Allow me to start by saying I know I am painfully lucky to have my geeky hands on this device. Getting tickets to Google IO took staying up all night, and even they sold out in a mere 5 minutes, in spite of doubling the price for attendance. Yet, personally, I’ve never really had much love for the 7 inch form factor, especially when paired with an LED screen and no keyboard. I mean, as it stands, tablets aren’t the greatest productivity devices. Multitasking is messy, and until Windows 8 hits, most tablets will be running operating systems that basically need to login into a desktop machine to do any serious work. 7 inch tablets take the screen size down to difficult-to-use levels, especially since a significant portion of your screen is further lost to an on screen keyboard. This is probably why my daily driver is an Asus Transformer. I get all the tablety fun, but with a great battery and more importantly, a physical keyboard with great connectivity options.
So, while I know I was lucky to get into Google IO, the early rumors that Google would be providing attendees with their Kindle Fire/iPad killer, the Asus Nexus 7 Tablet, I had my doubts about whether I could really find a place for it in my life. I even openly mused to friends that I’d hope that Google might also throw a Chromebook at attendees, as my Transformer isn’t in the best shape.
Well, after a few days of use, I can’t say for sure whether I’d personally find it to be my ideal device, but I have to admit that it’s a lot better and generally more fun to use than I had expected. For starters, I have to say those specs are pretty sweet, even those of that 7 inch screen. The 1280 by 800 resolution looks crisp, and at any reasonable distance, the pixels are effectively not there. While some apps aren’t necessarily optimized for that pixel density, those that are a joy to use. The new Android 4.1 operating system adds some extra refinement on top of clean look that came in with Android 4.0, and on the Tegra 3 processor in the Nexus 7, it’s amazingly smooth and fast.
While this can’t replace any 10 inch tablet functionality wise, the amazing $199 price just put Amazon and Barnes and Noble in a miserable position in some ways. While they flog relatively locked down, and frankly some what dated Android tablets, Google is entering the space with a device that can do every a Kindle Fire or a Nook Color can do, plus a whole lot more since it’s not locked down. It would be simple for anyone already on a Nook or Kindle to move a Nexus 7. The thing is, Google has really gone very hard with plugging all of their Google Play offerings on the Nexus 7, and this means those that move are also bombarded with similar offerings from Google, and that may very well sap some customers away from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Even if people keep using their existing accounts with other e-publishers, they’ve still sapped away from Google’s more locked down competitors, and over time, it will reduce the sway they hold over consumers. Meanwhile, that openness will be a boon to media omnivores; so long as a song, book or film isn’t exclusive to Apple, you can have Google Play, the Amazon App, Video and Music stores, the Barnes and Noble Nook app and more all on one device. That’s really useful by itself, and having in a device that you can comfortably read anywhere rather than in a chunky 10 inch tablet is awesome.
Well, it is awesome for some folks. I’ll admit, I have had a lot of fun with it, but I think the ideal person for this device is someone who doesn’t ever really do mobile content creation. If you’re the kind of person who writes papers on your iPad or similar Android device, this is just that bit too small, and I can imagine it be much better even using a Bluetooth keyboard or using a keyboard replacement like SwiftKey. It’s also a little too small to take notes with as sketches, especially since that as a totally vanilla Android install, it omits some of the nice apps that Asus had cooked up for the Transformer like SuperNote. The lack of expandable memory was also a bit of a downer, though, given the choice of that great screen or being able to jam a Micro SD card in, I think the screen was the better choice. Besides, it’s a very cloud driven device, and so long as you have a reliable wifi connection, that reliance on the cloud is pretty seamless.
Still, it only took falling asleep reading one of the included digital magazines to realize that this was probably an ideal device for those who wanted to get on the digital media bandwagon with out the worry of being locked into a single content provider. Just like a paperback, it’s a relaxing, simple experience to use the Nexus 7, and it provides a guide line for all future Android 7 inch tablets to aspire to. Plus, this should force the hand of Google more locked down and dated competitors into dropping the price of their devices, so even if $199 is too rich for your blood, some decent devices will probably end up at the $150 price point.