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Nexus 7 Redux

Okay I am completely torn up over the whole situation. It’s like that significant other you really, really, really love. But they’re crazy and you just can’t be with them. Google and ASUS makes for a love hate relationship. Google has got the best damn piece of crap tablet out there. And the big part of the problem is hardware.

My first Nexus 7 tablet came with a blown speaker, and while annoyed I was pleasantly surprised when I the replacement came and it sounded much much clearer I was relieved, over joyed in fact. I took to the web and started announcing my joy.

And then I actually started to use it.

First the software that can be, or on the way of getting fixed. While you are told that your devices is backed up to your Google Account it is not. Your ‘cloud’ items are backed up but no settings or application data UNLESS the app supports it. So I was left to manually reconfigure the new device. Okay not really THAT big a deal I only had it for a week, it’s not like I had that much loaded that I wanted to keep. I also tried a couple different things that I figured I’d skip this time around.

And now the real problem, as I was loading up the Apps from the Google Play store I kept hearing this sticking sound. Further investigating revealed on the left side of my Nexus 7 the screen was starting to separate from the bezel.

So I called Google and we are working to resolve the issue, however it is very upsetting that I’ll have to send back another device. And the folks at Google sound just as upset over the situation and are throwing ASUS under the bus for the build quality. So yeah I’ve stop telling people the need to check out the Nexus 7 until they can resolve these hardware issues. And what this really means is Samsung, Sony, Acer and any other Android tablet maker can take the lessons learned here and step up the game. It also means Apple and Amazon get an opportunity to grab the 7′ tablet space.

I didn’t bunch Amazon in with the other tablet makers since they have tweaked Android to the point at the average user doesn’t get the kind of access you do from real Android experiences. On that note if Amazon does come out with an upgraded Kindle Fire with all the bells and whistles but not have Jellybean, I don’t know if I’ll be as interested. I have come to love the customization of Android and secretly I long for a 10″ tablet running Jellybean too but more on that later.

I’ve heard some people complaining that the bevel on the Nexus 7 is to large and I have to say I disagree. There are times where I keep wanting to hit the non existent home button, but after doing some gaming and actually using it in the real world I’m actually glad that the home button is gone. I am less prone to hit it. And while I do not have the biggest hands I still occasionally grab to much and trigger touch events on the edges so I disagree with that assessment.

On the unit with the good speaker the sound was much better, clear and crisp so let’s hope once the bugs are worked out of the manufacturing the Nexus 7 will earn a buy recommendation again.

In the meantime it’s back to the grind stone for me, but coming up are some App reviews! Did you get a Nexus 7? If so did you have and issues? What did you spend you $25 Google Play credit on? Apps, Music, Movies or Books and Magazines? Let me know on my G+ account!

Bily Foster

Nexus 7: Anticipation/Actualization/Aftermath Part 3

This is going to be a three part review to the new Google Nexus 7 tablet running Jellybean version of the Android OS.

Part I: Anticipation
Here I’ll talk about what it’s like before I get device, what I’ve heard, and what I’m looking forward too.

Part II: Actualization
My first hands on experience with the tablet, how fresh it feels, how it compares to my other Android experiences and of could compared to the iPad

Part III: Aftermath
And after the glow of ‘new toy’ wears off what are we left with, will I be a hard core user, maybe get a bump up to medium, or will it be regulated to the occasion check in when I think about it.

Part III: Aftermath

Okay so we’re heading into one week with the Nexus 7 and I am still in love with the device.  It’s just the right size for single handed operation, and the sound issue is an actual hardware problem with my unit and Google is looking into replacing it.  Although it sounds like it might be a while, as they have have been so over whelmed with orders for the 16gb version they have actually STOPPED taking new orders and instead give you the option to get on a mailing list for when the do start again.

Now that COULD also be due to the amount of replacement units that are needing to go out to replace the variety of issues that have been plaguing these first GEN devices.  I’ve read reports of screen separation, ghosting effects, charging issues, touch detection problems and even microphones not working.  Luckily my sound, actually let me correct that my speaker issue is easily worked around until my replacement arrives.  I can use either headphones or Bluetooth to re-route the audio to none blown speakers.  So I’ll stop whining for now.

All of these issues point to a lack of Quality Control, and you’d think with ASUS’s experience they would have know better, but it is what it is.  I just hope every other Android manufacture out there is paying attention.

The Nexus 7 is exactly what the doctor ordered to jump start the Android tablet market.  Google needed to put out a device that showcases the best of what they can do.  And while the Nexus 7 isn’t perfect, it hits in all the right spots where it counts.  Easy to hold, easy to use, and great experience once you know what you are doing.  It would never be something my Ma would learn to use, but if I had to I could configure it for her and she could learn to use it.  She wouldn’t take the time to figure out all the bells an whistles.

And now most of the games she would be interested in playing are available on Android.  In fact because of my previous investment trying out Android on my ASUS transformer and my Kindle Fire I still haven’t touched my $25 Google Play credit I’m tempted to use it to buy content but I can’t for some stupid reason access my Google Play Movies on my Google TV, go figure.

But the Nexus 7 is great for sketching,  it’s just the right size, for at least my doodling.  The face recognition does work better without the blink detection but it’s not as secure since a photo works too.

Google Now is an interesting bit of software.  But to compare it to Siri is really not fair.  To me they are different things.  Google Now helps you find things where Siri is more of an assistant.  Now I am running the Beta Version of Siri so mine has a few more features than what is currently publicly available and with it I can actually have Siri Tweet, post to Facebook, and even launch applications.  None of those thing can be done with Google Now, but GN can find things and pretty quick too.   One of the annoying things with Siri and security is that in order for her to be able do those things you have to unlocked the device first.  But with Google Now I can hit the button look at the device, it will unlock and then I can fire off Google Now and it presents me with the answer.  So I use them for different things.  And I’m sure much like a parent I have room in my heart for both without having to favor one over the other.

The most asked question I’ve been getting is will I switch.  At this point no, I’m still going to keep a foot in both camps.  I see the benefits of each for various reasons.  If Apple makes the iPad mini and it’s easy to hold in one hand it’s really gong to be tough.  That could kick the Nexus 7 into the Kindle cradle where currently the Kindle Fire sits as an my audio book player for when I rest for the evening.

I use to wake to my iPhone and go to bed with my iPad but now the Nexus 7 is the tablet that I go to bed too and the one I wake up with.  It’s nicer to have the larger screen size vs looking at my iPhone however this is no Retina Display.  Don’t get me wrong it’s a great screen, but I can still see the pixels when I’m looking up close and when I doodle I take my glasses off and get nice and tight to the screen just like I like to do when I draw in the real world.  When you are that close you can see it, it’s a lot like looking at my MacBook Air or my 27″ iMac screen.

I really do like that I can customize the interface, I just don’t like that I haven’t been able to figure out how to control how often then widgets refresh.  But I’m sure in time I’ll learn more about that.  I do hope that Jellybean will rolled out to the original Transformer.  Regardless I’m still going to revisit my Transformer and these widgets.

I’m going to really enjoy this journey into Android, and I’ll be blogging it along the way. I hope you’ll join me.

Bily Foster

PS I just got my notice from Google about my replacement > excitement squeal<

Nexus 7: Anticipation/Actualization/Aftermath Part 2

This is going to be a three part review to the new Google Nexus 7 tablet running Jellybean version of the Android OS.

Part I: Anticipation
Here I’ll talk about what it’s like before I get device, what I’ve heard, and what I’m looking forward too.

Part II: Actualization
My first hands on experience with the tablet, how fresh it feels, how it compares to my other Android experiences and of could compared to the iPad

Part III: Aftermath
And after the glow of ‘new toy’ wears off what are we left with, will I be a hard core user, maybe get a bump up to medium, or will it be regulated to the occasion check in when I think about it.

Part II: Actualization
Okay so it’s been 24 hours since I’ve gotten my hands on the Nexus 7, and man is it AWESOME. The weight is just right, the feel is incredible. It’s rubberized plastic that somehow has a leather like feel, did I say incredible? The textured back is so nice and subdued with only a large etched Nexus and a nice reasonable sized ASUS logo on the lower half, just above the etched speaker grill. All the FCC info is on a removable sticker as to not clutter your device. Did I say incredible?

This tablet feels GREAT to hold, I can not stress that enough. It slides right into my pocket and is ready to go. So here is an interesting shift that I see happening. More and more of my work is being done on my iPad. I can see myself getting the MacBook Pro Retina as my primary machine for coding and video editing, and my iPad kind of replaces my MacBook Air. I mean I am even writing this review on my iPad right now.

Here is the situation, while I had an AWESOME time at San Diego Comic Con (see my Facebook page for photos) I’ll let you in on a little secret. I twisted my ankle the first day, so while I was able to still push through it I’m currently working on the battle bridge (master bedroom). And instead of having the still heat generating MBA I’m using the iPad in my PropUp and I’m using the Nexus 7 to stay connected and look things up. So now the iPads duties are shifting to my Nexus 7. I could see me hitting the road and using the MBP as the computer I use at the hotel, the when I’m out I’ll use the iPad to provide Internet from my back pack to my Nexus 7 while I’m walking around trying to find where I’m going. And while I’m there on site I see myself using the iPad to present, write, and share as needed. While looking up information on the Nexus when the inevitable questions come around. It also gives me a ‘Private screen’ to stay connected while others are looking at the iPad.

Google has a real winner here, and is leading the path to Android’s successes. They have done a lot of things right, but boy have they also dropped the ball on others.

Let’s get the painful stuff out of the way. If you make it through this, then you’ll see there is a lot more they did right than wrong. And no device is yet perfect. Of course I have read that Google isn’t making any money on the device so take these criticisms as just simply things that they can improve on for the next revision.

First the sound, it is awful. This sounds like the POS sub $100 non-google approved tablets. It’s like it’s overdriven once I hit the 75% mark, my current solution is to hook up my mini-x speakers and then the sound is killer, but carrying it around is a bit awkward. I’m going to have to invest in a Bluetooth speaker if I want to share sound. Maybe I just got a bad unit, but it’s horrible.

I long for a killer camera on the back of a tablet this size, but not in the freaking center. Let me hold it horizontal, I’m OK with it center on the front, though really in a perfect world there would be a second camera in the bezel for landscape, but I know, I know, they want to keep the cost down.

When/if they add a good camera on the back, I’m hoping they’ll add the option of micro-sd or some addition storage expansion. It will be great if they add a real camera, that s something else I can not stress enough is how important it is for that back camera to be a great camera. This gives the consumer a greater reason to get a tablet over a point and shoot.

That’s it hardware wise, so these next bits are things that can be resolved with software updates or they may even be current hacks that can be applied. That’s one of the joys of the open system, more on that latter. And these are really minor little nit picky things.

The home screen not flipping when just about everything else does. I thought I saw a hack for that floating around but I haven’t had a chance to dig into it, but I assure you I will for Part III.

The other is the Facial recognition is kind of a joke, although it does appear to be working better since I took off the blink detection, however then a photo will even unlock the device. I use the face detection as fun, and it should do for the most part. But I’m finding myself doing the pattern more than getting the blink to work. Besides if I leave the photo way to work then my partner Matt can still get in if he needs to by keeping a photo of me on his phone.

Speaking of Matt surprisingly this is the first device i’ve played around with that’s peaked his curiosity. In fact he’s asked if he’s getting one, and he just might get one this holiday season 😉

Okay back to the openness which is a curse and a blessing. While the Google Play Store is still trying to mature it seems that most the applications that I use on my iPad are available on the Android platform as well now. most of the utilitarian apps I use ones are free, and others I already bought for my Transformer and Kindle Fire so I just had to install them so my re-investment has been low and I haven’t even used any of my $25 credit with the Google Play store yet.  But the openness of the system allows me to install the keyboard I like best.

Real world interruption, so while I’m writing this I get a request from a client. Since I don’t want to beak my flow I usually grab Siri and have her set a reminder. But for some reason today Siri is failing me with the double bop fail sound, so I grabbed the Nexus 7 jumping into Google Now and had it add the request to my calendar. Bam score one for Google.

The interface is smooth, just like (dare I say it) butter 🙂 one of the original gripes I had was that the G+ app was better on the iPad that I was on the Nexus, but that afternoon the G+ app was updated and it is now just as nice.

This size and form factor is perfect for a GPS whether you need in the car, or even for just walking around town. It’s also great for when you’re reading in bed which is really what I wanted the Kindle Fire for, and was sadly disappointed that it didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. The front facing camera is decent I believe it’s 1.2 megapixel it works okay for Skype, it’s not the best but it works.

I haven’t done a Hangout on it yet, mostly because I can’t handle the sound come out of this tablet, but I’m hoping to do so in the next week. Maybe after I can try and find a Bluetooth speaker that I can send audio to, or maybe with the headphones, I’ll have try my noise canceling Zagg ear buds to see if they work. More on that in Part III.

So wrapping up Part II, Google and ASUS Nexus 7 is an incredible tablet at $199/$249 I see this integrating into my workflow nicely. I use to carry around an iPod touch when I worked in an office and was running around answering questions from desk to desk, I see how the Nexus 7 can be that replacement. You think it’s almost too big until you start using it and everything else just fades away (like the power and volume rocker) and you are sucked into the beautiful screen that they have created.

I’m really anxious to hear the numbers on how many they’ve moved the other bad news is Google seems to really dropped the ball on the actual shipping of the product. In my personal experience I place my order on July 10 and I got my device in hand by July 17 so I thought that was a pretty decent turnaround time. I’ve heard people that ordered day of or before that still haven’t gotten theirs shipped yet but should be getting shipped out this week with the upgrade to overnight. Sure they ruffled a lot of feathers but once these guys have the device in their hands they will completely forget about it and all will be forgiven I assure you. Maybe Google will need to give them’s some additional credits or something but all in all they’re going to love this device once they get it in hand.

If you haven’t ordered yours yet, why? Are you waiting to see what Amazon’s coming out with, do you think Apple has something up their sleeve, or are you just not into the Nexus 7? I’m curious to hear what you think.



Bily Foster

Nexus 7: Anticipation/Actualization/Aftermath Part 1

This is going to be a three part review to the new Google Nexus 7 tablet running Jellybean version of the Android OS.

Part I: Anticipation
Here I’ll talk about what it’s like before I get device, what I’ve heard, and what I’m looking forward too.

Part II: Actualization
My first hands on experience with the tablet, how fresh it feels, how it compares to my other Android experiences and of could compared to the iPad

Part III: Aftermath
And after the glow of ‘new toy’ wears off what are we left with, will I be a hard core user, maybe get a bump up to medium, or will it be regulated to the occasion check in when I think about it.

Part I: Anticipation
The nerd in me can not help but want to fall in love with Android but I haven’t yet.  I love the idea, the concept, what it represents and how open the platform is but it’s been a bit scattered and I was worried that it would go the way of Linux on the PCs but by pulling some major supporters and having Google continue to push the development of Android it has continued to refine itself into a major player and one of the major operating systems in the mobile market.

And in their lasted revision dubbed ‘Jellybean’ they have made some major improvements that have peeked my curiosity so I’ve got myself signed up to get one of the Nexus 7s the first tablets to be released with the new OS.  By the time I get home from my road trip the Nexus 7 should be sitting there waiting for me.

I’m excited about checking out Google Now, it’s answer to Apple’s Siri and then some.  Pulling in information based on location, time, and history to pull together a sloth of information about what’s going on.   I’ve heard they’ve refined interface animations with their new ‘project butter’ that is suppose to step up the animation to 60fps.  And I dig the idea of facial recognition to unlock the device as well.

I’m also very interested in the 7″ form factor.  I currently have an Amazon Kindle Fire that I ended up not using as much as I anticipated.  Mostly because while lighter than my iPad the Fire is still not quite that perfect weight that the Kindle eInk readers are for bed time reading.  I understand we might not ever get >that< level of lightness in a durable screen but I’m eager to see if the difference between the Nexus and the Fire is going to be that sweet spot.

This will also be my first Google Nexus branded device, I’ve played around with a couple of Android phones by HTC, Samsung and some other cheap manufacturers that also build these sub $100 POS tablets that I think has really muddy the water for the general public, but that’s part of the problem with open-ness to truly be open you have to allow these to be created.

At this stage I’m super stoked I think almost as stoked as when I picked up my first iPod touch.  That idea of knowing to a certain degree what to expect but not exactly sure of how it’s going to feel until you have it actually in your hands.

The anticipation is growing with each review and unboxing I see, and the fact that it sounds like its selling out at all the major retailers carrying it, makes me wonder if the Nexus 7 is the tablet to finally break the trend or be yet another device that spikes at launch and then fizzles in the long run.

Without touching the device yet, I can tell you it already puts the current Kindle Fire on notice, if Amazon doesn’t turn around an updated version for the same price, Nexus 7 is going to steal its thunder.  The only advantage the Fire has is the access to Amazon’s VOD everything else can be loaded directly onto the Nexus 7, and I’m sure with a little side loading and hacking you could even get that working.

Will 7 be Google’s lucky number?  Or will Apple blow us out of the water with an October surprise and launch a mini iPad?  Only time will tell!

Bily Foster

Continue to Part II: Actualization

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