Nexus 10 - My experience


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Introduction

So, I went and recently bought the 16GB Nexus 10 from the Google Play store. I was originally looking to wait for the 32GB but decided as they had the 16GB in stock at the time, and that 16GB had always suited me on my iPad that it would do here too. It’s not as if I stored all my music on my tablet - that is what my iPod or phone are for. Before we go any further I wish to stress that I am neither an Apple Fanboy nor an Android phandroid. I use both systems most days, and each has their positives and negatives. This is designed as an overview of my experience with the Nexus 10 vs the iPad 1 (Yes a fairer contrast would be against a Retina powered iPad 3 or 4, but I don’t own one of them) and is more a review of the tablet and it’s capabilities rather than the OS itself (Although I have put a section in on the OS as it’s impossible to ignore the fact the OS’ are so different in some ways and so similar in others)

Contents

  • The Nexus 10
  • Apps I’ve used (Tablet or smartphone)
  • Experience

The Nexus 10

The device

I won’t bore you with the specifications of the device, nor the video of my unboxing (Which I dubbed the worst unboxing ever!) One day I may upload it to my Youtube channel [Youtube.com] if I feel I want a nomination for a Golden Raspberry (Or whatever the unboxing home shot video equivalent is) I’ll do so. The device feels about the same weight in my hand as the iPad 1 (Slightly lighter if anything), which is good as I am used to that kind of weight. The I haven’t actually bothered weighing the device to see which is heavier, but I am happy with it’s weight in my hand. A device that was heavier than the iPad 1 is not something I would have been too pleased with.

One thing I am exceptionally pleased about with the Nexus 10 is it’s a 10 inch tablet which defaults to landscape over portrait orientation. This is the 1 area I think Apple has it seriously wrong. In my experience hardly anyone uses their iPad in portrait mode unless they are reading a magazine or article etc, so why do Apple keep producing tablets that are built for portrait default orientation? Surely it’s time they looked at this? Anyway back to the Nexus etc. The screen is amazing quality. Everything I look at on it is clear, crisp and clean. There are very few apps on the Google Play Store at the moment that actually take advantage of the full DPI available on this device. It was the same with the Apple App Store when it launched the iPad 3, but unlike Apple, Android developers don’t seem to react as fast to put out apps for a tablet (10”, 7” Nexus or a Samsung tablet, it doesn’t seem to matter) apps, be they 300DPI+ resolution or less. I discuss this more in my Experience section.

Sound

The speakers on the device are pretty good. I am not an audio geek. My music tastes are questionable without a doubt, but the tablet will be playing a variety of music, and the sound from movies as well as the usual array of Youtube videos, stuff from Facebook etc. I won’t be taxing the system much in sound terms. The sound as far as my needs are concerned are excellent. If I am playing any heavy bass music it can be a little tinny, but so did my iPad 1. I may well play more music on my Nexus due to the built in streaming from Google Music (Assuming I get the thing to work the way I want it to), as well as Spotify so I will let you know how this goes in an update at a later date. In terms of a “winner” I’ll give this to the Nexus, as the speakers are on the front, instead of the back, and they aren’t quite as tinny if I am in a “Drum and Bass” or a bassy music mood.

Movies

I have watched Ice Age on the tablet which Google Play provide you for buying the tablet. I have also watched some of the 4K movies on Youtube, and I am pretty impressed. I can’t really compare and contrast the video ability of the Nexus verses the iPad 1 as the iPad 1 isn’t a “Retina” display iPad, however in terms of ability to play the videos the 2 devices play everything I throw at it very well. The iPad is slightly laggy when using Youtube in Chrome on the iPad when compared with Chrome on the Nexus, but there are so many reasons this could be that I am not going to hold this against the iPad. For a video experience, quality aside - as it’s unfair - I think this is a tie.

The keyboard

Possibly the most important part to using a tablet is the software keyboard on there. Android has a big advantage here in that you can change the default keyboard to (say) SwiftKey 3 [play.google.com] This is the tablet version and a paid app. (There is a free 30 day trial) and a phone version of this app. I quite like the default 4.2.1 keyboard on my Nexus 10. It has built in swipe like gesture typing, which although better on a phone, does make typing longer messages to Facebook friends etc easier. The default Apple keyboard however, is tried tested and actually copes with my typing style slightly better than the default Android keyboard. I have downloaded swiftkey 3 for the Nexus 10 and am finding it better, but not as good as SwiftKey on my Galaxy S3. “missed” characters because the system doesn’t recognise my “touch” are still common, but Swiftkey gets better as time goes on and more words are added to its memory. I just wish it didn’t automatically put “I” in after every . character! I’m gonna give this round to the Nexus as I can change the keyboard if I don’t like the default. However if I couldn’t change the keyboard the iPad would win this one as it copes better with my typing style. The Swype like feature is great for phones but a bit pointless on a 10” tablet.

Multitasking

This is more important on a tablet than on a phone. On my phone yes I might wish to tweet and listen to music, or make a phone call and look at Google Maps, but I am DEFINITELY going to want to multitask on my tablet. Here there is no competition. The Nexus 10 teaches the iPad 1 how to do things. Yes that is (probably mostly) because of 2GB vs 256MB, and yes JellyBean (Thanks to Project Butter - an effort by google to improve performance on Android devices) helps too. The iPad 1 does well if you have 2 or maybe 3 apps open in the background, but if I have Chrome, GMail, and maybe facebook or Twitter open things start to slow down in a way I hadn’t noticed before I updated to the Nexus (I think the same could be said if I bought an iPad 3 or 4 though) With the Nexus I’ve had 10 or 11 apps open, some even streaming music and I have hardly noticed any lag (And the lag I did notice I am pretty certain was due to my net connection). WInner here - Nexus, although I would be interested in doing a comparison with an iPad 3 or 4 if anyone would like to lend or purchase me one :-)

Overall

I think the Nexus 10 is a great replacement tablet (as a tablet, OS and Apps aside) for my iPad 1. A genuinely great upgrade, made easier by the fact I am used to Android - which can be a big culture shock if you are used to how iOS does things. If you are a first time tablet user and are looking for your first tablet - the Nexus is a good option but you must remember it is not the only option. I’ll discuss this more in the Experience section

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Applications

The State of the App Stores

OK slightly paraphrasing the US’ State of The Union [wikipedia.org] speech, the way I see it, Google Play store vs iOS App store is in the following state: iOS kicks ass. Google’s Android ecosystem is still playing catchup to Apple’s iOS. As Tim Cook is fond of saying, the iPad has (And I am paraphrasing here) “Beautiful full screen apps built for the retina display” compared with “Stretched smartphone apps” (Which is what he describes as what Android has to offer) To a degree it’s true. Android is beginning to receive tablet designed apps, but it’s like with the original iPad launch - to begin with there were some (Mostly built by Apple, or Google in this case) and others came later. The biggest difference is, for some reason people seem to want to be on Apple more than Android. This mindset is changing, but as it requires rebuilding apps including redesigning them to suit the new screen format, it’ll take time to sort out. I think that as 2013 goes on we will get to see more tablet apps for android tablets, hopefully of the better quality we are beginning to get in the Play Store. In terms of Apps and availability, the iPad (On iOS 5 in my case remember as I have an iPad 1) wins hands down. Most apps on the App Store are still iOS 5 compatible (A few notable exceptions, such as Google Maps - as it’s not needed) and tablet apps do look better on a tablet whether retina display or not. Whether this will still be the case as 2013 goes on, only time will tell.

Apps I use

In terms of the apps I have found useful (Tablet or phone) well I won’t list everything here as it’ll take too long as to be honest isn’t of interest to many people. However I am currently loving Google Currents on the tablet more than on a phone, Flipboard for my phone though. I have found ConnectBot highly useful (Though iSSH on the iPad beats ConnectBot hands down as the ‘Tab’ actually works without needing to think about a shortcut of Ctrl-i) for working with my servers remotely. Kindle App is a must for the tablet as it’s how I am reading most of my books these days, and I am also loving BeyondPod for my podcasts for the phone (I have yet to try the tablet version). I am also using the Drupalize.me application a lot at the moment as I am finally taking the time to learn how to code for Drupal meeting the necessary coding standards etc as I try to get more involved in the community. There are a number of apps I have on my Nexus that I haven’t tried (Mostly because I use my phone or my full screen iMac) such as iPlayer. I have heard mixed reviews of the iPlayer app on Nexus. Although, to be fair to the Nexus, most of these issues stem from the Android version of the iPlayer, and are maybe not exclusive to the Nexus. There are also a number of apps that my S3 has which the Nexus can’t (Samsung apps mostly) such as S-Note which I like but have not had time to search for a replacement for yet. I also don’t (yet) have a nice stylus for my Nexus - something I see as crucial if I am going to use the Nexus for note taking, and also (Possibly) Photoshop document “previewing” with my clients

Rooted Apps

At this time my Nexus is not rooted, and to be honest is unlikely to be until a few of the streaming apps I use allow for ‘rooted’ devices. A Rooted device (Or Jailbroken device in Apple parlance) is one where I (The device owner) am allowed root access (Also known as super user access) and can control absolutely anything on the device, including features that Google has “locked away” for security reasons. It is useful (And essential) if you wish to flash different ROMs for Android (A different version of Android if you like.) If you wish to know more about rooting, etc you can always Google it. There is a wealth of information out there - mostly designed for people who are new to the Android rooting experience, and those people are much better at explaining things to “noobs” (or newbies) than myself.

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Experience

My views

Over all I have been very impressed with the Nexus 10. It’s my first “true” stock Android experience (I have played with stock ROM’s though) and Android has come a long way from the darker days of Gingerbread and before where apps were poor quality, the user interface sucked more than a vacum cleaner on high power, and frankly the manufacturers didn’t give a damn about whether they updated the OS or not (I’m looking at you HTC). OK it’s questionable as to whether the manufacturers still give a damn, but at least they (for the most part) get their launcher and customised versions of Android available for their flagship phones within a reasonable timeframe given how much work it is to customise Android. I’d like to see a Nexus program come forward that makes drivers available to each phone so that it can run on pure vanilla Android if that is what the person wants, so we can get the nice Samsung Hardware, or the latest HTC if you prefer them, rather than be “forced” to have to root your phone (And void your warranty) to have stock Android. OK for the most part I don’t think that many people would care about being able to have a stock experience without rooting, or having to flash a ROM, it’d be only geeks like me, and we are perfectly capable of unflashing and unrooting if we have a warranty issue. But it’s the principle, why should we have to rely on community developers and volunteers who have the programming ability to create the ROMs we use, why shouldn’t Samsung or HTC, or LG give us the drivers for a vanilla experience? They could very easily produce a Samsung Galaxy SIII ROM with the right drivers within a week or so of a release as all they would need do is check the drivers work. Anyway that’s an issue for another blog post.

My experience with the Nexus 10 has confirmed that Android is now a competitor to the iPad. We may be comparing a Volvo (Android) with a Merc. (Apple) but they at least compete! The Android tablet experience has left me with hope for a more improving landscape over the next year as more people continue to get smartphones, and android users increase with users migrating from iPhone/iPad (although the reverse is true as well, iOS will gain users from Android too). There are parts of iOS that annoy me which android satisfies nicely, such as the ability to share with apps other than the default web browser for instance, or to the official iOS Facebook/Twitter client instead of (say) TweetDeck, HootSuite etc. I know many dislike them and think they are SO 1990, but I do like some of the widgets available for Android, and I like the fact I can choose what widgets I want on which launch screen. Don’t get me wrong iOS’s grid system is great on the simplistic front, you never need to be more than 1 button push away from all your apps, but I like more complicated setups. I like to have a dual clock showing me the time in Melbourne and Perth Australia (I have clients in those cities, so there is a logic behind it) or to show my Starbucks card, a summary of my Google Current feed, a quick link to play my podcasts on BeyondPod etc, but at the same time I love the fact that just about EVERYTHING will integrate with iOS devices, I love the fact that iMessage allows me to communicate with my iOS loving friends without them needed to have WhatsApp installed etc. iOS does have it’s advantages (And full screen high res tablet apps, and the integration with 3rd party devices are big ones!) As time goes on, maybe car manufacturers will wake up and realise that people want iPod and Android capabilities in the car, where you have as much control over your android as your iOS device. So in conclusion Android has come a long way, the Nexus 10 is an amazing device that gives the iPad I have an incredible run for it’s money (I won’t say a thrashing for what I tend to use my devices for, but it is also a clear winner). In terms of what to buy if you are venturing into the tablet market for the first time? Well this is a tricky one. If you are heavily invested into 1 ecosystem - stick with that is my advice. Android tablets are no longer something you need to hide in shame on the train or bus (That kind of ended with the Nexus 7, but also the Galaxy Note 10.1 helped as well), and whilst they may not be as flashy or as desirable as their Apple er cousins they are good enough and usually about 23 if not less of the price! Not invested in either system yet? Well it’s down to personal taste. Do you want to be able to customise your device to put your stamp on it? Go Android. Do you want only good quality apps (Well for the most part there are still crap apps on the App Store - but far far fewer than on Play) Go Apple. Do you want a particular vendors tablet for some reason? (Samsung Galaxy Note with it’s S-Pen (Stylus) for example?) Go for that brand but unless it’s Apple, Or RIM (Blackberry) chances are it’s Android on that tablet. Largely it’s a case of you pays your money you takes your choice. It is getting harder to choose which platform to take for a tablet now, and with Blackberry 10 coming soon (Playbook owners rejoice) and more Windows 8 tablets coming, I suspect the choice over time will get harder still! I have left comments open for now on this thread - but i will be keeping a VERY close eye on them to look for flame wars and baiting. Please respect my opinions. I have tried to be as open and as balanced as possible on the subject. ANd when you say “Ah yes but iOS now has X” remember I am on an iPad 1, stuck on iOS 5. Feel free to leave a polite and respectful comment.

Have fun choosing your tablet, and I hope which ever tablet you go for it works in the way you want it to :-)

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