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.