I have some stuff going on this AM and won’t be able to post after this one, but since I’m now officially an in-the-tank Google early adopter, I thought I’d post a bit on the Nexus 7 for anyone who cares. Those who don’t, nothing to see here, move along.
I’ve had the $200 Nexus 7 8GB tablet for two days now, and so far it’s really good. The display is great (it’s not a “retina” display but it is high resolution, crisp, sharp and easy on the eyes). The version of Android running on the tablet, “Jelly Bean”, is fast, smooth and looks great. Every version of Android ties your device closer to your Google account(s), and it’s almost scary what this device knows about my habits. For example, Jelly Belly is the first version of Android to come with a non-beta Chrome browser, and when I pull up Chrome on my tablet, I can see the tabs I have open on my desktop version of Chrome.
The Nexus 7 has a new voice search function that rivals Siri. From the comparisons I’ve seen, and the playing around I’ve done on others Siri-capable phones, the difference seems to be that Siri is more of a personal assistant, while the new voice search is more of a layer over your interaction with the Internet and your Google services. Here’s a little album of how it looks and works, with a couple examples. I don’t know anyone with an iPhone 4S who uses Siri regularly, and I doubt this feature will get a huge amount of usage, at least in its Jelly Bean incarnation.
A word about Android: the versions of Android in phones people carry around are generally ugly, clunky and slow. This is because phone manufacturers insist on installing “skins” on their devices, never update them after they are released, and install Android on crap hardware. I was at a high school reunion a couple of weeks ago, which is the kind of event where people use their phones to show pictures of their kids and exchange numbers, and I saw some really awful Android user interface abominations. Ice Cream Sandwich, which is Android 4.0, and Jelly Bean (4.1), are the products of a complete user interface overhaul by a team led by talented designer Matias Duarte. Part of Duarte and his team’s overhaul has included a new Android style guide for developers, and most of the new apps that follow this guide look good and work smoothly.
Google’s problem is that a small fraction of Android devices run the new version. The Nexus 7 is sold pretty much at cost, according to the tech analysts — it’s purpose is show off Android. Google is desperate to get a foothold in the tablet market, so this thing is a hell of a bargain, and it will get the latest updates to Android directly from Google, like most Nexus devices.
Google gives you $25 credit in its Play Store (where it sells video, books, music and Android apps) when you buy a Nexus 7, which makes it even more compelling. That said, it looks like Amazon and Apple are both going to launch new, smaller form tablets, so if you’re on the fence, you might want to wait to see what they have to offer. I mentioned earlier that the reason I bought a Nexus 7 is that I always carry a laptop when I travel so I wanted a smaller, lighter device to replace my Kindle keyboard. This thing is that and much more.