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Google’s I/O developer conference is happening next week in San Francisco, and one of the big questions around what we’ll see there includes hardware. Now KGI securities analyst Mingchi Kuo (via 9to5Google), who unlike other analysts actually has a good track record of predicting things accurately, has let slip that one big reveal will be an updated Nexus 7 tablet, with a 1920 x 1200 7-inch display, a 5 megapixel camera and a new sleek, light design for the same $199 price point as the current version.
The Asus-built tablet will boast a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, a “narrow bezel” screen with pixel density of 323 (pretty close to that of the iPhone 5) and physical dimensions that make it either very close to or even smaller than Apple’s iPad mini. If true, that’ll make it handheld, and with a Retina-quality display, at a price that absolutely undercuts Apple’s $329 entry point with the mini.
Other additions to this model include wireless charging according to Kuo, which would be in keeping with that feature being offered standard with the Nexus 4. Google is using Qi-based induction charging, which means that it’s compatible with a wide range of chargers, and the new Nexus 7 would likely adopt the same tech.
Kuo also looked beyond the I/O conference to what we might see from Google in the coming months, which include some fairly surprising developments. There’s a plan to get Samsung Android-powered notebooks to market, for instance, over the next 3 or 4 months. Intel telegraphed Android-based notebooks via one of its executives in a report last month, as 9to5Google notes, but Kuo says that we won’t see these at I/O since the next major point release of Android, version 5.0, won’t be ready for the show.
Android-based notebooks are a bit of a head-scratcher since Google has already invested a lot in pushing Chrome OS on the desktop, and recent reports suggest Chrome OS might end up powering tablets, too. It seems contrary for Google to continue working on that while also building a version of Android that can power notebooks, but this may just be a case of Google putting bets on multiple horses over the long-term, which makes sense given that the company has repeatedly shown it’s willing to invest in products that end up being failures for the sake of gleaning insights from what went wrong.
Beyond that, Kuo says Google is still working on an a Google TV device which will compete with the existing Apple TV, which sounds like it might be a second, more feature-rich kick at the ill-fated Nexus Q can. Finally, he also says a smart watch device is expected to debut alongside Glass in Google’s wearable computing category, but that this won’t hit mass production until at least next year.
It’s on. The Android tablet race to the bottom has been restarted, and it’s got a new price tag: $100.
Acer on Friday held a press event in New York City, announcing three devices: the Aspire R7 (a desktop/laptop combo), the Aspire P3 (an ultrabook), and the Iconia A1 (a tablet). The company saved the best for last: the 7.9-inch A1 is priced at just $169.
The last edition of the Android tablet race to bottom ended at about $200. OEMs were getting very close to the mark about two years ago with $250 announcements, but then Amazon finally set the bar by debuting the 7-inch Kindle Fire back in November 2011 at the ridiculously low price point of $199.
Google wasn’t amused and in June 2012 announced the 7-inch Nexus 7, a tablet also priced at $199. Many still consider it the best Android tablet on the market.
Amazon hit back in September 2012 by slashing the original Fire model to $159 and launching the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD for $199. Yet few people want an “old tablet” when the price difference is so small, and as we saw with the latest quarterly figures, Asus (the manufacturer for the Nexus 7) outsold Amazon in Q1 2013.
Some argue that Google won the last battle with its Nexus 7 device, offering the best Android experience at essentially the best price, while others would say Amazon has been pushing the envelope further than anyone else. That was all in 2012 though, and it’s clear from today’s Acer announcement that 2013 will see tablets priced even more competitively than before.
You might be saying: wait a minute, aren’t their already tablets priced under $200 and even under $100? Sure, given that Google essentially hands out Android for free, there are companies constantly looking to undercut the mainstream options. Yet these are low-quality products with shoddy hardware and older versions of Android. I want to talk about offerings from top OEMs that offer the latest and greatest Android experience.
Acer is in the top five list for OEMs in terms of PC shipments. The company’s newly-announced Iconia A1 runs Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), the latest version of Google’s operating system, just like the Nexus 7. Here are some basic specifications: 1.2GHz quad-core processor, LED-backlit IPS display, and 7-hour battery life.
In other words, the A1 is a budget tablet, but it’s still very competitive. The $169 price tag may be just $30 cheaper than the Nexus 7, yet it’s worth noting that’s a 15 percent savings. I would argue that this is just the beginning. Acer likely decided to undercut the now-standard $199 price tag for one big reason: Google I/O.
This year’s Google conference, tickets for which sold out in less than an hour, will be held between May 15 and May 17. That’s less than two weeks away.
Google is widely expect to announce a second-generation Nexus 7 at the event. A recent Reuters rumor said the device will go on sale in July.
The expected price? $149. All of this is happening in just the first half of 2013: competitors such as Amazon will have more to reveal in time for this year’s holiday season.
Top Image Credit: mokra
Google has been on a bit of a roll with its commercials lately, especially for its gadgets. Today, the company unleashed its latest commercial for the Nexus 10, its iPad
killer competitor. The video tells the story of a couple who has just found out that they’re having a baby. Google has woven the Nexus 10 Wi-Fi-only device into the story quaintly.
The feature that Google decided to focus the commercial around? Its multi-user Android one. Yes, Google’s competitive advantage is apparently the fact that you can share the device with someone else. Is that enough? Have a look at the commercial:
We’ve talked about Apple needing a “kid-only” and “guest” mode for the iPad, but are these very personal devices something that we want everyone’s grubby little hands on? It sounds good on paper and perhaps in a well-produced commercial. But alas, the answer is yes, people really do want to purchase a device like this and let other members of their family have a play, too.
The great part about having multiple-account capability is that you can pick up the device, log in and then instantly have access to your own home screen and apps. Since Google’s syncing capabilities are pretty robust, you could have a few of these devices sitting around and just log into whichever one is closest to you. Plus, the 10 costs about $399.
Now that Google is settling into its role as a player in the mobile and tablet space, it’s interesting to watch what they pick to focus on. In the video above, you’ll see how they fit Google Play in, watching movies, searches with Google Now, doing Hangouts on Google+ and reading a book. The story is starting to develop for Google’s devices and services.
It’s not all hearts and hugs for Google, as Apple could, and probably will, roll something like this out in the near future. For now it’s an advantage, but Google has to continually roll out features within its OS that are just a bit better than iOS. A complete side-by-side war won’t work; it’s going to have to be incremental upgrades and changes that catch your eye…like sharing your device seamlessly with anyone who wants to use it. This time, you won’t get your iPad back with tabs full of porn on it. Not that it has happened to any of us. Much.
Will we see upgrades at the I/O conference this year for Google’s 10-inch tablet? One can hope. The only problem for me with the Nexus 10 is that outside of my home, it’s pretty useless. Is the 10 perfect? Not even close. Is it better than the iPad? That’s a matter of personal preference. Google just wants to nudge you with some of its own unique features, and that’s smart.
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This is the first Android device I would feel comfortable using on a regular basis.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to, but I would be just fine with it.
If I had to boil down my thoughts about the Nexus 4 into two sentences, those would be them.
Of course, I don’t have to boil down my thoughts and I will elaborate below. But I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked as much about a device as I have about the Nexus 4. Maybe it’s because of the limited availability. Maybe it’s because it’s supposed to be the best “clean” Android phone yet. Or maybe it’s the growing sentiment that Android itself is finally getting closer to iOS/iPhone and maybe even surpassing it in some ways.
Of course, with the latter, we seem to hear that every year. Gingerbread was going to be the version of Android that was better than iOS. Then it was going to be Honeycomb (Android tablets were finally going to take off!). Then Ice Cream Sandwich. Now Jelly Bean. Later this year, we’ll hear the same about Key Lime Pie (or whatever it will be called).
Here’s the thing: the most recent versions of Android almost remind me of something developed by Apple. Not necessarily in the fit and finish, but in the methodical way in which they are improving. It used to be that new versions of Android brought sweeping changes to the entire OS. Recent versions seem to be more about refinement — which I think is a good thing for both users and developers.
With the underlying layer of Android now up to snuff, Google can and has focused on getting more of the little things right. And I think that’s why I’m finally getting comfortable with Android: it’s both familiar (as I’ve tested many Android devices now) yet distinctive and fairly polished.
There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about some prominent iPhone users making the move over to Android. I don’t think this is purely coincidental — there’s a lot to like about Android now and it does seem to be evolving at a faster pace than iOS.
But I’m not going to make that move. And I won’t even say “yet” because that implies that I’m waiting for it to happen. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. I want to be using what I consider to be the best device, and I still consider that to be the iPhone.
But in a world without iPhone, I could definitely see myself using the Nexus 4 as my smartphone. It is a really good device — one that Google should be proud of. Beyond the aforementioned Android software evolution, the Android hardware is also evolving nicely — even just the Nexus line of products.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Nexus 4 is that it’s not really anything like an iPhone. Unlike some of the Samsung-built phones, LG and Google went in another direction. It’s significantly wider than the iPhone 5 and a little taller too. I’m not a huge fan of the form-factor, but plenty of people will be. The larger screen enabled by these larger dimensions is obviously nice.
If the iPhone 5 feels like holding a precious item, the Nexus 4 feels like holding a solid one. Previous versions of Nexus devices have always felt a little bit cheap to me — I actually think the Nexus One was my favorite from a pure built-quality perspective. The Nexus 4 does not feel cheap, but it doesn’t feel as high quality as the iPhone 5 either. Maybe I like it simply because they finally got rid of that silly tear-off backing that Google seemed to be so fond of for a while there. God I hated that “feature”.
The Nexus 4 is the first Android device I can remember where it’s distinctive enough for me to recall what it feels like when I’m not holding it. The iPhone has always been this way. Again, I think this is a testament to Google and LG. It’s not just some plastic-y black slab crammed with specs, it’s designed.
And I fucking love the wireless charging orb that Google just released. Pardon my French. Actually, don’t. I fucking love that thing. Apple needs to copy that pronto. It’s by far the best smartphone “dock” I’ve ever used. And it’s a billion times better than Apple’s current iPhone 5 dock — because no such dock exists. I know it’s a little thing, but coming home and just slapping the Nexus 4 down on a magnetic charger is such a nice touch. And yes, I know there was a similar dock for the Palm Pre, I had one — sadly, it seems the 20 other people who bought one weren’t enough to keep that company afloat.
Yes, it sucks that the Nexus 4 doesn’t support LTE. The reasons seem to be extremely lame — okay, bullshit — but I don’t necessarily consider it a total deal-breaker either. Perhaps due to network saturation, Verizon LTE speeds in San Francisco have fallen back to earth from their initial highs. I notice a difference between LTE and “high speed” 3G, but not a huge one.
The bigger factor for me has been the T-Mobile network coverage itself, which seems far less reliable than Verizon (again, in the Bay Area). Because the phone is unlocked, you can use it on AT&T as well, but still not at LTE speeds.
Other spec-y stuff: the battery life seems solid — on par with the newest iPhone. The internals are clearly quite fast — by far the fastest Android unit I’ve tried yet. The screen looks great — though not iPhone great, and it is noticeably worse in direct sunlight. The camera is decent as well — though, again, not iPhone 5 great (Google has finally improved the camera software too).
Nice hardware aside, the true reason to go with Android — if you’re going to go with Android — has to be the software. Aside from the core Android layer getting more polish, the Google services keep getting better. Specifically, Google Now is great. You may not realize it at first, but over time, it keeps getting better.
One example: I was on a trip to Germany recently and opened Google Now on the Nexus 4. Suddenly, everything I had been searching for on my computer — a venue, a restaurant, the weather, a train — were all right there with up-to-date information. When it works — and there is still a ways to go — it’s magical.
Google’s built-in voice search also destroys Siri. There’s no pussyfooting around that. It’s not even close. The good news is that you can access Google Voice search from the Google app for iOS as well. And rumor has it that Google Now is coming to iOS shortly also — and maybe as a part of the Chrome app?!
Google Field Trip is another fun — yet unrefined — Google service. Of course, that just launched on iOS yesterday.
The main things I miss when using the Nexus 4 remain my favorite iOS apps. Mailbox, Albumatic, Vine, Moves, Clear, Applauze — all nowhere to be found. Yes, a lot of those are companies I’ve invested in — killing it! — but the point is that a lot of young startups still choose to launch iOS-first for whatever reason. For some apps, that’s changing, for some it’s not. It remains an issue for Android.
I do like — and find it interesting — that some more established services are using Android as a testing ground for new app functionality. Tumblr and Foursquare are two that jump to mind here.
When using the same apps on iOS and Android side-by-side, you still notice that the iOS apps still run a bit more smoothly and seem to perform better. Each new version of Android seems to fix this a bit, but we’re not at parity yet. People will try to debate me on this, but there is no debate. We’re not there yet. I don’t know if that’s an Android issue or a developer issue, but it remains an annoyance. The good news is that if you aren’t using iOS on a daily basis, you’re less likely than ever to notice.
Probably the biggest thing I miss about my iPhone when using the Nexus 4 is iMessage. A few years ago, I would have never expected that text messaging would be a key lock-in feature — well played, Apple.
It’s impossible to deny that Google is getting closer to iOS/iPhone in terms of quality with Android, and with these Nexus devices in particular. Maybe that’s bad news for Apple, or maybe it will push them to innovate faster. Either way, I see this as a win for consumers.
John Gruber wrote something recently that came to mind when writing this review:
Windows 95 was vastly improved over Windows 3; the classic Mac OS had barely evolved in a decade…
To be clear, I don’t think it’s fair to say that’s happening here yet, but it’s something to think about. It has been said before, and it rings true: Google is getting better at doing the things Apple is good at faster than Apple is getting better at doing the things that Google is good at. We’ll see what the shakeup at the top of the iOS and iCloud teams yields…
At the end of the day, I’m still firmly rooted in the iPhone camp. And it’s still difficult — though less difficult than ever — to see that changing. One reason that it took me so long to get this review out there is that I was trying to use the Nexus 4 as my only device, but just couldn’t. iMessage, iCal, the apps I needed to test, etc, made it very hard. Again, I’m not sure I see that changing. But I look forward to whatever Google is working on with Motorola. And I look forward to Key Lime Pie. And I’m sure more Apple diehards than ever will be watching closely to see what exactly iOS 7 will entail.
For now, the iPhone still wins the debate in my mind. But I’m finally ready to acknowledge that there is a debate — and a healthy one at that.
See the original post: An iPhone Lover’s Take On The Nexus 4