After half a decade away, I jump back into Android with the launch of the 2013(2nd gen) Nexus 7. Ive got to say, things have changed! I bought this tablet for a few reasons. First, its damn cheap compared to the Galaxy Tabs(Notes), and Apples iPad Mini. Second, it has the highest pixel density out of all the 7 inch tablets currently. And last, its pure Android without the Samsung bloatware. For $230, its a pretty good deal. Some people think tablets are toys and while they can be good fun, I find them extremely useful for doing quick research, reading articles, and quickly looking up a video.
It seems pretty clear that Google is taking the Apple approach with the packaging. The unboxing experience is minimalistic and elegant. The Nexus 7 is styled sharper than the Galaxy Tab and the bezels are smaller. Unlike the Galaxy Tab, the Nexus 7 does not have a physical home button. Navigation is utilized by 3 software buttons that occupy a quarter-inch of the bottom edge. The top and bottom bezels are much larger than the side bezels. They clearly designed this tablet to be used in landscape mode. Ill get more into this later. The back of the Nexus 7 is rubberized for added grip. Overall, the Nexus 7 is nicely built. The only complaint I have is with the placement of the power/lock button. I wish it was located at the top when holding it in portrait mode. Other than that, the Nexus 7 look very sleek and professional. From all the sea of Android tablets, the Nexus 7 looks unassuming. The only real way an average consumer would recognize it is the black Nexus branding on the back. Even a power user would have a tough time telling it apart from the previous generation Nexus 7.
To me, a tablet is useless without speed and convenience.В Lets face it, were all in a rush.В If I can look something up really quick without noticing any lag, the tablet is up to par. Anything less and Im annoyed. Unlike a computer, there is no control+alt+delete combo so if a lockup occurs, you just have to wait it out. The only hardware buttons are the volume rockers and the power button. In my experiences, the Nexus 7 is very fast. Dont get me wrong. There has been a few hiccups here and there. These few slowdowns only happened when I had many apps running and multitasking. Other than those occasions the Nexus 7 is fast. The apps load fast, videos load fast, and multitasking is okay. Battery performance is fair to good. The stock battery monitoring software shows about 6 hours of usage on a full charge which is somewhat accurate in my experience. Some people will get more, some will get less. I usually get less.
Im not much of an an app hoarder. Id rather have core functionality built into the OS over having a bunch of apps cluttering my work flow. As far as app numbers and quality, Android has improved considerable over the years. Some apps have their own layouts of menu placements and Google seems to be doing a good job of keeping a design standard. I did find myself wanting more out of the stock Android keyboard so I bought SwiftKey from the Play Store. Its a good piece of software. Being able to type with fewer errors is like an aspirin to a big headache. Im enjoying the app selection. As a BlackBerry user, having all the popular apps available is a welcome change.
I did indulge in some turret defense games. I could burn hours playing them. Speaking of which, the stock battery monitor tell me the Nexus 7 takes a huge hit while playing games and watching videos. When I am not playing games, the brightness is usually number 1 in battery impact. Im currently using as many third party apps as I can to replace the Google services. For example, В Dropbox is replacing Google Drive and Evernote replaces Google Doc. Ive tried the Nook app and I found Google Magazine to be superior so Ill be using that alongside Kindle.
When you install an app, its pretty much all or nothing. Google Play shows you a list of permissions required for the app and you click install. For someone that doesnt know better, I can see them installing every app under the sun. I find BB10s method much better.В In comparison, BB10 gives me the choice of allowing or refusing each permission the app is asking for. For example, if its a note-taking app and its asking for my location and phone calls, I can reject those while giving it access to read/write files. Depending on how the app functions, It could probably still run. This is not possible with Android. Annoying!
One new thing that Ive noticed is app updating. They are now done in the background. I dont like this. Yes, its convenient but Id rather have control of the apps and manually update them myself. I remember a while back, I updated an app and it was filled with ads. I dont have a problem with developers putting ads on their software and making money off of it but this was not mentioned in the changelog. After updating the app, I read the wall of complaints in the comments. Ever since, I never updated an app until I read the comments. Having apps update in the background changes the game. There may be a workaround but upon digging through the menus and settings, there is no way to turn automatic updates off.
The Android Experience
Android is taking me some time to get used to. One thing that I was really used to on BB10 was the swipe gestures. Swiping from the bottom bezel up took me to the running apps. On Android, it takes me to a Google search where I can type or use their voice recognition technology to make a search. Their multitasking feature is also much different compared to BB10. On BB10, you can only have 8 apps running at a time. On Android, you can have as many(or so it seems) as your hardware an handle. One big thing Ive noticed while using Android; multitasking is not in real time.В For instance when I tap the multitasking button, the app pauses while I go to the cards of background apps. If I am watching a video on YouTube and go to the calculator app, YouTube will pause the video. Not only that but if I went back into YouTube to resume playback, the video would have to load again. The buffer is dumped when multitasking.В Ive read that its decided by the developers. Ive tested this with Pandora Radio and background multitasking works as expected. Its just strange to me when I go back to certain apps and see the page or video reloads.
One of the biggest frustrations I have with the Nexus 7 and Android as a whole is the whole Google experience. Its the little things that annoy me. Sometimes, an app would work flawlessly. Other times, it would freeze up the whole tablet where all the buttons wont respond. A few times, I had Dolphin Browser hang up and none of the software and hardware buttons work. Then all of a sudden, they all go through like massive gaming lag. Its very frustrating.
Another thing that annoys me is how Google manages my data by default. For example, when I first set up the Nexus 7, all the important information(location, personalized data, etc.) were check on by default. I dont want to send them my data, locations, whatever. Even the YouTube app does this. The Never remember history option is uncheckd by default and Improve YouTube by sending anonymous usage data is checked by default! Theyre definitely not hiding their intentions well.
This is a great tablet for media consumption. It seems like it was designed just for that. The YouTube app is great for watching videos but not so good for managing them if you are a publisher. It has noВ analyticВ data for partners and no Adsense earnings data. The Google Magazine app is excellent. I cant thing of anything I would change on it. Google Maps is probably the best mapping software out there. The only feature it has missing is a version of Bings Birds Eye View. Street View is fantastic as expected. I did notice the image quality was better than I remembered. Maybe theyve upgraded their cameras.
The Nexus 7 is a good tablet however it is not perfect. I wouldnt normally knock off points for app issues but I have to in this case since its an official Google app. YouTube needs work. You can post comments but not reply to specific ones. The Nexus 7 and all of Googles apps needs to have perfect or near perfect performance and synergy, especially on an official Google tablet! Aside from some performance issues, the Nexus 7 is a good device. The hardware is nice and the screen is sharp. As far as hardware, the only thing I would improve is the battery life. I can run the battery within a few hours if Im watching videos or playing a game.
As far as software goes, Android is good, not great. Dealing with force close and Googles nosy personality reminds me why I left them in the first place. Dont get me wrong. Im enjoying the app selection and tablet as a whole. I just wouldnt use it for anything serious. Sometimes I would leave my Nexus 7 on my PlayBook and I would just wish BlackBerry made the PlayBook 2 with BB10. A tablet with real multitasking and more intuitive swipe gestures. One can dream.