Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Nexus 7 - first impressions

I bought an 8GB Nexus 7 (Asus) primarily as an eBook reader. I didn't want a Kindle because I really don't want to be locked into Amazon's DRM, and the iPad 8" is still 3 months away.

Ok, so maybe the iPad Mini is only 8 weeks away. I admit, it's not a logical purchase. It's at least a look into the Android world, and I'm sure I can find a new owner in a few months.

First impressions:

  • In packaging and in look and feel it's a poor man's iPad. Instead of Apple's compact power supply, it comes with a mini-brick.
  • It's not gorilla glass, just scratch resistant. There's no slip case in the packaging. (Given Google's negative margin on this, a slip case might bankrupt them.)
  • There's no proprietary connector of course, just a micro-USB cable. It's not obvious which way is up, Apple would have embossed the top side of the connector to make that obvious.
  • If you use two-factor authentication authentication/2-step verification things are bit kludgy.
  • If you have multiple google accounts you need to decide which one gets to be "dominant" (others are currently somewhat second class citizens). Shades of my AppleID problems. The device defaults to the Gmail account used to purchase it, which happens to be my two-factor account. I ended up going with that. That's the account that gets contacts and son on.
  • In addition to the $25 app store credit it included one non-public domain book (Bourne Dominion) and one movie (Transformers, dark of the moon). Neither to my tastes, but nice touch.
  • It includes NFC and "Android Beam"
  • There's supposed to be a dynamic range issue with the display. It's not obvious to me yet, but I haven't looked at photos. 
  • You can select wallpapers from your Picasa web albums. The bundled wallpapers are pretty blah.
  • I got an update shortly after launching. No problems.
  • It includes GPS.
  • I like the range of unlock options. I'm trying face unlock for the heck of it. Is slick.
  • It supports encryption, but it's a 1 hour optional process.
  • You can download offline voice recognition support (!)
  • Backup is to the cloud of course.
  • The gesture controls are different from iOS, but there are similarities. I like the calendar interaction.
  • Most things seem stuck in portrait mode.
  • Text entry and editing is less sophisticated than iOS. Also, it doesn't seem to remember that I've disabled acoustic feedback.
  • You can enter multiple Google accounts, each account with a credit card gets $25 on the store. I have 3 accounts of my own, but this means the device supports multiple users.
    • I'm not quite sure how account switching works. After I entered two Google accounts I can switch between them from Gmail, but not from Contacts. I think my Contacts list may be  sum of all accounts?
    • Overall account management seems to be at the app level, and it's incomplete or rocky.
  • There's a set of Google apps, like Gmail, then there's also a Mail app.
  • The UI is a bit puzzling, but I'm used to iOS/Windows/Mac. I can't say the UI is particularly bad, I'm too familiar with the alternatives.
  • I'm surprised there's no Google Drive or Google Docs apps on startup.
  • Messenger creates a G+ account whether you want to or not. I stopped halfway through. Although I never confirmed Picasa integration I think some albums were converted, the old URLs still work but generate a redirect warning. Google can be a rough companion.
  • It fits a 1 quart baggy.
  • There are no parental controls. Not a surprise.

This is a real computer, and Asus is supposed to supply a keyboard/case combination. It will be interesting how much a future version with LTE support will cost.

The Nexus 7 isn't the $125 Barbie B-Smart Netbook I predicted. For one thing it's $75 more, though it does include a battery. For another it's far better value for the dollar. 

So I guess we've made it back into the price range of the 1982 Commodore 64 (cheaper, adjusting for inflation). The price collapse in computing has arrived later than expected, but it's here.

I suspect Apple will come in at $250 for the iPad Mini, whereas a week ago I'd have said $200.

See also:

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