iPad vs Nexus 7 – my experience

I have been an iPhone and iPad owner for a while, and have really liked the slick, simple, pleasant experience of using them. However, I have been concerned with Apple’s proprietary and controlling approach to APIs and apps, and have been waiting for the right time to jump on the Android train.

This week, I took the plunge and got myself a Google Nexus 7. It got great reviews, like “finally, an Android tablet that is nice in its own right, and that I will actually be using”. With a powerful CPU, a good 7″ screen and the latest version of Android called Jelly Bean, it seemed like a steal at just £199 for the maxed out 16GB version.

The bottom line? It’s a nice device, but it’s in many respects sadly not as polished and nice to use as the New iPad. After using it for a few days, I have a list of things that I wish were better:

  • No physical Home button.  The Back/Home buttons at the bottom of the screen are actually a nice idea, but I find that when I am engrossed in a game, I often accidentally press one of them just when I don’t want to.
  • The screen is ok, but lacks the extreme crispness I have gotten used to on the iPad.  It makes both text and graphics seem blurry in comparison.
  • Only 16GB, and no expansion port.  That space is getting filled up very quickly, and means that the device is much less usable as a portable media player than I had thought.  My 64GB iPad has much more oomph in that regard, although it of course cost more too.
  • Occasional jerkiness in operation.  I have clearly become so used to the iPad, which simply never pauses momentarily during a swipe or resize operation that it really jars when the Nexus does it – albeit mostly only briefly.
  • Limited landscape operation – yes, the Nexus allows you to tilt it to operate it in landscape, and as there are no physical buttons this should be perfect for it.  However, the main desktop screens operate in portrait mode only, leading to a somewhat jarring experience if your preference is landscape.

There are of course also some things that are really nice (and that would be very welcome iPad additions):

  • The ability to see which apps or activities consume both battery and network bandwidth is great.  On the iPad, it’s pure guesswork what is happening.
  • The Back/Return button is great; I use it all the time on the Nexus.  The iPad has the four-finger-swipe to switch between apps, but the Back button also works within an app – it just takes you to where you were before, which is a great feature.
  • The “desktop” can have more than just icons that represent an app, but can have widgets that are larger and in some cases are sizeable.  I have a screen with stock tickers, travel plans from TripIt and the top of my email inbox – all visible without opening an app.  Ace!
  • The Android is not a closed system like the iPad, which allows me to have a File Manager app to copy files around on the box, and generally get behind the scenes.  On the iPad, the best I can do is to share a particular file with multiple apps, which then have a copy each. Very inelegant.
  • Also because there is no Overlord Company that decides what is and is not allowed, I can install Adobe Flash and Firefox and use web sites that require Flash.  Nice!
  • The Notifications system is nice and well integrated.  Even with the improvements in iOS 5, it feels a bit lame on the iPad.
  • The security screen allows face recognition (a bit of a gimmick, but cute) but more importantly a pattern-based access code.  I much prefer that to having yet another pin code to remember…

As you can see, there is lots to like – and the list is of course not complete.

So while I do prefer to iPad, I’ll definitely be using my Nexus too.  It’s a nice device, which has its place in my bag 🙂