In July, after the Google I/O developer event, I reviewed the newly unveiled Nexus 7 tablet after using it for a bit. Most people fired off snap reactions about their thoughts, but I decided to put it through its paces, and I’m glad that I did. Another guy who took some time to sort out his thoughts was our very own MG Siegler.
I also wrote a review about the Nexus 10 recently, the larger model of Google’s tablet line. In that review, I pointed out that Android’s operating system is, in my opinion, better suited for the tablet experience versus that of what you’ll find on a phone with it installed. That’s why I was looking forward to the updated Nexus 7 line, which include mobile capabilities, something both tablets had been lacking. WiFi only is limiting, and I don’t want to have to tether.
I’ve always been averse to using the phrase and concept of “war” when it comes to technology companies, usually because it’s way overused. I even chided my now-colleague Josh Constine for doing this. I’m eating crow, because with the release of the mobile version of the Nexus 7, this is war.
Starting today, you can purchase the device from the Google Play store for $299, and I feel like it’s the tablet that Google has always wanted to sport. Not only that, but I also feel like it’s the tablet that consumers who use Google products have been waiting for.
This is now the device that Google wants you to purchase for the holidays. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.
Nothing new, but completely different
It’s maddening to me to have a WiFi-only device, and I can only suspect that this was the case with Google’s current line of devices for testing the market. Basically, if the Nexus 7 didn’t grip, why offer a mobile version at all? Why involve AT&T at all? That’s why working with hardware vendors like Asus comes in handy. If it doesn’t take off, go back to the drawing board. Drawing board session complete, the Nexus 7 with mobile is fantastic.
As I mentioned in my Nexus 10 review, the latest version of Android’s OS, Jelly Bean 4.2, is a dramatic upgrade over 4.1. I’m honestly shocked that the company didn’t give it a new name. With features like Google Now getting an update, the addition of multiple accounts, home screen widgets and ridiculous speed, this OS is absolutely hot. The base model has 32GB of storage, and that’s more than enough for me.
When you’re using this thing on the go, as intended, you find yourself realizing how Google has tied together its products so elegantly. With its flagship feature, Google Now, I can honestly say that I’ve found it to be more helpful than Apple’s Siri. Apple apologists can now sound off in the comments over that one. Also, Google Maps and Directions are just flat-out phenomenal. Not only do they work better than Apple’s iOS 6 Maps, they over-perform in the sense that you will get to where you want to go, and correctly and it never fails. Now that you can have that experience in your car, on the go, the world will see how good Google’s mapping technology really is, Apple be damned.
Oh, and I still use, love, and carry my iPhone 5. We’re talking tablets, here. The screen is gorgeous though and I love that it’s unlocked. Yes, use it with whichever service you like.
Basically, you can take full 360 degree photos that spin around. I highly suggest seeing it on the fly.
Speed and on-the-go delight
I don’t know much about the deep technical jargon when it comes to 3G/LTE/HSPA+, but I will say that the connection that I get with this device is plenty fast. If that weren’t the case, I would say so. The Nexus 7 works with AT&T (for me, but you can use whatever you like since it’s unlocked) and sports the HSPA+ variety of speed, which does up to around 168 Megabits per second. That’s fine by me. Obviously, LTE on my iPhone is blazing fast, but I had no trouble with the Nexus 7 +Mobile.
Being able to use this device on the train, at the coffee shop, walking around the office and sitting on my back patio is what I’ve wanted since July’s Nexus 7 unveiling. I don’t want to tether, as I mentioned, because it seems too janky to even do with a straight face.
I can stand in the middle of the street now, sans cars, and ask Google Now “Where is the closest Starbucks”, and within seconds, I have an answer thanks to Google Maps. When I did this, I shook my head in appreciation. Try that with Siri and iOS 6 Maps.
Now why doesn’t this experience translate to a great one on an Android phone for me? I have no idea whatsoever. I feel like Android needs more screen real-estate. Maybe I’m weird, but when I’m on the go or at home relaxing, I just want to do things with ease, and I am a Google product user, so it makes sense that I would gravitate to the device that provides the superior experience for those products.
I use Google search, Gmail, Google+, Calendar, Drive, etc. Those apps don’t work too well on Apple devices, for reasons. If you don’t “get” Google+ and the integration of social into all of Google’s products, give the Nexus 7 a whirl and you’ll finally have your “a-ha” moment.
It’s a two-horse race between Apple and Google. I’m not even going to suggest that Microsoft is ready to enter the race with its Surface offering as of yet, since I laughed hysterically after using it for an hour. Feel free to fire off in the comments about that, too.
With Apple releasing the iPad Mini, which is larger than 7-inches, but barely, the company has positioned itself in the driver’s seat without a doubt. A lot of people have iPhones and iPads, and those people are evangelizers for the products. They are simply amazing and well-designed. But when I used the iPad mini for a few days, it just felt like a big Touch or a smaller iPad. For me, that’s not worth spending the money.
For $299, you can get the new Nexus 7 with mobile capability. At first blush, you might think “Yeah, another cheaper version of the iPad mini. Do not want.” Well, that’s not the case. In fact, while I sat in Starbucks reviewing it over the past few days, multiple people came up to me and asked to play with my “iPad mini.” When I told them that it was a Nexus 7 they said “No way!” Then they used it. Then I had to ask for it back. Yes, that’s not bullshit. Yes, it’s that good. Yes, I’ve owned an iPad with 3G connection, and I gave it away. My iPad first gen sits in the closet.
So what does this mean for Apple? Does a war put them out of business? Of course not. However, the race for the hearts and minds of consumers just got a bit more difficult for them this holiday season. Once a few people get their hands on the device and experience what I’ve experienced, there will be some people who “convert.” Or, people who have never owned a tablet will choose to go with the Nexus 7 as their entry device. My opinion is that they won’t put it down.
Apple has a war on its hands when it comes to tablets. And Google will trade punches with them, blow for blow.
Written on my lovely MacBook Pro.