Things are about to change for me, and I also suspect for many of you too. I rushed to pre-order my Google Nexus 7 as soon as they announced it in the Google I/O keynote, and I'll admit I can't wait.
This is the first time that I find an Android tablet that I want, and this is also the first time that a 7-inch tablet makes sense to me. I do own a Verizon-branded Motorola Xoom, and back in the day, I decided to stay away from the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab because in my eyes, it was more of a bigger phone, than a smaller tablet. I felt that 7-inch tablets were too pricey and crammed at times when smartphones are all turning into "phablets". Lots of companies have struggled with this 7-inch form factor, and even though Amazon nailed its biggest flaw, which was the price tag, they still haven't gotten it entirely right by blocking your ability to use it as you please.
The Xoom was sadly a huge disappointment for me, and it pushed me to own all three versions of the iPad in my quest for the perfect tablet. The iPad has become a good companion, but there are a couple of compelling reasons that have pushed me to desire a 7-inch tablet. Let's go through some of the Pros and Cons of switching to a 7-inch tablet, starting with the reasons I stayed away from them:
Cons of a 7-inch tablet
When it comes to reading, one size doesn't fit all, and panning and zooming is not the solution. Magazines aren't printed in their current size just because publishers want to spill the extra paper when compared to a paperback. It's already proven that the current size of magazines makes the most sense for the industry. That said, trying to cram a magazine on a 7-inch screen is uncomfortable. The media has tolerated the Kindle Fire because of the price tag, but that's not to say that they didn't bash it for offering a terrible user experience in that department.
7-inch tablets have also been historically expensive. Many of you may not remember this, but before the Netbook existed, any small and slim laptop was more expensive than a large one. The mindset was that business people prefer portability and are willing to pay more, even if they're technically buying less of a gadget. This same approach was used with smaller tablets. The Kindle Fire and Nook tablets had to change all that, but they did so at the cost of offering a crippled and closed environment.
Probably the biggest reason I stayed away from the form factor is mainly because I already carried a big smartphone. If 7-inch tablets could run a full desktop OS, then I would've bought one years ago. Sadly, the fact that they run a smartphone OS on a couple of extra inches of canvas was simply just an extra gadget to carry that didn't make my experience any better. The reason why a 10-inch tablet makes sense, is because even though it uses a smartphone OS, double the canvas meant a true web and magazine reading experience. When it came to watching movies that also held true. No one ever watches a movie on the go. People sit down and simply concentrate on the movie, so portability wasn't really a determining factor for the feature to work.
Pros of a 7-inch tablet
Has any of you ever tried reading a large book like "Angels and Demons" on a 10-inch tablet? Sure they have the ereader functionality, but here's where form killed function.
10-inch tablets are big and heavy, and even though I do see many people use them for reading a book, the size of the tablet makes anybody's reading habits change. My experience with reading books on the iPad was so bad, that I ended up buying a Kindle Touch. I needed a backpack to carry the iPad, and the whole thought of having to hold it with two hands to read a book was simply not convenient. With the Kindle Touch, I loved the idea of having a cheap device that I could fit my back pocket. I read books everywhere, and the Kindle Touch solved that problem for me. Sadly it only solved my problem to a degree, since I don't only like to read books.
What 7-inch tablets needed to become great companions, was a reasonable price. It's not fair to pay more money for literally less hardware. Avid book readers will find the perfect balance between a device that's not heavier than a book, but that also has the added functionality of doing so much more. The Kindle Fire sparked an interesting revolution, but the openness of the Nexus 7 is what people want.
Another reason why the form factor makes sense is in gaming. iOS has two of my least praised extremes when it comes to this department. Their phone is too small, and their tablet is too large to play a game comfortably. If it's not that my thumbs cover most of the screen, it's the fact that my arms get tired of holding an iPad while I play. We've all either owned or coveted a PSP or any other of the portable game consoles that have existed for more than decade. I suspect that their days are counted, now that Tegra 3 is becoming ubiquitous in both phones and tablets as small as the Nexus 7.
The Bottom Line
There is such thing as consumer psychology. Seats on the airplanes of most airlines aren't colored in blue or grey just because somebody thought they looked nice; the color has a purpose. The same happens with magazines, books, TV, game consoles, computers and phones. The size is important if they plan to serve the function right. The tablet is a different story. It plans to replace most of the consumer products I just mentioned, and a lot is still on its trial-and-error phase.
There's no such thing as a perfect tablet. Some of you will prefer 7-inches and some of you 10. What's most important is that you approach your next tablet purchase with a clear end-in-mind. One size will not fit all your needs, but if you read a lot of books like I do, the 7-inch form factor is perfect. If you do a lot of web browsing or magazine reading, 10-inches will serve you better. Regardless of your choice, prices are dropping to a point where some of us are willing to invest on both. I'll keep you posted on how the Nexus 7 solves my problems once it arrives, or how I send it back. Be sure to share your experiences in the comments down bellow.