Why I think the Google Nexus 7 Tablet is a turning point for the mobile industry

I’ve had the Google Nexus 7 tablet (“from Asus”) for the weekend now so here is my initial reaction to the product: Brilliant!

I am actually rather smitten with it.

This feeling is particularly difficult to achieve given my aversion to Android. I’ve always had a soft spot for Android — the T-Mobile G1, the first mass-market Android device, really did open things up dramatically for the ecosystem. After that I went a little cold on Android. I think it was the constant screwing-around that the manufacturers inevitably felt they needed to bolt-on that wound me up. (In particular, the Sony Ericsson abomination — Timescape, was it?)

I’ve been of the opinion that Android — even up to this year — simply was not consumer ready. I know this sounds stupid given Google’s servers are activating nigh-on a million new unique devices every single day. But it’s a critique I felt justified in dispensing because there was an awful lot of refining needed.

I think the industry is getting there though.

And Google’s latest foray — this Nexus 7 Tablet — is perhaps the pinnacle so far.

[Note: I’m not really bothering with the Galaxy SIII. That for me is an iteration phone. I like what they’ve done with it, but I feel it’s a revised SII]

Turning to the Nexus 7, I think it’s time I just wrote down everything I’m thinking about it, without bothering with ordering by priority.

– It’s light. I never know what a weight measurement written down actually means so I’ll use the nearest comparison I have: I feel it weighs about 1.5 x iPhone 4S. That’s light.

– The built quality is excellent. Metal casing with nice smart feeling plastic on the back. It works nicely and gives a decent feel of quality.

– There’s no front facing camera. I don’t think that’s a problem necessarily. There’s a rear-facing one for video conferencing obviously.

– The 7″ form factor passes the Jeans test. It fits perfectly in the back pocket of my jeans. Not that I’m encouraging this, I should point out. I think it’s just nice to know. I also reckon it would fit in the inside pocket of one of my heavy winter coats. Useful.

– The rounded rear edges give it the effect of feeling really slim.

– I read a book from Amazon Kindle on it last night in bed and didn’t get arm/hand ache within 5 minutes. That is a huge plus over the iPad. Especially if you’ve upgraded to the stupid-heavy iPad 3 (“new iPad”).

– There are only three buttons on the device. Volume (up ‘n down) and on/off/screen rest — someone’s given some good thought to the ergonomics.

– It’s fast. Youtube HD movies look glorious and switching about apps works very smoothly.

– The screen is excellent — I can’t readily discern the pixels. If you asked me — and remember, I’m pushing mid-30s so my eyesight isn’t the quality of an 18 year old — it looks like a Retina. I won’t bore you with the exact specs.

– The sound quality was sufficient for me not to be able to tell the difference between it and the iPad. My 2-year-old was perfectly fine watching Youtube videos from it. Indeed, I noticed an immediate preference for the Nexus tablet — he can actually *hold* the Nexus comfortably. The iPad 2 (which he regularly uses) needs to go on a stand as it’s just a bit too heavy for him.

– For the first time ever with Android, the key apps I needed to ‘spec’ up my Nexus 7 were all in the store. That is a total first. Everything I really needed is there (in tablet form, no less). Evernote, Remember The Milk, Amazon Kindle, DropBox, Box, LinkedIn and so on. It’s been a while since I really forced myself to use an Android device and I’m pleased to say that at least this weekend, I haven’t found any particular apps I needed that weren’t available in the Google Play store.

– The touchscreen response is excellent, no delays.

– The speech-to-text functionality is widespread across Android 4.1 and it’s really very good. I’ve taken to speaking all my search queries this weekend as a result. You can do this with the iPad of course. Just… it’s heavier. And over there. What I mean is: I actively reached for the Nexus 7 this weekend and left the iPad sitting charging.

– Speaking of charging, I haven’t used the Nexus 7 for a full day yet so I can’t speak to full-day battery performance except to say it looks promising.

– The Gmail client is nothing short of brilliant. I’ve been watching it evolve over the years on Android and I think they’ve now moved to a point whereby I seriously can see myself using the Nexus 7 as a primary window into email. I’m a big Gmail user so the ability to easily archive vs delete is cherished. The left panel shows the folders or labels. The right shows the message list with preview. Tap to view the message. Apply labels easily and effortlessly. Job done. I like it a lot.

– Android’s alerts are a billion times better than the iOS cut-and-paste. I like how they’re tucked away in a pulldown alert menu whilst the service icons are displayed in the top toolbar.

– I do like how Android’s Google Play lets you install an app without insisting on taking you out of the flipping app store to watch the pretty little icon download. It was far quicker navigating around the store and hitting ‘download’ next to anything that caught my eye.

– It feels eminently usable. I’m surprised how it’s coloured my view of the ‘full size’ iPad. The iPad felt stupidly big this weekend. It will be interesting to see how things go this week when I use the Nexus.

– The apps I listed above are all working perfectly. Evernote, for example, has just received a gorgeous re-make for the tablet form factor. It’s really nice! Everything is fast, bug free, I haven’t had any crashes or forced restarts.

Now then.

Why is this device a turning point? The quick answer is this: The Nexus 7 appears to be the best Android tablet I’ve ever seen and used — it’s also, by a country mile — the cheapest vs high spec that I’ve ever examined.

Oh, I’ve looked at the £99 knock-offs you sometimes find in department stores (that are still running 1.9 of Android!) but they’re typically rubbish. Even if they’re half decent for web browsing, the flipping keyboard won’t work because the screen components are so cheap they can’t easily process my actual touch.

The Nexus 7 starts at an awesome £159 for the 8GB version.

That’s the turning point.

£159 is nothing when you’re looking at £399 minimum for an iPad. The 7″ form factor works really nicely.

It will take several mega milestones for the Nexus 7 tablet to jump anywhere near iPad’s popularity. Probably some rose-tintend glasses. I don’t think we should underestimate the power of price.

I showed the Nexus 7 to about 5 geeks today. Each of them is intending placing an order after having a play around with it and then finding out the 159 price for the device. If that is indicative of widespread consumer viewpoints then the 7 should sell very well indeed.

My wife likes it. We’re thinking of replacing the kitchen iPad with it.

You can buy 2.5 Nexus 7s for every iPad. We’re not comparing Apples with Apples (boom boom) but the price point might well begin to get significant when a couple are looking for a new tablet computer and hitherto were either shown only the iPad (for obvious reasons), I could see the Nexus 7 being one of those devices to plug the demand gap.

In evaluating the Nexus 7, I’m becoming more and more convinced of the need for Apple to offer smaller versions of it’s iPad. The 7″ iPad rumour mill has been churning for some time — if the Nexus 7 sells in any volume, you can count on Apple having to move to that size and trying to take the bottom out of the market. But how cheap could Apple go with a 7″ tablet? Cheaper than £159? I wonder.

Businesses are likely to be significantly impressed with the price point especially since the ‘app gap’ is narrowing dramatically between Android and iOs.

So: An Android tablet device that doesn’t suck? Brilliant. I’m delighted with the Nexus 7 so far.

I’m going to try and use it in anger this week at work. That will be interesting…

Find out more about the device on Google’s site.

Thoughts? Will we hear that Google has activated it’s 10 millionth Nexus 7 any time soon?

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