My week with my Nexus 7
July 22, 2012
8 min read
I have owned many iPod Touches, an iPhone, all 3 iPads and Android phones/tablets ever since the good ole G1 (most notably the more recent Gingerbread, Honeycomb and ICS devices) so I have quite a good history with both platforms (funny to see Danielle get pissed when all my devices start making noise when I get a mention on Twitter, have been forced to silence most of them). I used to be an Android nut but battery life and the crap browser made me switch my primary phone from Android to my iPhone 4S I currently hold. The phone that broke the camels back was my HTC Evo that on a good day would have 6-7 hours of battery life versus my iPhone 4S can last 2 working days both with normal (for me) use. So I abandoned Android as my primary device but still held my other devices for testing.
Google IO 2012
Like many I watched many live broadcasts on YouTube very interested in the rumored (and leaked just before Google IO start) Google tablet and Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”. Watching the videos of what was possible in Jelly Bean got me excited. Then they showed off the Nexus 7 which lived up to much of the rumors. So I pre-ordered the Nexus 7 which came preloaded with Jelly Bean and the most important piece to a web developer, it came with Chrome as the native browser. I received it last Tuesday (July 17) and decided to live with it as my daily tablet and not my beloved iPad 3 (new iPad, suck a crappy name Apple).
First off, I want to believe I am a very honest person but as a human, I am biased with past experiences and my current Mac/iOS/Apple fanboy status. Instead of testing for performance or HTML5 features I decided to just focus on real life experience. Numbers are great but they are just numbers. When I ask someone about performance and they reply with saying it’s 11% faster, well, it was only 500 ms in the first place; will someone really notice 55 ms difference? (yes, 1 is not much but the sum of a hundred 1s is greater so numbers are still important… saved myself!)
Time for thoughts!
The iPads have been 10.1 inch screens which IMO is a great size for a tablet so getting something about 1/3 smaller (at 7 inches) I was skeptic. The best thing about that smaller form factor, my hand can grasp it from side-to-side so I can walk with it very comfortably but sitting on the couch (yeah, I have body by ) I would still want a larger screen but if I’m on the move then it would be a great device. But I was surprised that sitting on the couch I didn’t actually mind the 7 inch size, just in some of my Sencha Touch 2 tests I was begging for some more screen real estate.
iOS with mobile Safari has been a great browser to develop on, I have had little to no complaints. The native browser on Android was not good for a web app with my G1 and wasn’t good for my Asus Transformer Prime (updated to 4.0.3). Chrome on the 4.0.3 device was better but it was in beta and had CSS inconsistencies but it was better and a great start to something that could be great. My Nexus 7 had Chrome installed as the native browser and long story short it is leaps and bounds better than the native browser of late but isn’t as good as mobile Safari. Still, very happy with where Chrome currently is and hoping Google will remain serious about it’s browser on mobile devices like it has on the desktop.
Scrolling was so-so. First I tested on normal web sites but I could also see the same performance in native apps like Gmail. When I would go to scroll it would be a little laggy and the momentum wasn’t high enough for my liking and I couldn’t find a setting to mess with this. Only like 10% of the time it would take half a second (an hour in the tech world) for the scrolling to start scrolling… something that with iOS I never actually experienced.
Since I am a Sencha Touch nut, of course I’m going to run it against some of my and Sencha’s apps/examples. The biggest thing I wanted to see is accuracy and animation performance, first dove into the navigationview example that comes with Sencha Touch 2 and was amazed at the animation performance! It performed marginally as well as any of my iOS devices. Yeah, I just said that. Shock aside, tested some scrolling as I had already experienced shaky results with scrolling but Sencha Touch 2 doesn’t use native scrolling so I was curious. I know I work for Sencha and this may come off biased and marketing talk but in my opinion (not abbreviated for importance) it performed as well if not better and in most of my tests it’s the latter of that statement. With many images it would get a little jumpy but that’s gonna be expected on Android really and as a user wasn’t going to turn me off from using an app. Switching to the KitchenSink where there is going to be a lot of CSS transitions and many things being rendered it performed far better than any other Android device I have used. There is a slight delay on the tab panels and NestedList but that is due to needing to render the DOM elements and we aren’t talking 5 seconds, more like half to a full second depending how much was being rendered and when animation started. Using some other apps I have built including the TouchForums app (status: on the back burner’s back burner if not dead) which uses a lot of CSS transitions and rendering lots of HTML it performed almost as good as mobile Safari. Same result for some other apps and overall I am very happy with the performance. It’s not as good or as polished as mobile Safari but so much better than any Android release thus far. This performance I would assume is due to both Chrome and the quad-core with 1GB of RAM. I would also assume that Android has many performance improvements that would contribute. Fix the scrolling and this is a fantastic device.
I mentioned above that I dumped my HTC Evo due to the battery life. The marketing of the Nexus 7 says 8 hours of active use which is less than the 10 hours my iPad is suppose to give. Of normal use I charged the Nexus 7 2 times in the last week. I used it for some of my Twitter and Facebook updates when I wasn’t in front of my MacBook Pro as I would with my iPad, looked up recipes (I’m the household cook) and read my Google Reader. This is less battery life than my iPad but is extremely bearable and the Nexus 7 is smaller so I would expect less life from the Nexus 7.
Biggest con IMO
The Apple devices feel very solid and have a great weight to them that makes me feel like their construction is of high quality. The Nexus 7… well, feels more on the cheap side. It does feel plasticy but for 2/5 the price of an entry level iPad ($199 vs $499) I guess I can’t be too picky and you pay for what you get. In my opinion, Android hasn’t touched the iPad in the tablet arena and Google could have thrown some cash to buy it’s way in maybe. The rubberized back is nice to grab on too but would have loved something more modern looking and leave the rubber stuff for a case if I want it but for that beauty is in the eye of the beholder so can’t really fault the device for someone’s design, just don’t like the polish of the device when put up against the iPad. It’s rumored to cost $154 (among other estimates) to build the Nexus 7 so there isn’t a lot of profit to the device but I now wouldn’t classify the Nexus 7 as a true high-end device like the iPads are.
Those who care about this really shouldn’t have a tablet. Stop taking pictures with a tablet! It’s annoying to see someone hold up something like a tablet to take a picture, use your phone or an actual camera.
I do work for Sencha but I want to say my views here are my own and do not reflect what Sencha thinks about Nexus 7, Android, iOS or anything else mentioned here. These are my honest experiences of my week with my Nexus 7. My view is Nexus 7 is a fine product and Android 4.1 with Chrome has given some love back to the platform. Going further I’m sure I will stick with iOS but will keep my Nexus 7 around for usage where the form factor fits it.
Written by Mitchell Simoens who is a long time nerd developing software and building computers and gadgets. Anything expressed on this website are Mitchell Simoens's alone and do not represent his employer.