Spifftastic,

 

Nexus 7: First Impressions

First impressions of the Nexus 7 after a week using it. This won’t include a lot of references to iOS and such except where there’s an odd discrepancy, like with email, or things seem about equivalent between platforms (like Flipboard sucking). Cue bullet-points because I’m lazy:

  • Android still has an obsession with wasting large amounts of home screen real estate with enormous clocks. Why all the large clocks? You already have a clock in the corner of your screen, it’s in the status bar. The analog clock sucks as well since it’s very lousy at telling time.
  • Scrolling is mostly smooth for the first time in Android’s history. It’s still not great, but the input lag is mostly gone, though it regularly seems to skip rendering stuff just to keep up with the input, which looks ugly. Still, it’s an improvement.
  • Scrolling inertia feels very strange. I flick and it doesn’t seem to do a whole lot, but I flick again and it’s like I’ve broken the speed of light. Very inconsistent and very weird.
  • Screen resolution is acceptable but the way the UI is designed makes it a rather poor decision. You’ve got two mandatory bars on the top and bottom of the screen at all times, so in landscape orientation, your vertical space is limited by a lot. Further, if you try to use the keyboard in landscape, you’re given a tiny sliver of an area to work with — even less if the field pops up the predictive text bar too. This obsession with widescreen aspect ratios really needs to end if tablet manufacturers want to continue making tablets designed for both orientations.
  • The onscreen keyboard in portrait is excellent, especially with Android 4.2’s addition of swipe-typing (basically ripping off whoever came up with it first, doesn’t really matter, though I expect Swype is slightly miffed). In landscape, typing out things with my thumbs is easy enough. Typing any other way, including swiping, is tedious and better off done in portrait.
  • Google Currents, which was pre-installed, is excellent. Beats the everloving hell out of Flipboard, which really, really sucks (both on iOS and Android these days).
  • App selection is still garbage. There are no good apps for writing aside from — amazingly — Google Docs, which is actually completely usable via the Google Drive app now. It’s very good, though limited (which is fine for me — I don’t want a full-featured word processor, just something to write in).
  • The bezel is too small in portrait. I’m frankly not sure how you’re suppose to hold the thing like this without accidentally tapping the screen.
  • The Gmail app is worse than I remember it. No unified inbox and no pull to refresh and so on. Seems unusually limited. I seem to remember the Gmail app being better, but I guess iOS just improved a lot over time.
  • Also, really, we’re still using two separate apps for Gmail and regular mail? Give me one app and let me have my inboxes all in the same damn place.
  • The official Twitter app is shit. End o’ story there.
  • The Google+ app is far worse than its iOS equivalent. It really sucks in comparison, which is strange considering one would expect Google to make Google+ more compelling (I hate that word) on Android.
  • People call this thing “pocketable,” and while I can fit it in a pocket, I think the sheer goofiness of having a tablet in your pocket and the shame that comes from that is enough to make it un-pocketable. Also, the power button is too easily pressed, so putting it in your pocket will probably result in it being frequently woken from sleep.
  • Holding this thing in the palm of your hand, with a thumb on one side and your remaining fingers on the other, is stupid and uncomfortable too. I don’t know why this attribute is considered positive.
  • Notifications as usual are best in class.
  • AndChat is still free and it’s still a great IRC client. Also, thanks to the way Android handles multitasking, I never lose my connection to a server.
  • Chrome is an acceptable improvement over Android’s original browser, though it pales in comparison to every other mobile browser and Google should be ashamed of themselves for shipping such a lackluster piece of crap. Hell, it’s on a tablet and it doesn’t even have a bookmarks bar, so I can’t use any of my nice Javascript bookmarks.
  • On the topic of bookmarks, there is no good way to access them. I either have to replace my current tab with Chrome’s bookmarks UI or go back to the home screen and put a widget down to see my bookmarks. Why can’t I just browse them via a popover? Also, small icons with tiny captions are not the best format for bookmarks. Give me a list so I can actually see the titles of my bookmarks.
  • The Kindle app works fine. Google Books is still garbage and a usability nightmare.
  • Google Maps beats Apple Maps, but you knew that already. They’re about on par around here, though, so it makes little difference.
  • The 1Password app on Android sucks. It’s basically an attempt to clone the iOS UI, and you can guess how well that went.
  • Google Music is very, very strange. I try to upload a playlist and it kills random songs from it even though the songs have been uploaded. The app itself is a confusing mess. For some reason I can only see how many songs a playlist has in landscape. Overall, it sucks, but at least it’s not Winamp.
  • Google Music’s icon is the ugliest thing on this OS.
  • Google Calendar has the most schizophrenic and useless user interface ever. I like that I can scale the week view, though.
  • Kevin Coppock’s Holoku is still the best sudoku app for Android.
  • I shouldn’t have to tap a button seven times to enable the developer settings. Really, that’s stupid.
  • Voice search is about the same as Siri — good for setting alarms and reminders. Unfortunately, Google just creates a calendar entry for a reminder, so it’s a bit annoying that there’s no difference in priority between a calendar entry and a reminder.
  • Dropbox sucks on here.
  • Viewing PDFs in either the PDF viewer that’s built in or Acrobat is slow as all heck and I don’t know why.
  • Updating one or more apps causes the OS to become rather unstable and not register touches. The Play Store app is nigh unusable while any apps are updating as it will constantly attempt to refresh its UI and generally ignore whatever you’re doing.
  • The speaker can get very loud but sounds very shitty no matter what volume you use. Use headphones.
  • Setting the wallpaper is much easier now and the UI for doing so is very well designed. That said, why when pressing the back button after I’ve selected an image am I taken back to the home screen and not the view for selecting an image? What if I just decided a different image was better? I don’t want to have to long-press somewhere on the home screen just to get back to my pictures and select a wallpaper image again. This is retarded.
  • Speaking of retarded, the back button’s fairly inconsistent about where it’ll take you. This is especially obvious if you get taken to the browser, whereupon the back button seems to just be the browser’s back button.