Posts from the “Android” Category

The Android Tablet Conundrum

This post is limited to the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 because the other Android tablets are not worth talking about or existing.

After releasing the Nexus 7, I have noticed many popular apps getting updated for a tablet UI. The Nexus 7 is very popular and is selling well. The tablet app ecosystem on Android is growing, albeit very slowly.

The Jellybean tablet UI is pretty much the phone UI stretched unlike the ICS tablet UI. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because now nexus tablet and phone owners will have a similar UI on both devices. It is bad because people used to the ICS tablet UI earlier have to go back to the phone UI. Google can get away with a phone UI on a 7 inch tablet because most apps are just phone apps stretched to a large screen but on a 10 inch device like the Nexus 10 that will be released soon, apps that have no tablet UI will look terrible. That tablet was made to be used in landscape mode anyway. The Nexus 10 has an insane resolution that is higher than the 3rd/4th generation iPad. It has the resolution you see on most 27″ displays today. I think Google jumped the gun here. While this is a great screen and for the price will be a great tablet for media and games, you could probably count the apps that will work well on this screen on one hand. The Nexus 10 will either encourage developers to work on a tablet UI for larger screens or just slowly die like the other large screen Android tablets. Another thing I don’t understand is why it took google so long to release an update that enabled landscape mode for the Nexus 7. I was shocked that this wasn’t possible on the stock launcher. I used Nova Launcher Prime to enable landscape mode for the homescreen but the lockscreen remained in portrait mode until the recent 4.1.2 update. You should also consider getting that for your Android device if you like using gestures on your device. From the looks of it the Nexus 10 is to be used only in Landscape mode which sucks because tablets should be flexible. The iPad works perfectly in both orientations thanks to its aspect ratio.

Duarte has brought tons of good things to Android and if it weren’t for him, I probably would have never considered buying an Android device let alone owning and liking one. Google recently introduced tablet UI design guidelines. While this is a good thing, Google is not doing their part by featuring apps using these guidelines. The “Staff Picks for Tablets” section on Google Play is full of games and barely any apps with a UI designed for tablets. I still don’t understand why they don’t feature more apps that use their Holo design. Why feature only apps that sell when you want your ecosystem to grow with quality and not garbage like Beautiful Widgets? I can only hope that with the introduction of the Nexus 10 this month, Google ups their game on Google Play. Apple is known to feature apps that take advantage of new hardware. They have a separate section in the App Store for this with every launch. Featuring games and a few sub par apps while other great apps like TV Show Favs that work beautifully on tablets will only prove how weak the ecosystem really is.

Releasing Nexus tablets is something they should have done a long time ago. Featuring quality apps and not just popular apps will only help the ecosystem grow. Google, please feature apps that adhere to your guidelines because I want the tablet ecosystem to grow. The developers are working but Google needs to showcase their work being put in for a better tablet experience.

The Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 – Prologue and First Impressions

Ever since Matias Duarte joined Google’s Android team, they have been changing for the better. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) was a massive upgrade from all previous versions of Android. I was impressed. It even made the Nexus S a much better phone overall. With Google’s new design guidelines, more and more developers started making their apps adhere to these guidelines and hence improving them by a long shot.

Google announced Android 4.1 (Jellybean) at Google I/O this year and they made a number of improvements most notably in the smoothness of the OS. Project Butter as they call it has really made a difference. Jellybean also introduced expandable notifications that let you save time. Google also demoed tons of stuff that they were launching for iOS including Chrome for iOS and updates to other apps with the introduction of an iPad app for Google+. So right now Chrome is available on iOS and Android 4.0 and above. The majority of Android devices in use today are still on Android 2.x. This move was very interesting to me. Google clearly knows how important the iOS ecosystem is. They released a YouTube app for the iPhone that is much better than the native app that was bundled in iOS before iOS 6. Google also introduced a low cost tablet made by ASUS called the Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 has great specs and a decent screen along with an amazing feel thanks to the textured back. I decided to buy one given the price and my curiosity with the latest version of Android increasing more and more each day. I would also now be able to review Android apps for Beautiful Pixels. It cost me close to $300 and boy was it worth it. Google also sweetened the deal with $25 of Google Play credit which I have now fully used. Google is smart. They saw the Kindle Fire gain popularity thanks to its price but fail overall because of its limited use outside countries with the Amazon ecosystem. A $200 7 inch tablet that has an OS that is smooth and great specs with a decent screen got the attention of everyone including tons of iOS users and bloggers. After buying it around mid august and spending a lot of time with it, I decided to write about my experience with my first Android device.

First Impressions and Screen
The Nexus 7 is to Android what the iPod Touch is to iOS. A gateway drug. The Nexus 7 is a great device. I love that it has an IPS LCD display as opposed to an AMOLED one because the bluish tinge on those annoys me a lot. Jellybean is really really good. Android has come a long way since its garbage gingerbread days. The Google Play credit helped a lot. The first app I installed on my Nexus 7 was Pocket. After reading stuff saved in Pocket for some time and holding the device in one hand throughout, I realised that there is a market for a 7 inch device made well and that read it later apps are amazing on the Nexus 7. The screen is not even close to that of my 3rd generation iPad but it is really good. I have to often remind myself of the price difference between both the devices because for some things, the Nexus 7 is the clear winner.

I’m sad that the Play Books app is disabled by default in India because none of the actual book reading apps are good. All of them lag and the best of the lot is the official Amazon Kindle app. I haven’t read any books on this for that very reason. I spend a good hour before I sleep lying in bed reading stuff saved in Pocket on the Nexus 7. Flipboard while slightly laggy (I will talk about this in more detail later) is another great app to use on the device. Android has tons of apps that let you watch videos regardless of format. I use MX Player and I never thought I’d be able to sit through an entire movie while holding a tablet in my hand comfortably. That back texture is just plain awesome.

I found it really funny that landscape mode on the homescreen was disabled by default and I had to enable it in Nova Launcher. The 4.1.2 update enables landscape mode for the homescreen and lock screen. As of this writing, it is not available for my device. Even though this is not as big as an iPad, it feels weird using it only in portrait mode.

The stock Jellybean keyboard is really good. Almost everyone I know on Android uses some 3rd party keyboard and when Swiftkey 3 went on sale for $1, my friend Deepak told me it would change the way I type. It did. After linking it to my twitter account and using it for a month, I can type without looking and not worry about typos. It is amazing. It is stuff like this that really shows you the power of Android. I am yet to find a good writing app on Google Play that even comes close to the likes of IA Writer, Elements and even Drafts on iOS for that matter. The more I praise the OS, the more I realise how lacking the app ecosystem is.

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus 7 and I think it is a great device even though Google Play has barely any tablet optimised apps. I’m really happy I bought this device and persuaded Preshit to get one as well. Android 4.1 just proves that Google is moving in the correct direction with their OS. Emphasising on UI and UX is really important and I’m glad Matias Duarte is finally making Google realise this. The Nexus 7 is only held back by the minuscule number of good third party apps on Google Play. There are so many apps that are laggy and unusable with great ratings. I will be posting about my experiences with third party apps, gaming and how the stock gmail app annoys me more and more each day in future posts. If you made it this far and are wondering why this isn’t a full review about the Nexus 7, please head over to Anandtech for their epic review of Google’s exceptional device.