When my Nexus 7 arrived, I declared that it would change my smartphone buying habits forever. At 7", it was a spectacularly useful and portable size and made the race for the largest mobile phone screen pointless. As Android phones continue to bounce off the 5" mark, they make for great readability, but 7" is tough to beat for everyday usability. A 5" superphone, a 7" tablet, and a 15" laptop spell a heavy bag and some serious redundancy.
I've come to despise my current phone, a 4.7" Droid Razr for it's miserable battery life, lackluster Pentile display, pokey performance, and too-thin/too-wide form factor that makes talking and typing one-handed unnecessarily challenging. Fortunately, I'm due for an upgrade in December and have been hoping beyond hope that some OEM would have the good sense to jam a quad-core CPU and a great battery into a 4" or smaller phone. The name "Nexus 4" had been floating around the blogosphere...Maybe, just maybe, Google's upcoming flagship Nexus phone would be the one.
It now looks as though it will be based on LG's Optimus G, another 4.7" beast. Yes, the display will probably rock, performance will be awesome, and Android 4.2 will be on deck. Fabulous. But for those of us with Nexus 7's (or even iPads or other full-sized tablets) that go everywhere with us, phones of this size are overkill. Is it too much to ask for high performance and a nice display in a small package?
I hate to say it, but Apple doesn't seem to think so. The iPhone 5, by all accounts, is fast and smooth and it's 4" screen (!!!) has few rivals in terms of clarity and sharpness. Unfortunately, I'm just not a big fan of iOS. iOS 6 is fine on my iPad where most of what I do tends to be focused on a few applications (primarily Adobe's Touch Apps, Keynote, GarageBand, and Google Chrome). The OS is sort of irrelevant there, with the major requirement being that my daughter can watch Peppa Pig episodes in the car (Peppa Pig, unfortunately, is not available in the Google Play Store).
On my phone, though (and, increasingly on my go-everywhere Nexus 7), I tend to interact with the OS a lot more. Swiftkey is an outstanding replacement keyboard for fast typing in emails, texts, and social network updates. And I may be able buy Peppa Pig episodes in iTunes, but there's no Swiftkey in iOS. In the same way, iOS just doesn't handle multitasking as well as Android, Google Maps is still a vastly superior navigation tool, and Apple Mail is an abomination compared to the Android version of Gmail.
In fact, it's Android's tight integration with Google Apps (duh) that ultimately keeps me on Google's mobile OS. I live, eat, and breathe Google Apps for everything from invoicing clients to virtually all of my communication needs, especially when I throw Google Voice into the mix. Apple also really dropped the ball by not supporting NFC while Google Wallet is really quite elegant.
So iOS is out. I rely on my smartphone too much to compromise on the OS. Honestly, even the iPad Mini doesn't hold much appeal for me. I'll take my Nexus 7 anyday over a smaller iPad, where the iOS apps I love simply won't be as awesome. ArtRage would barely be useful on a smaller screen; same for Adobe Ideas or Proto. GarageBand as a portable recording studio and guitar amp on a smaller screen? No thank you. Give me all 10 inches of Retina bliss for four tracks and manipulating effects and loops.
Can you say first-world problem?
Good! I knew you could!
Unfortunately, that doesn't actually leave me any options for a Razr replacement. Most likely, the Nexus 7 will be relegated to testing purposes since I refuse to keep carrying a giant phone and a small tablet. The iPad will go back to being my primary tablet, and the LG/Google Nexus will become my next phone/compact tablet. If this isn't a first-world problem, I don't know what is.
But, believe it or not, I'm not whining about nonsense here. The point is that Android OEMs (and Google) are missing an opportunity here. There's a reason that Apple has clearly differentiated phone/iPod form factors from tablet form factors (even if a 7"-ish iPad Mini materializes). It makes sense to carry an iPhone, an iPad, and a MacBook. A 5.5" phone, a 7" tablet, and a 12.1" Chromebook? Not so much. A compact, powerful Android flagship phone could be an iPhone killer. Right now, it's David vs. a lot of Goliaths and we know how that story turned out.
On of the major advantages that Android has over Apple is the ability for huge variety in terms of form factors, costs, and features. The promise of Android is that anyone should be able to find a device that suits their needs well, whether those needs involve giant phablets, compact phones, entry-level phones and tablets, or bleeding edge devices with performance (and prices) that are second to none. So far, a major market segment is being ignored by Android OEMs and essentially being ceded to Apple and its nicely-sized iPhones.