By Joe Levi | July 18, 2012 11:12 AM
Yesterday was Christmas! Well, it seemed like it to me. Why? My Nexus 7 arrived! Yay! But with the rocky start that Android-powered tablets have had, I had to ask myself, will the Nexus 7 save Android tablets?
Where We Were
After Microsoft’s mobile platform, then called Windows Mobile, stagnated and Apple’s new phone and media player began to rise in popularity, Android saw an opening and jumped in to fill the void. You should be familiar with this story by now.
Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch were insanely popular, but people needed something bigger. Apple came out with their iPad in the 10-inch range, which also became insanely popular.
Manufacturers started pushing Android beyond its limits, then a phone-only OS, and somehow managed to squeeze it onto tablet-sized devices. Unfortunately, Android wasn’t “ready” for bigger screens and others held off making tablets until the next version of Android was readied by Google.
Motorola and Google teamed up to introduce the XOOM, designed to go head-to-head with Apple’s iPad. It failed, mostly because of Honeycomb, which was a necessary evil — one that we had to have to take us from where we were to where we needed to go.
I have a XOOM, honestly, it’s too big for me… and Honeycomb was terrible.
Where We Are
I’ve had a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 for some time now, unfortunately it also runs Honeycomb. Nonetheless, I use the Tab as my daily device — not the XOOM. The Tab goes with me to and from work, it’s on the nightstand next to me while I sleep, I play games on it (Plants vs. Zombies is my latest addiction), I listen to music on it, I watch movies on it.
The size, for me, outweighs the fact that it’s running Honeycomb, and the XOOM is tucked away in a drawer, even though it’s since gotten an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. I still favor the Tab because of its size (which outweighs the fact that it’s running Honeycomb).
Finally manufacturers have a winning combination: a 7- to 8-inch tablet plus Ice Cream Sandwich. And they didn’t do much with it.
Where We’re Going
Google opted to bootstrap the Android tablet market — again. This time instead of finding a partner to build a tablet with, they hired a company to build a tablet for them. The Nexus 7 is their new flagship device. It’s a 7-inch tablet, runs Android Jelly Bean, and is the best tablet I’ve ever used.
All that having been said, is the Nexus 7 (and what it represents) enough to save Android tablets?
I hate to say it, but no. Not yet.
Where We Need to Be
One of the things I like about tablets is their relatively large battery and run-time, when compared to smartphones. This lets you use your tablet much more than your phone, because you’re not as worried about battery life on your tablet as you are on your phone.
Tablets are used for reading books, reading magazines, and watching videos. It’s a perfect platform for these activities. But you can’t do any of those if your content is in the cloud and you’re on a plane, a subway, a boat, a train, or even a car in low-coverage areas.
Google is all about the “cloud”, I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I get it.
“Cloud” tablets are less valuable and less desirable than their “offline” counterparts, in my opinion. I know, there’s not much of a physical distinction, but it comes down to two things: on-device storage, and how easy it is to put things in that storage.
So far I have one full-length movie, several books, and a few playlists on my Nexus 7. It took a long time to accomplish this, and honestly, should have happened automatically. Keeping movies and television episodes become problematic on a device with only 8 or even 16GB storage.
This is one area where Apple has always excelled. You can, and many (most?) do, put their entire music collection on their iPhone or iPad. It’s not uncommon. Once you’ve got your media stored locally listening to your music, for example, doesn’t require a cellular or Wi-Fi signal (nor the power that those need to be able to work).
So, is the Nexus 7 going to “save” the Android tablet platform? No, not by itself. It does, however prove to be a worthy scaffold and form-factor for others to reference when building their tablets. Hopefully they will, and will make more 7- and 8-inch tablets, but load them high and wide with on-device storage. Then all we’ll need is for Google to embrace off-line storage with their apps.