My husband is an early technology adopter. This means that he had a CD player before I did, a computer with internet access before I did, a DVD player before I did, a cell phone before I did, a smart phone before I did, and a tablet before I did. He had his first-generation iPad for well over a year before I even considered dipping my toes into the tablet waters. For the longest time, I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I liked paper books, I preferred to type on my computer, and my iPhone offered me lots of apps if I wanted to play. Why did I need a tablet?
After watching Jon’s love affair with his tablet, though, I slowly started to come around. I could see the convenience of being able to keep a whole bunch of books, magazines and even newspapers on a single small device. Plus, I could see that it would be easier to do things like surf the web, look up a recipe while I’m cooking or answer email on a tablet vs. a smart phone or computer. So, last Christmas I asked my husband for a tablet. I couldn’t decide between a Google Nexus 7 and an iPad Mini – a thoroughly first world problem, I’ll concede – so I left the ball in my husband’s court. As an iPad devotee, he stuck with Apple, and I’ve really enjoyed it. However, I’ve always wondered.
When the folks at Staples.ca got in touch with me recently and offered me a complimentary Google Nexus 7 for review purposes, I admit that I was intrigued. I wanted to see what it was like, and how it compared. So I seized the opportunity, and then eagerly awaited my new tablet.
When it arrived, I tried my best to clear out all of my previous tablet experiences from my mind, so that I could evaluate the Nexus 7 on its own merits. My first impressions were that it was very pretty, packaged in a box like a present. It was already charged when it arrived, so I was able to play with it right away. Since I am already on the Google bandwagon, with my email provided by Google Apps, my life driven by Google calendar, an active Google+ account, and so on, setting up my tablet was as easy as logging in. I actually have two Google accounts – one personal account and one work account – and it was relatively straightforward to add both, so that my whole life was on the tablet within a couple of minutes.
My first order of business, once the tablet was synced to my Google IDs, was to check out Google Play. This is the app store, where you can download books, music, movies, games and so on. I found almost all of my favourite apps were there, and many of them were free. I was able to get all the tools I use without shelling out. I decided to buy a book, just to see how that worked. I chose The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (aside – I really enjoyed the book). Since I already have Google Wallet set up, the purchase was very easy.
The truth is that while I tried not compare the Nexus 7 to the iPad Mini, it was impossible not to. In fact, even if I were to purchase one, I would likely be comparing my perceptions of the two products. What I found, though, was that there were both upsides and downsides to the Nexus 7. After using the Nexus for more than a week, I honestly can’t say which one is better. I think it comes down to how you want to use it. So, if you’re facing your own first world problem and choosing which table to buy, I’ll lay out my experiences for you.
What I loved about the Nexus 7:
- It easily supports multiple user IDs. I created a separate ID for my daughter Hannah with her email info and some apps that she likes, and added a simple password to my ID. This means that if my kids are using my tablet they’re not messing with my settings, and I can remove access to apps I don’t want them using. This is a big upside.
- The app icons are smaller, and you can place them where you want them. I’ve always found the app icons to be oddly large on the iPad, as compared to the iPhone. With the Nexus 7 you can fit more icons on a single screen, and they’re still more than big enough that I can see them. Being able to place them where you want on the screen, with gaps in between, also allows casual grouping on a single page.
- The free e-book reader Aldiko is better with PDFs than iBooks. I’ve been reading some books on the Google Nexus 7 rather than the iPad for that reason.
- It auto-updates software and apps. As someone who likes to stay up-to-date, this is easier for me than having to take the step of upgrading.
- Google Maps! I love Google Maps, and while there’s an app for the iPhone, I was really sad when they removed it as the default map app for my phone. The Nexus 7 still uses it, obviously.
- Google’s voice search works well, and is better at understanding my children than Siri.
What I would like to change about the Nexus 7:
- Since I have an iPhone, integrating my two platforms is challenging. For instance, I can easily sync text messaging and share apps between my iPhone and iPad. If I had an Android phone, I could easily sync text messaging and share apps between that phone and my Nexus 7. However, I can’t easily share and sync between an iPhone and Nexus 7.
- I don’t love the native books app, which only reads books you purchase through Google Play, and doesn’t allow you to download those books to your computer. To read other books, you need to get a free e-reader app, like Aldiko.
- The Nexus 7 has a narrower screen than the iPad, and is a little heavier.
- I miss FaceTime. While you can use Google Hangout or Skype on the Nexus 7, since the rest of my family is all on the Apple bandwagon, this would present a challenge for me if I wanted my kids to be able to chat with their grandmothers on Mother’s Day using the Nexus 7.
- The Nexus has only a front camera. I don’t take a lot of photos with my tablet, but if you want to take a photo or video of anything other than yourself, you’d have a hard time doing it with this one.
See? Upsides and downsides.
My final verdict is best demonstrated by the fact that I’ve been using my Nexus 7 heavily for the past few days, since I’m reading a book on it right now, and I haven’t touched my iPad since Sunday. I’m not giving up either, which is a little ridiculous when I’m carrying around one smart phone and two tablets, but I can live with being ridiculous. I’ve already conceded my first world status, after all.
While Staples.ca gave me the Nexus 7, the thoughts and opinions expressed are strictly my own, and no other compensation was received.