Kip Hakes: Why I think the Google Nexus 7 is a game changer

Google has now launched its first ever tablet, the Nexus 7. It’s manufactured by Asus and priced at £159 (8Gb) and £199 (16Gb). I believe the Nexus 7 could start to chip away at the stony hold the iPad has on the tablet market.

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?
No.

Is the Nexus 7 an iPad beater?
No.

Will Google shift a tonne of these?
Yes.

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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3 Responses to Kip Hakes: Why I think the Google Nexus 7 is a game changer

  1. Michael Scharf July 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Kip: You’ve made a great argument as to why the Google Nexus 7 will destroy every other 7″ android tablet on the market, and a lot of other 7″ tablets as well (Blackberry Playbook for example). But no where do I see anything that tells me why people will pick up a 7″ high quality tablet instead of a 10″ high quality tablet backed up by millions of dollars, pounds, and euros in advertising. Is price the only differentiating factor?

    If apple comes out with a 7″ tablet, as is rumored, then we have a heads up contest. It will be interesting.

  2. Kip Hakes July 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    The price point is important, very important – hugely important, for the price it would cost to buy one iPad you can buy 2 and a bit of these. But the size and weight feels is spot on too – using it just feels so natural. The typing on it feels very good, even in landscape mode, it works better in the hands. After you’ve been using one of these, the iPad (moreso the ‘New iPad) feel a bit too weighty. I do understand what you’re saying, Apple do have a massive hold on the Tablet market and I don’t see that changing just yet.

    Also it’s not just about the hardware, the software is incredible, in a lot of ways the Voice Recognition does put Siri to shame. Once you’ve started using Google Now, it becomes clear that why being ‘in bed’ with Google is actually quite helpful. Based on my Latitude usage it knew what driving routes I’d take and warn me of problems. It pulled down the local bus times for the bus stop near my house. Heck it even told me to get going to an appointment if I was going to make it on time! It’s clever stuff and really something Google can offer at the moment.

    The Nexus 7 is turning heads with its largely positive feedback, and if Google can quickly develop a ‘Nexus 10’ of similar build and quality. Then who knows?

  3. royster70 July 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    very true about the possibility of an iPad mini changing the game but at this price point it will be a successful – it has no real competition right now

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