Google Nexus 7 vs iPad mini: personal ill-informed thoughts

Earlier today I tweeted that having used a Google Nexus 7 at home for a couple of weeks, on returning it to work I found myself really wanting to buy an iPad mini. A couple of people asked why. Here’s why.

Why I like a tablet, and why I like the size

The Nexus has completely sold me on the idea of a small tablet to have around the home and to take out and about for reading stuff on the move. I had a full size iPad at home for a while and I never wanted to take it anywhere – it’s too heavy and too big – and I have a Kindle Touch and like it (don’t love it) but rarely take it out with me as I rarely want to read books when I’m out. I also have an iPhone but I don’t tend to read much on it or handle emails in any serious way.

When I’m at home I want a device that lets me handle emails easily, read articles and handle bookmarking and Twitter easily. And what I really want when I’m out is a device to let me read all the articles I save up for reading when I have some time. I have experimented with pushing my Instapaper articles to the Touch, but it was horrible. I didn’t read it enough to keep up with things, and it wasn’t possible to then bookmark items or share them via Twitter. A tablet is wonderful for this.

What I love about the Nexus

  • Initially, I loved that it felt cheap. Huh? Yes, I loved that it felt cheap. I felt I could bung it in my bag without a case, in with my (paper) notebook, and all would be well. They’re about the same size and I could either get out a notebook to write or draw in, or get out the Nexus to read on. Its ‘fragility’ didn’t stress me out.
  • It fits in one hand. I can read with it in one hand without any concern it will fall or slip. It’s quite grippy. It would probably, at a push, fit in my coat pocket.
  • It has fun little features like face recognition to switch it on and that swipey passcode thing. It’s fun.
  • It has a clever ‘back’ button that remembers where you are between apps. Twitter takes you to Chrome? The back button takes you back. This is actually far cooler than I had expected and way better than an iPhone.
  • Because it’s less slick than iOS devices, it’s less distracting. Reading an article? Fine, there’s nothing more interesting to do on here. Well, there might be, but good luck remembering where it is!
  • My partner was able to set up her Google account on it and it all worked fine. Yes, we had to share the device and could read each other’s mail, but it’s a smoother separation than you get in iOS. [update: this has got WAY better with multi-user setup on the Nexus, added with today’s Android update.]
  • Chrome is the browser. It’s nice.

What I didn’t get over

  • No back facing camera. What’s the big deal? Sometimes I want to email my sister a photo of my shoes. OK, maybe not exactly that, but you get the point. It should be easy. It’s not.
  • The email handling. I found it impossible to use it for handling email offline. I’m sure it’s possible and works and all, but I just never felt like I could trust it.
  • No installed software to use the camera. Huh? No software installed to take notes on it. Huh? On the plus side, you get to know the Play store very fast.
  • Software doesn’t ‘just work’. I downloaded a couple of Pinboard apps. They kinda work. Kinda. I downloaded a couple of Instapaper apps. Again, they mostly work. But you end up with multiple nearly work apps that on further investigation haven’t been updated in ages.

Why I want an iPad mini

I played with an iPad mini in the Apple store the other day, having had the Nexus for a couple of days, and I thought then I preferred the Nexus. The back button, the swiping alerts from the top of the screen to change apps, the weight in the hand, all seemed so much better. But, the iPad mini has these things going for it:

  • Lighter, thiner, shinier, more solid feeling. As an item. After a while that cheap feel of the Nexus loses its appeal.
  • The bigger screen feels really generous after using the Nexus.
  • Tweetbot client for Twitter. I know that sounds nuts, but Tweetbot makes Twitter so much better.
  • Decent camera.
  • It also has the swiping alerts from the top of the screen.
  • Way more coherent app store and nicer apps. I played with the Paper app in the Apple store and nearly bought the mini there and then on the strength of that alone.

And why I might not get one

All said, though, I’m not convinced I’ll buy one. Have you seen the price?!

One Reply to “Google Nexus 7 vs iPad mini: personal ill-informed thoughts”

  1. I also was hovering between an Android tablet and an iPad mini for a while (a clear case when size matters, I think). Now, after I bought my iPad mini, I was immediately so upset at:

    1. weak WiFi reception (yes, never realized it is possible, but google up “ipad weak wifi” etc.) and

    2. poor or non-existent file management system. I am used to just plugging in a mobile device in my desktop computer (preferably a Windows one) and see it as an external drive I can easily manage, i.e. create/name/rename directories, organize things, feel sure I know where all my files are. With iPad, you either have iCloud or DropBox or iTunes, the latter to get ridiculously misused as a file manager. There are a couple of workarounds like iFunBox Connector or DiskAid to access and manage the content of your iPad but they’re nothing in comparison to a plain and fair file manager. It’s not about being a control freak – imagine you have a library but, instead of bookshelves, a sort of “black hole” where you’re supposed to toss in your stuff so that “black hole” would spit it up when need be.

    Best regards
    Valerij Tomarenko (Russian translator from Hamburg, Germany, who stumbled upon your blog via Céline Graciet’s Naked Tranlsations, pondering on whether to keep or bring back the iPad mini, a nice thing, after all…)

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