Friday, 20 July 2012

A likely Apple Fanboy's review of the Google Nexus 7

Woz and Steve Jobs
Woz and Steve Jobs
Some may call me an Apple Fanboy. While I admit that I own a 27" Imac, Macbook, all 3 iPad versions, am on my 4th iPhone and still have my first iMac (G3/400 DV), I would say that I just appreciate good design and functionality. Even though I do have this signed picture on my study wall, I am not a Fanboy, I am just a ... ah well I probably am.

Anyway, when Google announced the Nexus 7 I jumped and ordered one straight away. I have played around with a few Android devices but bought this one as my first, mainly because it will hopefully be free of the fragmentation issues that 3rd party Android devices suffer. I am also interested in testing out the form factor. The Google device will be the market leader in this category for the next few months, until the iPad mini is released  8-).

Lawsuit denials aside it is obvious Google is emulating as much as possible the ecosystem that Apple has developed. As such it will be interesting to see how well they have copied from the market leader.

Ordering

The ordering process was pretty straight forward. The Google Play store is easy to use and the order was placed in a couple of minutes. Unfortunately Asus did not have the official case ready for ordering which was a big fail, as I, and many others will probably head to Dealextreme or Ebay for a 3rd party product.

From all accounts the after order service was woeful. There are many posts from people who wanted to change/cancel orders prior to the tablet being shipped. Googles CSRs were powerless to help and could only advise to refuse to accept the receipt of the parcel and eventually the purchaser would be provided a refund.

Next fail on Google's part was seemingly random dispatching of orders. Their logistics section obviously have never heard of FIFO. I can't complain as I received mine in the first batch, though it was after some stores started selling their stock.

So for the ordering process Google still needs some work to emulate Apple.

Packaging

Now the next subject may be trivial to some, but packaging is an area that Apple excels at, and you would think that Google/Asus would have spent some time here in their design process. This is the first item I have ever bought where I had to go online to seek advice on how to open the box, amazingly I found out I was not alone.


Design tolerances for the clearance between the sleeve and the box were too tight and it made it a job and a half. Maybe Google wanted its users to savour the process. Anyway eventually after running a knife around the edges of the box I got the sleeve off. The internal packaging was soso, nothing worth writing home,  or here, about.

Hardware

For the price the build quality of the device is high. The included charger does feels cheap but will presumably do its job. The faux leather back has a nice feel and will be less likely to slip out of your hand than other smooth back tablets.

Nexus 7
Nexus 7
The screen is nice and bright, though if you set the brightness to high I find the fonts and icons start to wash out.  It is not a 'retina' display as such but is pretty good. A work colleague though who has poorer eyesight was not impressed with the display at all.

The battery came about 50% charged. It took over 5 hours to charge to 100% via the USB cable. This is very slow and if typical could cause issues while travelling. After an 8 hour day where it got some pretty heavy use there was about 45% charge left when I arrived home.

I really missed the iPads Home Button, it became a bit of  pain to have to seek out the small power button on the side to awake the Nexus from sleep.

OS

The one main feature that Android has over IOS is the ability to add widgets to the interface. Some of the standard widgets are very useful. 3rd party widgets not always so.

An issue I found straight away was that some apps & widgets have not been optimised for use on the tablet size screen. Much of the rest of the interface is very familiar to IOS (as the lawsuits attest 8-). In comparison the IOS icons size and quality makes for a cleaner interface.

Apple would do well to allow a similar widget function in IOS , they already have a precedent in their OSX Dashboard.

If you are going to buy an Android Tablet the Goggle Nexus is the one to get. Other manufactures alter the standard Android OS which requires them to spend time and money updating their builds when a new Android version is released. As they primarily only make money out of the sale of the hardware device (unlike Apple who also get a cut from the users consumption) there is often no incentive for them to release an update, they would rather the user fork out $ for new hardware.

For Mac user there is an Android File Transfer app that can be used to transfer music, photos, movies etc to and from the Nexus. I attempted to use this a few times but it crashed just about every time, possibly it is not totally compatible with Mountain Lion. From what use I did get out of it I can see that managing data on Android devices is a very manual process. Google should invest some resources here to make the process as seamless and user hands off as possible. Compared to iTunes and iCloud syncing it is pretty primitive, it's not something you would want to have to show your Mother how to do.

Software

As mentioned a large portion of the available Android apps are not optimised for the Tablet size devices.  The Google Play store on the device does not make it easy to find tablet ready apps. Their online front end does have extra search functionality, it even allows to search by device , as because of fragmentation the user experince will not necesarrily be the same on similar sized device. The following video gives some good tips on how to find tablet optimised apps;



Nowadays the most main tablet software developers have released Android versions of their apps, though typically after the IOS version is available. To be considered though is that due to design complications and additional costs found with Android fragmentation many developers are not catering for the Android market at all, which may be an influencing factor for a purchaser tossing up which way to go
Google Now
Google Now

Maps

A huge factor in the use of smart phones and tablets is the availability of location aware services. Given the recent fall out between Apple and Google there is now a big distinction between the mapping services on IOS and Android. Admittedly the IOS maps are currently still in beta but they are way short of the standard and functionality that Google provides.

In my mind the standout feature of the Nexus 7 is the Google Now functionality.  It's ability to provide location specific information is fantastic. I have attached a screenshot of what it displayed at my work location. Over time through analysis of your locations and search history  the information will be more extensive.

Now while Google Now is the big selling point of the Nexus 7 it also exposes it's weakness, no 3G/4G coverage. The location aware functions require an internet feed, and if you work in, or visit, an environment without wifi the device is pretty useless, unless you have a phone or mobile hotspot. Google Maps does allow you to download offline data for locations that you are visiting but this does not include local business, public transport information etc.

Support

If you are lucky enough to live near an Apple store support issues are easily addressed by making an appointment with a Genius. How Google will fare in this regards is unknown. Given the poor handling of orders I hope they (or Asus) get their act together by the time I may need their assistance.

Conclusion

In regards to the form factor, I think 7" is too small for my everyday use. At work I use mindmapping apps such as iThoughts  or note taking apps like Paperport Notes. The iPad size screen is more suited for these types of tasks. Basically for my needs 10" is for creation, 7" is for consumption.

I am pretty impressed with the Nexus 7. If you are travelling this would be the device I would take over an iPad, basically because of the Google location and translation services.

While Google has taken some great strides to clean up the Android mess it created (by not tightly controlling both hardware and software design) they still fall short of Apple in providing a cohesive experience from purchase to consumption.

3 comments:

  1. stopped reading when I watched the video and saw that the boxes in the video are different than the box that iI received. my box has finger holes on the inner black box. plus anyone that has trouble opening the box is just trying way too hard, but you just have to let it slide out. Your info is out of date

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  2. It's good to see that Google must be learning from their mistakes.
    Now they have to redress the issue with repairs, as it seems that you can't get the device fixed if it is not a warranty issue (i.e. screen replacement is equal to the cost of a new device). They should follow Apple's lead in this area and have a fixed price replacement service.

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