Nexus 7: Nice Hardware, Disappointing Software

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So, I’ve spent a few days with Nexus 7, the 16Gb version. And so far the experience is generally nice, and most of the positive aspects are definitely hardware based. I went for 16Gb because there is no memory card slot, and, unlike Google-ville, I don’t live in ever-connected utopia (especially as the tablet doesn’t have 3G either) and would rather have the files being on the device instead of suffering through downloads and having useless tablet when WiFi is not nearby.

The tablet feels a bit heavier than it “should” be by looking at it (and it gives you that “crewman of the star ship Enterprise” look). Definitely solid, and well constructed. Back material feels nice, though when you put the tablet down it gives that “thunk” that makes you a bit worried about what might happen if you’re not careful enough.

Screen is nice. Mine had one dead pixel from the beginning, but for now the screen doesn’t separate (if it will, the unit will be exchanged). Sometimes the screen looks a bit odd, like somewhat washed out in the brighter part of the spectrum, and default wallpapers are just awful. Horrible banding on the background doesn’t accentuate the screen, sorry. Generally good enough for reading, but every so often it would flicker while adjusting the brightness (probably a software glitch). Touch sensitivity is also good, and everything feels rather responsive. Mostly due to the habit, I frequently try to grab the unit “the wrong way” — with camera downwards 🙂 But that’s what you get for not having even one button. Shame, really.

Specs say that the speaker is stereo, but frankly I haven’t noticed. Mostly because the form-factor is rectangular so there isn’t much space between left and right speakers hiding behind unified grille. When watching movies, just like with iPad, all of the sound comes out of one end, which is kinda silly (you get stereo sound squished into the right side, ha-ha). It’s good enough for the notification sounds.

It would be lovely if there was some sort of a light for notifications. A tiny LED, blinking when something happened? I guess I am too used to my Motorola phone, where I can always say what’s going on without even turning on the screen.

Charging seemed to be extra slow. Plugging it into computer’s USB port didn’t do much and after staying plugged for half a day it gained, maybe, 35% of charge? Standby time seems to be good enough, and, frankly, iPad also takes forever to charge. And I don’t think it even warmed up while being charged, though playing one of the Zombie games definitely made left/bottom quite warm.

And now the bad part: Jelly Bean in it’s default form is just awful. Gosh, I knew I didn’t enjoy “pure” Android UI but this is ridiculous. It’s like a severe case of experience schizophrenia, and each instance hate each other.
Aside from lock/volume buttons, everything else is done with screen buttons. So you always have that black mourning strip at the bottom. Yet for the “purity” of the experience you don’t get “menu” button. You get ugly wire-frame-like “back” (which sometimes turns into “down” to hide the keyboard), home and app-switching. I keep trying to hit the apps-switching, forgetting that that is not the Menu/Settings thing. Sigh

Some places have Settings dots at the top, others at the bottom. Adding that to the menu makes things somewhat more confusing, as in some cases there’d be maybe one useful function (aside from some “licenses” or “about” things).

Homescreen has no notifications. Which means if you cleared the notification area from mail’s message, you won’t see that there is 20 unread emails until you actually go into the mail program. I mean come on, everyone does the little number-on-top-of-the-icon thing, including custom Android launchers. But noooo, not the Jelly Bean.

Exchange mail and Google mail are, essentially, the same, but you can’t have one unified incoming mail view. On the other hand you also can’t hide the actual folders in the “main” view, so no, you can’t have a list of incoming mail. There’ll be a strip with Inbox, Draft, Sent on the left. Plus when looking at the body of the message, you get ugly header with generic icon, that theoretically should be updated with the picture of the contact (I’m kinda scared to allow some mailing contacts to be added, as everything is synchronized across the cloud).

Scrolling in half of the cases is sideways (applications, which then flips to widgets) and in half — down. So you’ll have to guess which is what (generally you get clues in terms of partially off-screen text), but speed of scrolling is quite good.

I’ve also tried the new Google auto-card feature, but so far I haven’t done enough things for it to be useful. Yes, it shows weather. And if you have something in the calendar, that will show up too. But that’s about it. Showing path to work is useless because as soon as I take the tablet out the door, there’s no WiFi (and for whatever reason, default Jelly Bean doesn’t want to connect to tethered connection, only my laptop does that). But it’s fun to play with.

I guess I’ll have to try to find an alternative launcher (my favorite Go EX launcher is currently having some widget problems, and I haven’t seen any other good alternatives for the tablet devices so far), which is the only blessing.

p.s. Oh, and because Nexus 7 has the NFC circuit, Google Wallet actually installed and seems to be working. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be used for paying for things, but given that people take photos with an iPad, I should try to pay for a burger with a Nexus, awkward it may be… 😀 After all, I’ve wasted about 30 minutes on trying to activate the Wallet functionality due to low WiFi signal…

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