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Google Has a Game Changer

Most folks who follow my mobile and Tablet blogging here know that I as a matter of fact enjoy the iPad experience. Some say I enjoy it far too much. I’ve owned every edition since the original. Contrary to what the platform zealots believe, I’ve always been eager to take a look at what else comes down the pike from companies other than Apple, and give those devices a fair shake. I typically do this on my own dime and not with review units. As a matter of fact,  last summer about this time I picked up two new Tablets: A Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the HP Touchpad. I wrote about both of those Tablets quite a bit. We all know how sorry a spectacle the TouchPad experience became. And if you followed along, you know that I didn’t care too much about Google’s Android Tablet experience on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The other Android Tablets I played around with since the GT 10.1 as well failed to impress. To be honest, I felt Google just didn’t get it when it came to Tablets. So then, that opinion, has changed with the newly released Nexus 7 Tablet.

The kudos I can to Google

I have to give all the kudos I can to Google and its hardware partner, Asus, for the Nexus 7 Tablet. This is the first Android Tablet I’ve seen and worked/played with that tells me there may in fact be a real future for Android Tablets. Other GBM bloggers have put out reviews and thoughts and they, along with most of the tech press, seem as a rule as pleased as I am with the Nexus 7. During this post might qualify as a review, I’m not going to spend too much time with specs and those kind of details, however instead talk about my impressions of the Nexus 7.

As I mentioned in this post last week, I managed to pick up a Nexus 7 quite by accident. Given the fact that these devices are now hard to get, I’m glad I did. During I was impressed with some of the early reviews of the Nexus 7, I’ve learned to have a hefty dose of skepticism about early reviews of new devices. I had decided I would wait and see how things shook out afterwards the initial furor surrounding the launch died down. However when I found myself, on my birthday, standing in line at Staples on other business and watching a new shipment of Nexus 7 Tablets heading out the door quickly, my gadget lust took over and I treated myself to a self given birthday present. As it turns out, this was a great impulse decision.

The Nexus 7 hardware just feels right in my hands

The Nexus 7 hardware just feels right in my hands. Operating a Tablet has to feel effortless and how it feels in your hands has to make sense on a visceral and emotional level. The Nexus 7 succeeds here. The Tablet user experience is so vastly improved over previous Android Tablets that comparing them is like talking about the difference in sailing on a luxury yacht versus paddling a canoe. Quite a bit has already been said in comparing the Nexus 7 to other Tablets, most exactly the Kindle Fire and the iPad. Two quick cents on those comparisons.

The Nexus 7 compares to the Kindle Fire like a screaming jet fighter compares to a WWI era bi-plane. Amazon and its Kindle Fire may have created a nice media player and eReader for its content, however as of the release of the Nexus 7, you’d be hard pressed to get me to call it a Tablet. In fact, I’ve been hard pressed to call it that from the get-go. Google sure wants you to think that the Nexus 7 is competing against the Kindle Fire as evidenced by its Google Play strategy, as so then as the fact that the My Library widget, which displays content you’ve recently played or read,  is the default home screen. Unless Amazon has in effect tightened down the screws on what it has in store for its then and there Kindle Fire, Google is way out ahead in this race.As for comparing the Nexus 7 to the iPad, there are obvious differences; size and price point being the most obvious. If you’re talking about competing in the market, the Nexus 7 will thoroughly take some iPad dollars away from Cupertino. However it will only do so because Google has succeeded in setting a standard for this smaller form factor that Apple, and all other competitors, will have to meet or rise above. If you’re talking about a Tablet computing experience, the iPad is probably in spite of everything in the lead, due to its ecosystem and more mature OS. Slowly, that ecosystem advantage is eroding as more quality Apps appear for Android. Speculation is rampant surrounding a smaller iPad. I don’t know if that will happen or not, and I’m even so in the “I don’t think so” camp. Yet Google may have taking everything into account found the right button to push to get Apple to think in all seriousness about a smaller iPad.

Google has shown that by exercising some taste in design, and enforcing what it wants its Tablet experience to be, that it is capable of in fact competing then in the Great Tablet Race. I would think that Samsung and other Android Tablet makers have quite a lot to fear at this stage. I think Apple and Microsoft need to take notice also.

What makes the user experience on the Nexus 7 work so then is the combination of hardware and software.  The Nvida Tegra 3 quad core processor on the Nexus 7 combined with OS enhancements from Google make touching and manipulating the device feel natural. During there may be some slight lag here and there, the overall user experience relating to touch is in the extreme smooth and compares more than favorably to that experience on the iPad. Google calls its efforts to smooth this out Project Butter. I’d keep milking those cows because Project Butter makes what has come earlier seem like trying to manipulate melted cheese that has already cooled. And, I’m glad to report that the Nexus 7 passes the Pinky Test.

The Pinky Test is something I came up with awhile back for touch devices. In substance, it is a given somewhere along the line that you’re going to be using a Tablet to do some reading during eating a meal; say a big juicy cheeseburger. To put it more exactly than wiping off your hands for every flick of the screen, it is clearly easier to hold your pinky out away from your food and use it to flick the screen for a page turn. The iPad has excelled at this from day one. Sadly, up until now, every Android Tablet I’ve tried as failed the Pinky Test. Suffice it to say that the Nexus 7 more than lives up to the challenge, again depending on the App. The App that I test this with the most is Flipboard. At first an iOS App only, it is now available on the Android platform, and I’m delighted to report that flipping through pages in Flipboard is as effortless as things now stand on an iPhone or an iPad.

As I’ve said, I’ve not been a fan of Android Tablet implementations in the past. Jelly Bean is in effect growing on me for one simple reason. It’s simple. It doesn’t get in my way when I’m trying to work with the device. There is less inconsistency from App to App regarding user controls. Things just feel right and unlike other previous Android incarnations, I was able to figure out how to use things without much effort.

The table(t) worth mentioning

Jelly Bean brings some other new factors to the table(t) worth mentioning. Though I’m just beginning to experiment with Google Now, I find it so so as capable as Siri when it comes to fulfilling requests. However, Google Now promises more than what we now know of Siri so I’m anxious to see how this develops henceforth. The contextual and predictive behavior we are ceding to our computing overlords might cross over a Freaky Line, yet like it or not it is the way of the future. That is clearly until we humans rebel.

Jelly Bean’s Notifications are as well improved and during I like the better predictive text on the keyboard the native Android keyboard for all that takes some getting used to. Clearly one of the nice things about Android is that there are other options out there to try.

Serious impact on the Tablet market in general

But that price point as well will have a serious impact on the Tablet market in general. Tablet makers riding the Android band wagon will have to pay attention here. Those who don’t have the luxury of selling these devices with little or no room for a profit margin, will have to find other ways to distinguish themselves in the market place. There is room here for that to be the case given that the Nexus 7 comes without a back camera or expandable storage. Yet Google and Amazon are setting the price points and whether or not you pay attention to the lack of storage, a $199 starting point is enticing. This bears watching as we get nearer to the holiday season.

As I said before the “who has more Apps” debate has become pretty much a moot point to my mind. Though Apple all in all has a large numerical lead in Apps optimized for its Tablets that numerical advantage in effect hasn’t meant much except to those who like to measure those kind of things. More importantly, it is the kind of Apps that make a difference. One of the things that has happened since my last Android Tablet experience is that a number of my go-to Tablet Apps have as well become available for Android, and taking everything into consideration many of them work beautifully on the Nexus 7. These include Flipboard, Netfilx, Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability. Notice those are all consumption Apps. Other Apps that I use on the iPad that are available and need to be optimized for the Nexus 7 screen include Zite, any Twitter client except for the Twitter App, and The Weather Channel. Social and Sharing Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Path look fine. Interestingly enough Facebook is faster on the Nexus 7 than it is on either of my iOS devices. As for Apps to get work done, I haven’t truly looked too closely in that category but, however beyond Evernote, which works then on the Nexus 7, I don’t see the Nexus 7 as being that kind of device for me in the way that the iPad is.

Bluetooth keyboards: I’ve tested the Nexus 7 with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard. Both work fine for keyboard input. Though this small form factor Tablet looks kinda funny at once to one of those larger iPad sized keyboards. Will that stop folks? I don’t think so.

So, my first impression is that Google has more than a winner in the Nexus 7. It has a game changer. Is it it too early to make such a bold statement. I don’t think so. There have been several computers that have genuinely rocked my world and changed my perceptions. My first one was the first laptop computer I owned. It was made by Texas Instruments, had a black and white screen, was heavy as a horse, had no battery, and I loved the damned thing. The second life altering experience I recall was with my first Tablet computer, the Toshiba 3505. Sure, I owned a lot of computers in between those two, nevertheless none of those in between devices altered my thinking or affected me that much. The third in this line of world rocking devices was the original iPad. It after all continues to rock my world. If there was a device in between that original Tablet computer and the iPad it would be the iPhone, yet to me that’s a different discussion. It is as a matter of fact easy for me to say that the Nexus 7 is now number 4 in that list of “rock the world” devices. Google have not only hit a home run with this device, however they have shown other batters how to stand at the plate and deliver.

Every tablet can do that, let alone Google Nexus 7. However the Nexus 7 has Tegra 3 ARM processor as its brain, which means its quad-core and 12-GPU can make hardware video decoding super fast than on Apple’s New iPad of A5X processor with dual-core and 4-GPU.

I like Nexus because it’s super fast, 2~4x faster in playing a lot of games than on my New iPad.

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