Cheap Android tablets aren’t a new thing; you’ve been able to get them for a few years now, but ultimately they were cheap and (not so) cheerful. All of them came from Chinese manufacturers you’d never heard of and most were running old versions of Android not designed for tablets. More often than not they didn’t come with the Play Store and a lot of them had horrid, nasty resistive screens too. If you put one next to an iPad it really was like looking at a top spec Range Rover parked next to a shed.
With the advent of Honeycomb, the first version of Android designed for tablets, the larger manufacturers like Samsung, Asus and Motorola started producing tablets that were actually very good. They weren’t ‘cheap’ though. The Asus Transformer TF101 had an RRP of £399 and because a lot of them were WiFi only, you couldn’t get one from your mobile operator like you could an iPad. This price point, and not being able to ‘pay monthly’ for one, meant that Android Tablets have never really taken off in the way the iPad has. I think this could change.
The Google Nexus 7 is a well specced tablet – it’s got a Quad Core Tegra 3 Processor, a 7” 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi), NFC, 8 hour battery (10 hours e-reading), front 1.3MP camera and is just over half the weight of the iPad. It comes loaded with Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) and is optimised for Google Play – ie. music, movies, books, store etc. All this for £159! That is incredible value, a very, very competitive price for a tablet made by a trusted manufacturer and sold by one of the biggest names in mobile. This is the kind of price point that has the potential to ship millions of these devices and get them into the hands of people who would never normally think of buying a tablet. This is the kind of price you could treat your parents or grandparents to one. Heck, get one for the kids too! I’d rather put that sort of money into something like a tablet than get a 3DS or a Kindle for my daughter. With it being £159 too if she drops it, or loses it, it wouldn’t feel quite as horrific if than if she dropped or lost £600 worth of iPad!
It’s certainly not all ‘fur coat and no knickers’ either. The video demos of the Nexus 7 show it to be a smooth, slick product. ICS certainly ‘upped’ Android’s game, but it looks like Jelly Bean is focussing on refining and roughing out the edges. You can effortlessly switch between apps and screens with the sort of fluidity you’ve only really seen on high end Android and iOS up until now. The IPS panels that Asus use are very good, nice wide viewing angles and excellent contrast too.
Obviously the price point does mean that there are some hardware omissions, like lacking a rear camera. I must admit to have only taking about three photos with the camera on my Tablet so do people really need a rear camera on a these devices? The front facing camera is there thankfully, so you can Google Video Talk and Skype. Also, there is no 3G varient. It’s not a show-stopper but it would have been nice to have the option at least. This has probably been done to keep costs down and also it makes it easier for Google to sell the unit directly without end users having to go through a carrier.
It’s also missing a Micro SD slot. Being a tablet though you’re probably not going to create masses of content, there is no 8MP camera with 1080p recording here. Also the omission of expandable storage is probably because Google want users to use their cloud services more and more, so very little is actually ‘stored’ on the device. Using Google’s ‘Play’ services you’ll be able to stream your music, or movies. Both also have ‘offline’ modes so you can queue up content for when you’re on the go.
The Nexus 7 is the tablet for the masses. It’s hi-tech, yet low cost, and Android is now a much smoother, friendlier OS than ever before. It’s no longer reserved for geeks; it’s got enough of the ‘Fisher Price’ feel of iOS to tempt normobs, but underneath is the tweakable, open nature us tinkering nerds love. The ‘Google Play’ experience is much more refined now and it’s pretty slick with easy to find content too.
So will all the trendy executives be dumping their iPads for a Nexus 7?
Is the Nexus 7 an iPad beater?
Will Google shift a tonne of these?
I think it will be a long time until Apple or Microsoft / Nokia will come up with anything this competitively priced, if ever. Android has the ecosystem now. The software is solid, the hardware looks good so buying one is pretty much a no-brainer.
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