Open Thinkering


A few brief thoughts on the Google Nexus 7. [REVIEW]

Google Nexus 7

I don’t know about you, but it’s the things I expect to be awesome with which I end up being most disappointed. Unrealistic expectations, I suppose.

A case in point would be the Asus Eee Pad Transformer that I bought last October ostensibly as my ‘conference device’. On paper, it’s got everything you would ever want: hi-res touchscreen, gargantuan battery life, relatively lightweight, lots of ports. But it didn’t quite cut it for me. I can’t quite explain why.

I’ve already bought its replacement, a Google Nexus 7. I was very tempted to buy another iPad (our family already has one, used mostly by our five year-old son for his blog) but former JISC colleague Zak Mensah showed me his Nexus 7 when we met up recently. I’d heard nothing but good things about it online, but was sceptical.

(It’s funny how I didn’t need a tablet device a couple of years ago whereas now I feel like I require something to read things from my Pocket account, etc.)

So I’ve had my Nexus 7 for about about three weeks now. I wish it had a rear-facing camera for sharing photos and videos on  Path. I wish it had 3G, or at least the ability to tether to ad-hoc networks like my phone. But other than that, I’ve no complaints. The screen is fantastic. And it’s fast. Really fast. Like, haven’t-yet-experienced-any-lag fast. Android apps make sense on it. And it was fairly cheap – the 16GB version is £199.

We’re in a post-technical specifications era, I reckon. Seriously, the toss I could not give as to which processor and how much memory this thing has. So long as it’s quick enough, can store enough of my stuff, and is ‘open’ enough for me, that’s fine. I’m interested in what I can do with it.

I’ve been using my Nexus 7 mainly for the following:

  • Email – it’s great for a heads-up on stuff or to fire off quick replies
  • Social networking – Twitter and Google+
  • Reading – usually the Pocket, Zite, Feedly and Kindle apps
  • Listening – audiobooks through Audible and music via, and Spotify
  • PlayingFootball Manager 2012 (need I say more?), Minecraft  – and a few others
  • Messing about – the camera icon isn’t present by default, but you can activate it (complete with big nose / small eyes / other effects!)

In future I’ll be using additional apps on it such as Evernote and Astrid, but it’s still early days. The Nexus 7 is so small and light that it’s a no-brainer to take it with me almost everywhere I go. Android feels like a viable platform – which has made me re-think sticking with my Maemo-powered Nokia N9 mobile phone. To be honest, it could be going the way of my Eee Pad Transformer before long…

So overall, I’m pleasantly surprised with my Google Nexus 7. I had fairly middling expectations from it and it’s far surpassed them. It’s not perfect, but it’s meant that most days I don’t bother borrowing the family iPad!

And finally, given that some people will inevitably ask me about their use in schools, I think these kind of devices make much more sense than iPads for the classroom. Why? They use an operating system that isn’t device-specific. They’re cheaper. They don’t take up as much of the desk or other surface. And they’re less shiny.

Have YOU got a Google Nexus 7? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

14 thoughts on “A few brief thoughts on the Google Nexus 7. [REVIEW]

  1. I got my Nexus 7 a few days ago. Like you I’ve been really impressed. I tend to use my Chromebook a lot to stay productive – I can only type with my thumbs on a tablet so generally feel that they slow me down. I also have a Samsung phone which should on paper be better than the Nexus 7. However the pure Jellybean version of Android knocks the socks off whatever-modified-version-of-Android exists on the Samsung phone. For example my phone keeps telling me it has no memory left, when I know it has over 30gb. The Nexus 7 works so much better, even though it has less memory, opening and closing apps efficiently and quickly so that the battery isn’t unduly wasted.

    I can recommend iSyncr and iSyncr wifi as apps. I’m still a diehard iTunes user so it’s great to be able to pull specific playlist off iTunes especially when I need to be careful with space – I only got the 8gb version! If you haven’t already done so you should checout Swype – you’ll soon be typing faster on a Nexus than you can possibly do on an iPad… 😉

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for the heads-up on Swype. I think I used it a while ago when it was in beta (on my jailbroken iPhone?) so I’ll give it another go.
      BTW the storage space issue might be to do with the amount of space on the phone itself rather than the SD card?

  2. The Nexus 7 is a great device and complements my HTC One X perfectly. Google Drive sync is a great app. Have you tried Google Now? The swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top and the speech recognition is fantastic. I can understand why they haven’t included a rear facing camera to save costs but it does mean Google hangouts with kids is a pain as you can’t switch the cameras obviously.

    I’ve bought a pen stylus which came with my leather case. Surprisingly good.

    Still on the lookout for a good freehand note taking application with character recognition.

    1. Hi Chris, I have indeed tried Google Now. However, given that I’m unwilling to let Google keep my search history (and indeed use Google in encrypted search mode) it’s pretty much next to useless for me!

  3. This is a welcome distraction Doug. The thing I really don’t like about Apple stuff is how much it costs. Would love a Nexus7 mainly because it’s light, a bit more pocket (real pocket, not virtual one) friendly and if I happen to smash it, my bank manager won’t cry as much. However, I think I’ll wait to see the price of the alleged iPad mini before purchasing. Have you given up your kindle? Have to say I like the size and feel of kindles. Is Nexus7 more like that? Also, I’m still to get into Android in any flavour. Dr Dennis said he is not happy with his Android phone which makes me more wary. Please do post again if you grow weary of it? You are one of the few who retreats from a tech purchase because it’s not working for you.

    1. Hi Dai,

      So the Kindle. After I left my third one on a train down to Birmingham I decided it was a good chance to wean myself off that proprietary, locked-in ecosystem. I’ve got the Nexus 7 for the books I’ve purchased (and downloaded for free) through the Kindle Store, but for everything else I’ve got a Kobo e-book reader.

      I will indeed blog again after, say, six months with the device as initial impressions (even after a few weeks) can be misleading. 😉

  4. Hi Doug – I’m also a fan, typing from my nexus 7 right now. One solution to the connectivity problem is to turn your phone’s 3g connection into a portable WiFi hotspot. I’m not sure if this is possible on your Nokia, but if you do go for an android phone, many have this capability.

      1. Oh dear, how odd! Haven’t had that issue with mine. I’m using a custom android ROM (cyanogenmod) on my phone which has a ‘portable wifi hotspot’ function – and the Nexus 7 picks up wifi connection from it without a fuss. I’m afraid I’m not technically competent to offer any better advice :-/

        1. No worries. I just tried resetting it and trying it without encryption and it’s working as I’m typing this.

          Not that I’m comfortable being an open, unencrypted hotspot… :-/

  5. Another Nexus 7 fan here – it works brilliantly.
    Evernote works extremely well – very fast & easy to use.
    I have always liked the feel of my Kindle and the Nexus is a very similar size but of course not quite so slim and a bit heavier than the Kindle, It is however very comfortable in the hand.
    Re connectivity – I do like the increasing free wifi in coffee shops! Also i have a wireless mobile pointer which works very well.

  6. Hi I have just got my Nexus 7 and so far think it’s great. I am trying to use the google play books app for reading as well as the kindle app but don’t seem to be able to get it to download. Any ideas?

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