I have had my Google Nexus 7 Android tablet for a little more than six months now. You can see my early impressions of it back when I talked about using it as a mobile computer. I feel that I have been using it long enough to take a good look at it and summarize my feelings. My summary – I really don’t like it. Sorry, I just don’t.
The most obvious problem with the Nexus 7, and actually the problem that bothers me the least, is that it is just too small. This is really a personal preference. I know quite a few people who prefer the smaller seven inch form factor to the nine or ten inch tablets. I am not one of them. It is great that I can slip the tablet into my pants pocket or easily hold it without any arm fatigue, yes. On the other hand I find myself zooming in far too often. Often enough that I notice it; it interrupts my experience, and makes me switch over to my laptop. On quite a few occasions as I have been lying in bed using the Nexus 7 I have found myself setting it aside to get up and retrieve my laptop. That boils down to the tablet just not working for me. And when I have wanted to do simple book reading I still prefer the non-backlit basic Kindle or … horrors … a real book!
Ok, other than the size we could talk about apps. Google Play, the Android app store, has come a long way. I have to say that there is almost no app that I want that I can’t find. Play can be a bit cluttered and hard to pick through at times – kind of like searching for a gem in a flea market – but in the end I do find what I need. The good apps are free or reasonably priced, and I have never had any complaints with what I have found. I stopped using alternatives, like Amazon’s app store, simply because I didn’t need them and I didn’t like have to go to multiple sources for updates or searches. My summary of the app experience – great. Not an issue at all. Oh, and I love Chrome. Best mobile and desktop browser there is.
So what’s the problem you might ask. The problem is Android itself. Honestly, Android reminds me a lot of Windows in the old days, and I am not the first one to draw this analogy. Just like Windows of old, especially back in the good-old shareware heydays, Android is powerful, customizable, and very open. Programmers and users can do great things with it. Unfortunately with that power and openness come instability. No, I have not rooted my device or installed anything odd on it. I use the standard launcher, keyboard and settings. So there “should be” nothing causing this device to be flakey. However, I find it locking up, not accepting input, or simply crashing all too often. The most recent happened this evening (prompting this diatribe) when I was in the middle of writing a comment on a blog and the app just quit. No warning, no recovery, just quit. Sorry for the language, but it pissed me off!
In contrast, my iOS devices have never flaked out on me. I admit that Apple can be a bit draconian in their app store practices. And yes, iOS is beginning to show its age and the iPad is no where near as customizable as the Android devices. Like my Mac versus Windows, the Mac is just solid and reliable. It keeps working. I pay a premium for that in both dollars and computing freedom (more on iOS than in OS X), but at the end of the day I just want my device to work. I am a programmer by trade. I work with systems large and small all day long. What I need of my tools is for them to be rocksolid and dependable, not for them to be an additional project.
Now I have had other folks, good folks, tell me that they have not had any real stability problems with Android. No, I can’t explain the difference. I had the problem with older versions of the operating system on my old Android phone (prompting me to return to an iPhone) and a greater number of people I know, from students to professionals, have told me they have the same problem with Android. So those that don’t have the stability problem are either very lucky or doing something entirely different with their devices. I don’t know, but I have to live with my use. And again, I will remind you what I said earlier – I have not rooted or installed anything odd on my device. I spend 80 percent of my time in email or the web browser. That’s it!
So, as I said at the beginning, I just don’t like the Nexus 7. It will be going away soon. I admit to having looked at ten inch Android devices, but I keep coming back to the realization that it really is Android that I don’t like. It makes me mad. I don’t need anything else in my life making me mad – I have enough aggravation already. William Morris, someone I really admire, once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I would add that you should have nothing in your house that raises your blood pressure when it should be lowering it. So goodbye to Android and hello again to iOS.