How to make your Nexus 7 not suck

How to make your Nexus 7 not suck

Summary: Google shipped their new 7-inch tablet with a built-in handicap. Here's how to fix it.


So yesterday, joy of joys, my new Nexus 7 tablet arrived. I had been waiting for it patiently, like a hyperactive 8-year-old on Christmas morning, knowing full well what daddy had put in the box under the tree. 

Finally, I was going to get an Android tablet actually worth using. Nvidia Tegra 3 quad cores and snappy graphics. Supported directly by Google as a native experience device, with the latest Jelly Bean OS.

Android fanboi drool.

I unwrapped it from its case, plugged it in and powered it on. And suddenly I was greeted with the Android 4.x smartphone user interface. They gimped it.

Also Read:



To add insult to injury, unlike its smartphone companions in which you can orient the screen any way you want, they locked the home screen into portrait mode. Oh, and by default, all applications which can handle more than a single display mode are locked into portrait mode as well.

How stupid is that?

Now, you can turn the screen orientation lock off -- simply pull down the notification bar and to the very right of the date display, tap the little icon which looks like a lock with arrows spinning around it. It will change to a picture of a tablet/phone with arrows spinning around it.

This will allow your apps, such as the built-in Chrome browser or Gmail to be used in any orientation you want.

But there's no way built-into the Nexus 7's Jelly Bean implementation (without hacking it) to turn on the native tablet UI or to unlock the orientation of the home screen itself. Which is enough to drive you mad.

Unless... you replace the launcher with something else.

If you pick up a Nexus 7, I implore you to immediately download Apex Launcher and use it as your default home screen. It'll save you some money on psychotherapy and will definitely keep you from walking into Google's headquarters with a fully automatic weapon.

What's Apex Launcher? Essentially, it's a souped-up version of the Android 4.x tablet UI with lots of extra customization options. And it's a free download. 

There are other alternative launchers out there, such as Nova, but I'm partial to Apex as it is tailored specifically for Ice Cream Sandwich as well as Jelly Bean.

Please Google, fix this so that end-users don't have to go to 3rd-party solutions the minute they start using this product. You got everything right up until the point you decided to gimp the home screen UI.

Have you switched the launcher already on your Nexus 7? Talk Back and Let Me Know.


Topics: Tablets, Android, Google, Mobile OS


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • My thanks...

    Jason, that was the one design feature I found silly. My thanks for the tip on Apex Launcher.

    Peter Sabin
  • The "freedom" is what makes Google lax

    Apple's "closed" model works only because they go deep for like every detail of UI, every detail of a feature. If they fail to do that, with closed ecosystem it will be catastrophic.

    Google is lax because they always know that the geeks will take their time to sort things out. "Openness" allows such customization.
    • Sure, FOR GEEKS but how about for consumers - the vast majority ...

      ... of which are not geeks?

      For instance, Windows offers the same "openness" for geeks while giving the non-geek consumer the same experience no matter whose name is on the hardware.
      M Wagner
      • Re: Sure, FOR GEEKS but how about for consumers - the vast majority ...

        A lot of Android users seems to be running third-party OS builds. Steve "Cyanogen" Kondik recently said that CyanogenMod had 2.5 million registered users. Given that most users aren't going to bother to register, that suggests the installed base for CM alone, never mind all the other Android builds, is likely to be 10 times that
        • making statistics up on the spot

          "Given that most users aren't going to bother to register, that suggests the installed base for CM alone, never mind all the other Android builds, is likely to be 10 times that"

          Um, no, it doesn't
        • I ran cyanogenmod7 on my Samsung Fascinate

          Now I'm looking into a decent ICS ROM for my HTC Thunderbolt as HTC/VZW are taking their sweet time getting the promised ICS to us TBolt users. Quite a few people I know with Android devices are running CM7 or another custom ROM vs running a stock Android OS.
        • Not Even...

          Considering that it is "Installs" they record, not registrations, you must realize that most of the CM & XDA/RW crowd, the types that use CM have multiple devices. As a long, long, long time member/mod at XDA I can tell you that I have had as many as 10 devices at once & commonly am playing with & switching between a minimum of 3. You also have to take into consideration that many of the builds are "Nightlies" meaning that users may be flashing a new version of the rom as often as once a day on some devices.

          & the post above, Microsoft does not have the same level of openness. You show me where you can download the OS source code for Windows.
          George Leon
    • Based on their marketshare...

      there are either allot more geeks out there than I thought or there are allot of Android users who simply live with the result of Google's "laxness" because they don't know any different.

      I'm betting "B" is reality.
      • Um, no.

        There are simply a lot of cheap people who be real excited to get a “data phone”. Then they go and use it as just a phone. Android users mostly don’t surf the web on their phones, and they certainly don’t pay for apps. They are the Yahoo users and beanie baby collectors of the world.
        • You are right

          and all iPad users are coffee house sitting hipsters. Thanks for the visit to stereotype world. Guys that troll blogs are all total losers. This is fun.
          • The problem is

            The stats back him up (minus the ad hominem).
          • Eh !

            What stats would those be exactly. Please send link as proof. I also see you consider yourself to be a god, of which there are NONE!!!!!!
          • Note that it is you, not the OP, injecting the term "all" into the argument

        • That was my point...

          DERSSS made the statement that Google knows the geeks will work around shortcomings such as this through customization. The problem is, while the majority of Android users on ZDNet are geeks, ZDNet doesn't represent the average Android user. The average user, regardless of platform (in most cases), is far from holding geek status.
        • I'm guessing you are a religious fundamentalist!! That is an Apple fanboy!!

          Talk about making generalizations, I've been an Android user for 4 years and use the browser daily, pay for apps and also sometimes donate if I like the app enough; Yahoo is for idiots like yourself who don't know any better. For goodness sake, GROW UP and stop judging people you don't know. Ask daddy next time b4 you make a bigger fool of yourself...
          • My Error.

            My comment above was directed to rick(dickhead)roberts. You know the guy, the apple-pipsqueak.. lol
    • While I do appreciate aspects of the closed model

      One of the reasons I jailbreak my iPhone is to take advantage of all of the killer themes out there for jailbroken iOS devices... a lot of them are a far cry from the grid of icons, the grid of icons and widgets with Android, and the real time huge tiles of the Metro interface. Apple has come a long way as far as incorporating features in iOS that one had to jailbreak to get but they still have a ways to go.
  • That's IT???

    That is your only complaint! Ha Ha Ha That's great! I take your meaning a whole other way... that its a great tablet! I have been holding out for some time due to all the issues, and $$, and if this is the worst that you can come up with, I'll get one soon!
    • I've only owned it a day.

      However, I think it's a serious enough problem that many end-users may return the device. Not everyone is savvy enough to replace a core software component.
      • cry baby

        Serious problem? What a cry baby you are.