I recently purchased a Google Nexus 10 tablet. I was in the market for a new tablet since my last one was the original iPad and it has begun to feel very slow, doesn’t have any camera and is not eligible for the upgrade to iOS6. I was pretty well bought into the whole iOS world – between my work and personal equipment I own a MacBook air, two Mac Pro’s, an iPhone, an Apple TV, an Airport Express, two iPods and the aforementioned iPad – and that’s just counting what I own today – I’ve been through several iterations of many of these devices. However several years ago I owned a HTC Desire Android phone and really liked it so an Android tablet was a definite option – especially since all I’ve read recently indicated that Android was really leading the mobile OS pack, and the hardware was getting better and better with each release. The only thing I felt I would really lose was AirPlay compatibility – I use AirPlay on a daily basis to stream audio from my iDevices to a set of powered speakers in my kitchen connected through an AirPort Express. Having mulled all the options (probably a little too much) I finally decided to go with the Nexus 10. I liked the idea of having a different perspective on the tablet offerings today, and generally don’t like the idea of ‘vendor lockin’ despite being a somewhat willing victim of it. The following are my thoughts on the device having used it for approx 48 hours in a personal capacity.
Buying a Nexus 10 in Ireland
First off, let’s talk about the options when it comes to buying a Nexus 10 since I live in Ireland and the Nexus 10 has not been launched here, this is pertinent to my story. Not having been officially launcher here, the Nexus 10 cannot be purchased directly from Google in Ireland. The Nexus 10 has however been officially launched in the UK, France and other European countries, and it can be bought from there but the cheapest place to get one is in the US so I opted to buy one via eBay. The tablet cost $650 for the 32GB version, and shipping was $60 via FedEx – delivered in 48hrs from the US. So $710 all in or €551 once converted to Euro. I was pretty happy with that price. The 32gb WiFi iPad would set me back €609 in Ireland by comparison. The Nexus 10 costs €499 in France, so there’s a good chance I could have had it for slightly cheaper had I bought it from a European e-tailer. But I was impatient, maybe a little hasty and in the end went with the expensive shipping from the US vs going with a unit from France or somewhere else closer to me. Worth researching but ultimately you won’t save too much in the new market.
The packaging was really nice – not quite to the same standard as the legendary apple packaging but as close as matters for what in the end is a box you will likely discard. The tablet comes wrapped in a screen protector and rear film to prevent scratches during delivery. Also in the box is a micro USB cable, an adapter to the cable to charge via a mains outlet (as US one as per above), a manual and the Nexus 10 itself. The tablet came approx 60% charged so it was ready to use right out of the box – nice for impatient people like me 😉 As I already have a Google account, it took me 2mins to follow the setup wizard, connect to a WiFi network, login via my Google account and be up and running. I spent another few hours installing apps, configuring my widgets, customising the tablet to my preferences and generally familiarising myself with how to use it. Rather than reading the paper manual I downloaded the PDF version of the Google Nexus 10 user manual and used it to figure out a few things such as how to setup user accounts (see commentary on this feature below), but overall learning how to use the device was very intuitive and easy.
One big advantage Android has over iOS on a tablet is the idea of user accounts – this is a new feature that comes with Android 4.2 ‘JellyBean’. In a family environment a tablet is a device that is typically shared. In my case, my iPad is used by my wife, my three kids and myself. The problem with this is that once you unlock an iPad, the experience is the same for everyone. Documents are shared, the apps are the same, preference and app logins are the same for every user. Android has this solved via user accounts – you can create accounts for several users, and each user has their own login, profile, apps, downloads, and preferences that are unique to them – much in the same way as they would on Windows, OSX etc. This is a significant advantage for anyone wishing to share their tablet amongst several others and it’s really elegantly (and simply) implemented. I also really like the idea of widgets. I’m used to these in the OSX Dashboard world, and it’s nice to be able to have more than just icons in your launcher (ala iOS).
In many of the reviews I read of this tablet before I purchased it, there was mention of a couple of disappointing sides to this device – the first, and most immediately obvious being the low quality plasticky case. I was not as disappointed by the quality as I had expected – maybe because I was forewarned about this from reading these reviews. Sure, the case quality is not up to the same standards as Apples but it still feels like a quality device, and the back has a better grip when placed directly on a desk. Not a concern for me. The other disappointment raised in reviews I read (one in particular on ZDNet) was the poor microphone quality. I can’t speak to this one as in the time I’ve had it, I have not yet tested the microphone though I’ll be doing a Google+ Hangout or a Skype in the near future and will update the post based on my experience here.
Overall, I could download all of the apps I most frequently use on my iPad for the Android platform via the Play Store. Sure there are lots of apps that are particular to each platform, but I couldn’t find any that were essential to me that I couldn’t either download the Android version of, or find a workable alternative to. As will be familiar to any Android user, there’s the ability to give each app individual permissions to update itself which is better than the manual process via iOS. Another huge advantage is that when you connect an Android device to your computer, you can directly access the filesystem to upload files. This means you can store media such as music, video and photos for later playback rather than being held hostage by the likes of iTunes. VLC is available in Beta on Android, though I found it to play smoothly without hiccup despite the warnings that it was beta software and crashes should be expected. The only real downside I saw on the app side is that many of the apps seem designed for phones rather than tablets (at least at this stage) and in these cases, those apps only work in portrait orientation. Not a huge issue and something that I am sure will develop over time as developers make their apps tablet friendly when more Android tablets are sold, but worth mentioning. Oh, and in some cases (notably the Facebook the TweetDeck apps for Android) they are considerably more basic, and frankly ugly on Android than on iOS.
In summary, I love my new tablet. There are some Pro’s and Con’s to it as a platform and hardware choice, but I wasn’t really expecting a slam-dunk here. Overall I found the Nexus 10 to be a very strong contender among the latest tablet devices available today (January 2013). It’s really interesting to see the differences between the different mobile platforms – both on the hardware and software sides. One thing I believe strongly is that the fierce competition in this space only means positive things for consumers – as one platform makes a significant step forward, the other is automatically in catchup mode and that is driving innovation and bringing new devices, apps and features to the market at an incredible pace. Whether you choose iOS or Android, and the many hardware decisions on the Android platform you can assume that you are benefiting from all the platform innovation going on. Of course I don’t mention Windows here – primarily because I don’t have any experience with the Windows Mobile (or Windows 8) solutions, but clearly that is an important player in the mix. The downside is that without doubt I will be replacing my Nexus 10 with the latest gadget before too long, but that’s a luxury I hope to be able to afford.
To wrap up, in short – some Pro’s and Con’s of the Nexus 10 (not exhaustive, but important from my own perspective) – from the context of a comparison with the latest iPad from Apple.
- Lighter, bigger screen, higher screen resolution, more powerful, better cameras, thinner, better battery life and cheaper than the equivalent iPad (32GB WiFi).
- User account switching – huge plus for those sharing their tablet – families, schools, small businesses etc.
- A more advanced mobile OS.
- Max 32gb (no card expansion as with other Android based tablets)
- No 3/4g option. WiFi only (iPad offers both, as do some Android based tablets)
- Occasional instability (I’ve seen at least 6 crashes/random reboots in 48hrs use)
- Slow charging via micro usb – another issue identified by ZDNet in their review.
*** UPDATE *** Having read about the random reboots a bit more, I came across this great article explaining some of the background and the next steps.