This week I picked up a nexus 7. After spending a day with it I can say, “This is a slick device.” Let me share some of the ups and downs I’ve had in the day I’ve used it.
The first thing I love about the nexus 7 is the hardware. This device just “feels right” to hold and use. The screen is brilliant, and the dimpled back makes it easy to hold. The device is inexpensive, but it doesn’t feel cheap.
There are also a lot of features I love about Android jelly bean. Task management is STELLAR, and notifications are very nice as well. The way Jelly Bean’s launcher is customizable is also wonderful. The task switching and management are, in particular, well beyond anything Apple has done.
Being able to swipe the keyboard to type is also amazing (I’m typing this post that way right now). It takes some getting used to, but the more I use it the faster I get.
Google integration is also great, if also a bit creepy. I no sooner set up my nexus 7 when I started getting chat notifications from a friend of mine. That threw me for a loop! While creepy, its also useful. My calendar immediately loaded into the application, which also puts iOS to shame, and adding dates is incredibly simple. Google+ integration is also well done, though I do think the iOS app is a bit better (update, after updating my apps, Google+ on Android is every bit as wonderful as on iOS).
I also have to give props on the battery life, I’ve been using my nexus all day and still have 17% left in the tank, that’s very good. No need to worry about needing to charge in the middle of the day.
The not so good
As good as Jelly Bean is it still isn’t as easy to use as iOS. The best way I can put it is, “When I’m using it for productivity purposes it feels more like a traditional computer than a tablet.” People have complained about Apple not opening the filesystem on iPod devices since their inception, but as I use the nexus I think they might be right to keep it off limits. The filesystem on the nexus is, for example, called, “SD Card.” I understand that means “local storage,” but a normal user might start poking for the SD card slot, or panic because they don’t have an SD card to put into the device (which doesn’t take one). It’s the type of cryptic notation I expect on a traditional computer, but not a tablet.
Also, the way files are handled, and apps are registered to handle them, seems off. Out of the box the nexus has Google play books installed, to which I added both kindle and nook readers. I then tried to open an epub from dropbox and was told I didn’t have an app able to open that type of file even though I knew I had two. It turns out that nook, Google play books, and kindle don’t want books to be loaded in by alternate methods, so they don’t register as being able to open eBook files – and there is no simple way to tell them to do so. This also hit me with markdown files which have an “.md” extension. The markdown apps I’ve discovered all save with “.txt” as their extension, and don’t register as opening the other designation. Despite the fact that markdown is plain text, Jelly Bean refuses to open the files. Now, this is as much the responsibility of the developers as anyone, but with an open filesystem it would be nice to have the option to set applications for certain extensions.
The nexus 7 also lacks miracast support, so connecting to a TV or projector is not easily done. On the plus side, I might have to pick up a raspberry pi to see if I can hack it to be a wireless display adapter for presentations, as the nexus 7 would make a great speaking device. I realize I could have gotten a kindle fire or nook hd to get video out, but I wanted the plain Android experience my first time out. I knew the device didn’t support video out when I purchased it, so it wasn’t a shock, just a bit of a bummer.
A good many people are hoping Apple makes the next iPad into a 16:9 device. After using the nexus for a day I have to say I am not one of them. For media consumption, 16:9 is amazing. For productivity, however, 4:3 simply feels less cramped.
A lot is said about the app ecosystems of both Android and iOS. The assumption has been that iOS apps are more plentiful, better to look at, and easier to use. I have to say I’m a bit underwhelmed by the app selection in the Google play store. My workflow for writing is to create in markdown, and have it saved to a dropbox folder where I can edit it on any other device. Currently, there is no app which will do this as far as I can tell. Some come close, but are hindered by not handling sub-directories and not recognizing the .md extension (which I find especially odd). The is also nothing quite like notability in the play store. Papyrus and lecture notes come close, but neither allows for the type of effortless writing I’m used to on my iPad. This may be because android developers tend to assume anyone writing on an Android device will have an active pen with which to write, which I don’t have. On this later point I will have to keep playing and see if I can get used to it.
The way Android handles notifications is wonderful, but it’s also a bit haunted. When I finally installed overdrive to handle epubs, for example, tapping an epub notification causes it to disappear for me, while for a friend it gives him an option to open the book. I know I must have something mis- configured, but I simply can’t find it (any advice would be welcome).
The nexus 7 is a beautiful device and is fun to use. At the moment I’d say it’s best suited for media consumption, rather than productivity. This is partly due to hardware limitations, the lack of miracast or video-out being key. It is also partly to the current lack of apps to support a flexible work-flow. I’m sure this will change in time, but right now work still needs to be done.
I am, however, in love with the smaller form-factor. If/when Apple comes out with a retina iPad mini, that will replace my larger iPad. For now, the nexus is a fun device that can teach Apple a thing or two. I’m glad to have it, and will continue to play with it.