The Nexus 7 is not quite there

I purchased a Google Nexus 7 tablet a little over a month ago and have been using it and playing with it. I have some thoughts and they boil down to: It's Not Quite There as compared to the iPad, but it's mostly about the apps.

The Hardware

The Nexus 7 is an excellent hardware compromise. For $249, I got a 32GB machine with an excellent screen and a fast processor. It's got the latest Android release and thankfully it's pure Android rather than some layer on top of Android.

The machine is mostly snappy and mostly responsive, except at the lock screen where the Nexus 7 still gets confused about orientation and is often 2-3 seconds behind whatever orientation I put it in, which is frustrating because it'll be "upside-down" and I'll rotate it and the oriented will flip back to upside-down until I wait a few more seconds for it to catch up.

The Nexus 7 only has a front-facing camera and the sound quality is weak as compared to my 3rd generation iPad. The screen is beautiful and it seems to be similar in quality to my 3rd generation iPad (the one with the Retina display).

The weight and built quality is excellent. It's also super, super nice to have a standard USB plug to charge it with.

For the price, the hardware is excellent. And, quite frankly, I'm price sensitive about a device like this. I expect to be buying a new one every 12-18 months, so the price/month is very important to me.

You're not heavy, you're my Nexus

One of the best features of the Nexus 7 is its weight. Having cats that love to sit on my chest while I'm in bed means that when I'm consuming tablet content (Netflix, reading Twitter, Plex, etc.) being able to hold the tablet with one hand while petting the cats with the other is key. It's also important to have a light device so I can hold it up with one hand for prolonged periods of time. Compared to the 3rd Gen iPad, the Nexus 7 is stellar for cat-laden media consumption.

As a side note, I read books on my Kindle Paperwhite, which is an awesome purpose-built device. No need to consume books on my other tablets.

Android has such potential

Android is such a better operating system than iOS. It multitasks which means that if an app is taking a long time to start because it's talking to a remote server (in my case, when I start playing DragonVale), I can flip to another app and the slow-starting app will not get paged out.

It's excellent to have your mail app and your Twitter client and all of these other apps running in the background because sometimes they need to talk to a server or gather information and Android allows this.

It's also nice to have less of a walled garden in Android than iOS. I can choose to allow apps from outside the garden to run.

It's also cool that apps like GrooVe IP can take over the dialer and integrate with the built-in apps.

Google integration is key

GMail and Calendar and Google Talk and all the other Google apps are worlds better than what you get with iOS. The ability to get my starred items without leaving them in my inbox (e.g., stuff related to travel) is such a super nice feature. Threaded discussions, etc. all work so much better on Android than they do on iOS.

Plus, it seems that enabling push on iOS sucks a lot more battery than having these features enabled on Android.

So, if you care about calendaring (with Google or with something that's Exchange compatible) or GMail, Android really shines.

3rd Party Apps are a mixed bag

The problem for me is that 3rd party apps are a mixed bag on Android, where there's almost always an excellent app for iOS.

Two apps that I use every day that are as good on Android as they are on iOS are the aforementioned DragonVale and Pocket. Pocket stands out to me as an app where the developers paid a lot of attention to building a beautiful, highly functional app for Android that feels like an Android app, but has all the slickness of its iOS counterpart.

The Foursquare app on Android is also excellent, although I don't use it much on the tablet.

The Facebook app on Android is marginally worse than on iOS. It's mostly because the back button in the Facebook app seems to do random things… it's idea of back is different than my idea of back.

What Android is missing is a good mail app and a good Twitter client.

I've bought every mail app in the Play store. They are all poor from a UI standpoint. None of them have threaded conversations that I could find, and none of them have a simple mechanism for archiving messages. Granted, the mail clients on Android are on par with iOS Mail, they should be better.

I use Tweetcaster on Android because it's the only Twitter client on Android I could find that supports Tweetmarker and Pocket.

A Tweetcaster Rant

I don't know what Tweetcaster on Android is so horrid, but it is. And it's not horrid on the iPad, which is double confusing… but here's my list of gripes:

  • Yes, it has Tweetmarker integration, but there's no way to automatically scroll to the Tweetmarker last-read tweet. So, the support is more of a hassle than a benefit.
  • The hit-testing on each tweet sucks. Sometimes I'll open the link. Sometimes other things will happen.
  • The touch-and-hold gesture (a common one on Android) will not open a menu of options for the link… instead there's a menu of options to the right of each tweet.
  • There are two different "view person" modes and neither gives you someone's complete profile.

I'm not sure why there's no parity between the Android and iOS Tweetcaster. Given that they are both for-pay apps and the market for Twitter clients on Android is much less competitive than it is on iOS, I'm shocked that the Tweetcaster guys haven't made the apps work like each other.

On iOS (and my Mac), I use Tweetbot.

What's a boy to do?

So, I'm trying to figure out if I want to continue with my Android experiment. If I could find a Twitter client that was as good as Tweetbot on iOS, I'd continue to use my Nexus 7 and perhaps migrate my phone to a Nexus 4 with the amazingly inexpensive $30/mo T-Mobile plan. If I could get an excellent mail app and a good Twitter app, I'd make the switch.