re holding our breath to see if the boat will stay afloat or sink under the waves.
Conclusion: We’re happy campers
We love our Nexus and we are very happy not only to have a new useful gadget to increase our productivity, but also to have discovered the beauties of Jelly Bean 4.2. We raise our hat to Google. Keep up the good work!