Nexus 7: A Road Warrior's best friend

Nexus 7: A Road Warrior's best friend

Summary: Maps, video conferencing, voice to text, a great screen, Jelly Bean, and more make this Android tablet the one to beat.

TOPICS: Google, Android, Tablets

I've been writing about mobile gadgets for more than 15 years so when a new "shiny object" appears, I'm usually the first to grab one. Well, the same holds true for the Nexus 7, which I purchased and then wrote about moments later. I apparently held off long enough to avoid hardware issues, but thankfully my delay still had the Nexus 7 in my hands on July 21st.

As you have probably heard by now, Google initially had a bad batch of Nexus 7 devices, with the left side of the screen not being attached. Thankfully, my device didn't ship with any hardware defects. That said, the only hardware defect was the packaging of the Nexus 7, which left me challenged … and laughing. I had heard horror stories about opening the package, but I figured since I open packages daily, it wouldn't be an issue. I couldn't have been more wrong, with the packaging challenging me and leaving me laughing for about 10 minutes, before I finally got the Nexus 7 fully removed from the box.

Nexus 7: Perfect out of the box

I mentioned above that I've been opening gadgets for years. What comes with opening is usually the painful configuration and first startup experience. I have to say the Nexus 7 has one of the best ones I've ever experienced. In my case, I turned the device on and was immediately greeted with a request for a Wi-Fi password to the network that I had in my house. I was then shown my Gmail ID and asked for my password. After inputting my password the device configured GMAIL, pulled all of my calendars, contacts and even my apps, onto the device. It really couldn't have been easier.

I then launched Chrome and was blown away by the speed of the browser, not to mention the speed of the device in general. Seconds later I was interrupted by a prompt telling me that a new version of the Jelly Bean OS (Jelly Bean version 4.1.1) was now available. This part in particular made me smile since most devices didn't even have Jelly Bean yet, and Google's own was already receiving an update.

Video conferencing done right

Everyone always talks about how amazing FaceTime and Skype are. I'm a huge user and fan of both, but the Nexus 7 is the one to beat now. I was using the Nexus 7 in a hotel room, tethered to my iPad, since the hotel Wi-Fi was too slow, and all of the sudden I heard the sound of chats coming in. I looked at the Nexus 7 and not only had it logged me into Google Talk, but it was also receiving chats. I then saw the camera icon and figured "it can't be this easy". Well, it was and a quick click of the camera icon had me doing a video conference with a co-worker--see below.


The quality of the conference call was spectacular, even over a hotspot. I was also offered the option to manipulate the images of my outgoing video stream, though there's no real business purpose there.

Maps on steroids

If you're an iPhone user, you have no idea what the Maps experience from Google is really all about. Instead, we've been forced to use the built-in Maps application, which pales in comparison. In the case of the Nexus 7, simply launching the Maps app immediately finds your location and then pops up a pop-over that features Local restaurants, cafes, bars, attractions, and more. The Maps app also takes a guess at where you are and offers you the option to "check-in, review or view details", all at the touch of a button.

Siri has some catching up to do

Siri has been making headlines, but Google's dictation features are lightyears ahead. Not only does it grab every word almost perfectly every time, but it types out the words as you're speaking. I was doing this in front of a colleague the other day, and he was shocked at how effortless it was. Unlike Siri, we didn't get any kind of wait indicator, and it seemed to work flawlessly every time.

The screen is beautiful

Everyone talks about how amazing the Retina screen is on the latest iPad. Well, when you take a closer look at the Nexus 7, you'll soon see that Google isn't that far behind. Granted, it's a 7-inch device and not the iPad's size, but the screen definitely impresses. Speaking of the screen, Google ships the Nexus 7 with a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which streams in seconds and definitely shows off the beauty of the screen.


So far I've been really impressed with what the Nexus 7 has to offer. The only thing that hasn't worked as well as I had expected is Google Now, but that's probably because I haven't been using the Nexus 7 as much as I should, so that it can learn more about me. I did expect it to know some things since it could technically read my calendar and contacts, but perhaps that's not how it's designed to work.

Since I have an iPad and an iPhone, the Nexus 7 is a nice-to-have for me. However, I'm going to try to leave the iPad behind a bit more and see how much of a power user of the Nexus 7 I can become. I'm also thinking of swapping out my iPhone for either a Galaxy Nexus or a Galaxy S3, since I really do appreciate the integration with Google's universe.

With a rumored iPad mini coming, discounts on the Nook, and other tablets on the way, the Nexus 7 is sure to have some competition. As you can see from the article above, though, Google did a great job with its own Nexus 7, and is definitely the Android tablet to beat.

Topics: Google, Android, Tablets

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • you just said everything i wanted to say lol

    I am writing this on the nexus tablet right now... it's an amazing device for the price
    • Road Warrior's best friend... not a 7" tablet.
      As a hardcore road warrior myself, my best friend is the Samsung Galaxy Note.
      Sure, it costs significantly more than a Nexus 7, but any serious road warrior would have no problem justifying the cost of the Galaxy Note.
      I have the Note, a 7" tablet (Dell Streak 7) and 10" tablet (Toshiba Thrive). I use my 10" tablet when I prefer a larger screen, but mostly just at home. The Note is in my pocket EVERYWHERE. The 7" Dell Streak is back in its box and I'm struggling to justify keeping it (thinking of mounting it in the cardash as a carputer).
      The Nexus 7 is top value for a device, but it is a fair way from the top of the list of road warrior devices.
      • I have both

        I have the Note and I bought the Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 is for use around the house (outside) - very handy. The Note is my personal phone and I have read a book while on a flight to Houston, works nice. Plus great for maps.
  • Nice

    "I couldn't have been more wrong, with the packaging challenging me and leaving me laughing for about 10 minutes, before I finally got the Nexus 7 fully removed from the box."

    I hope you were laughing at how ridiculous it was for you to have an issue rather than acting like the packaging was difficult to open. Being an owner of the N7, I have to shake my head at those who have had trouble opening the box and wonder how they have been able to get through life thus far. I really mean that. If one has trouble opening this box then how did they get through school and how are they able to hold down a job and possibly raise a family.

    Other than that line, solid write up. Go get SwiftKey if you plan to type on the N7 as it is an amazing app and I'd be shocked if you won't find it a billion times better to type with than on the ipad. I was never a fan of typing on my ipad and avoided it when possible yet typing on the N7 with SwftKey is actually enjoyable and I look forward to doing it.

    To me the N7 trumps the ipad in pretty much every way and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a first tablet and also to current ipad users who need to see what a real operating system can do/offer. I don't see how anyone could use this version of Android and want to go back to iOS. Since I got my N7 a few weeks ago, I have occasionally checked for some updates and opened up some apps on my ipad and I just have to shake my head at how pitiful iOS is compared to Android. iOS feels like something from the early 90s with how basic and restricting it is. A buddy of mine recently went from an iphone to the HTC One X and he feels the exact same way and laughs at all the Apple love.
  • When the 32Gb model comes out...

    Man, it's going to be tough to not buy the inevitable 32Gb model if and when it comes out. Lack of internal storage space for movies is the thing most holding me back at the moment.
    • Same reasons...

      Well, actually two reasons - (1) lack of internal storage. I like to carry a lot of my books around with me and I have a lot of them, which I use for referencing and cross referencing; (2) I believe - given that I have only read about it and not seen it physically - that the default orientation is portrait-mode. Of course, one can mod it with some launcher or another, but the fact that it is by default in that mode is a bit of a turn-off.

      I guess there could be a third reason - I like the 10" screen (especially for reading and watching movies both of which I do extensively (the former more than the latter) everyday. Is there going to be a 10" Nexus?

      Nice write up!!!!! Thanks!
      • The insanely difficult MOD to view landscape mode...

        There is a MOD out there to view everything except the home screen in landscape mode. I'll describe it here so that you'll know how to do this very difficult procedure if you ever buy one.

        1. Pull down the notification bar.
        2. Click the rotation screen lock off.
        3. Slide the notification bar back up.
        4. Drink a bottle of Gatorade to recover from this extremely exhausting procedure.
        • And who would think to look for this in the

          notification bar if you hadn't pointed it out? I mean, it's just so OBVIOUS that the preference for rotation lock would be in the notifications menu.
          • I know what you mean

            It is so much more intuitive to have to double tap the home button, swipe right, and then click on an arrow.

            Oh wait, that isn't intuitive at all.
          • What are you talking about?

            You flip the switch on the side of the unit. Also, look up Tu Quoque fallacy. Seriously, your comment is the kind of thing you vocally despise in fanboi-ism.
      • Ultimate Rotation

        It's just locked landscape rotation for some reason.
        You can unlock it with a $2.99 app called Ultimate Rotation.
        No separate launcher required.

        I'm not a fan particularly of paying $2.99 for an app, but I wouldn't see $3 holding me back from buying a tablet - particularly when you get a free $25 Google Play store credit when you buy the Nexus 7. I've still got $19 left of my credit... I have to get spending I guess.
        • 2.99 for an app!

          can someone please explain to me where this rediculous entitlement perspective comes from concerning free software for mobile devices. since when are software developers supposed to give away their product for free. I love free apps on my android devices but don't mind paying someone for taking the time to develop it really useful application. this post leads me to believe this guy never actually sat down the wrote an app.
          • Because...

            Tell me where in this world did we lose our heads and not think of cost as a function of labor and materials with a profit margin?
            Go back to using your iPhone if you think prices are simply magical things delivered by unicorns riding on rainbows to inform your leprechaun how large of a pot of gold you'll need to deliver to him..

            How much coding do you think it takes to unlock rotation? $2.99 is an obscene amount of money for what was likely about an hour's work for even an amateur developer . It likely took longer to get it up on the Play store. With 10 sales, the developer is profitable for their hour. With 100 sales they are giggling at the free money rolling in.

            Go back to your iPhone with your religious, ignorant pricing expectations, and make donations to your corporate god, since you like making them.

            In the real world - prices are a function of labor and materials, and economies-of-scale factor in (number of sales to distribute fixed costs across). This is not rocket science... and certainly not entitlement, genius.
      • huh?

        You are in portrait mode on the lock screen, once you are in just turn it to whatever you prefer. Or if you want to lock things in follow the advice from others here.
      • no real issues

        The landscape orientation is strictly for the home page. But most people will use a different launcher anyway and the popular ones all handle the home page landscape. I don't really care since I don't see a need to be on landscape in the home screen.

        People shouldn't be concern about no microSD card. You can always root it (its almost effortless these days to root) and then plug in thumb drives or usb drives. People in the mainstream won't ever root but then again I doubt they will ever come close to using 16 gigs.
    • True, but...

      I bought the 8 gig version. Why? Because 8 gig of additional storage doesn't cost $50. What's an 8 gig micro SD go for these days? Granted, it's less than Apple charges, but it's the principle.

      I prefer having an SD card slot available, but from my experiences on the ICS upgrade to my Galaxy SII, I can see there's potentially issues there, more headaches for developers.

      But here's my thinking. Two points:
      1) How many movies are you going to watch on any given trip? I'd rather keep none on my tablet, to keep storage space available for smooth operation, and then just throw a movie or three on the tablet when it's time to travel.

      2) If you want more storage space, you can still add external storage cheaply and easily, in a temporary capacity, which is also good in the context of travel. All that is required is a USB OTG cable that costs literally a couple bucks, and facilitates the connection of a USB thumb drive via the micro USB connector, using the free "Stickmount" app.
      • It depends on use

        but I get your point. I bought the 16GB version but I could have gotten by with 8. I also purchased 100GB storage on Google Drive which is where I store things I want to use on the tablet. I realize this isn't an option for the way some people use the tablet but wifi is generally available to me and I also have a cellular hotspot. Google Drive does work really well. It takes a little time to process movies but once it is done, you can watch it on your devices kind of like youtube.

        I think the biggest argument FOR having more storage is games. I thought I had outgrown video games until I played some on this device. The problem is that games can be a GB or more and obviously I don't want to download and reinstall every time I want to play something.
    • Wait for the iPad Mini

      Wait and buy the iPad Mini. It'll be a far superior value and device than this pretender.
      • you got that backwards

        A. since N7 came out first, the mini would be the pretender
        B. I don't spend my life "waiting". I live in the now.
        C. You must be psychic to know that the min will be a far superior value. If you're an apple investor for your sake you better hope its not a better value because thats a profit margin hit that apple would be taking in Q4 and Q1 2013. You wouldn't want that to happen would you.
      • Differentiators

        Small things I guess, but the widgets that you have available for the Nexus 7 are a differentiator for me compared to my iPad. Evernote, RTM, Calendar, Weather and Mail at a glance is good. I find I am carrying my N7 with me and leaving my iPad home. Also it takes a few hours for my iPad (the retina version) to charge, compared to a little over an hour for the N7. The iPad is still a better viewing experience, when we get a N7 with true retina (compare font scaling for my meaning), then I think there is no match for it. Right now still picking the N7, but wishing for the retina screen.

        Heavily invested in both iOS and Android development now and WinRT coming soon, so I also have shiny object syndrome :)