This review was also published at Urban Scholar
I’m an Android purist. Nearly every device I’ve owned has used a vanilla install of the Android operating system. I started off with the original Android phone, the G1. Upon upgrading that phone, I opted to move to the G2, the G1′s successor. I later purchased an ASUS Transformer (with keyboard) from a fellow techie & friend (which I talked about here last December). While not a vanilla install, it was as near to stock as it could be. It was a great device, but ended up giving it to a friend as a means of “investing” into their business efforts & making them a bit more mobile.
This summer I felt that I was in the market for a new phone and wanted another Android tablet, so I started looking at devices. Being with T-Mobile at the time, I could have simply waited & gotten a new phone on contract in September, but I was also tired of paying $120 a month for my cell phone service & looking to move to pre-paid. With that in mind, I wanted to make sure that the phone I purchased would be able to work on a pre-paid carrier’s network (in my case Simple Mobile). My initial thought was to get my hands on an imported ASUS Padfone, but that would have cost me nearly $1,000 for all of the pieces I would have required (phone, tablet dock, and keyboard). I ruled that out due to expense. With that ruled out, I started to look at the unlocked Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ from Google. Quite frankly, I couldn’t beat the price for an unlocked phone that was also a Nexus device. Then Google announces the Nexus 7, and I was sold. I already owned a full-sized tablet (iPad 2, courtesy of my employer) and wanted something with a smaller form factor to be used primarily as a reading device. The Nexus 7 fit the bill perfectly, especially with its price & vanilla Android install. At the end of July, I purchased both the Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ & the Nexus 7 (the 8GB version, also with the case).
Having had the devices for a few weeks now, these are my first thoughts on both devices.
Since I’ve been an Android user since their inception, I knew that I would have no problem with this device. Although, there were a few things that I took into consideration when buying the phone. With the G1 I loved having the full QWERTY keyboard, which influenced my decision in purchasing the G2 when it came time to upgrade. With Swype installed on the G2, I rarely used the slide-out keyboard. Keeping this in mind, I knew that I could opt for a phone without the keyboard, which would give me a much slimmer form factor. Having used those two models of phone, I felt comfortable with the screen size & thought it was perfect for a phone; so, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about having a phone with larger screen real estate. To state it simply, I’m enjoying the larger screen size, almost to the point of wondering how I operated without it. It was also to my benefit that the phone came with the latest version of Android (Jelly Bean) and I can be assured that I’ll get the latest updates direct from Google. That is a huge plus.
The only real downside that I’ve found to the phone is the storage. In my G2 I had been using a 32GB microSD card, which was primarily used for housing my music offline. The Galaxy Nexus has no expandable storage & only comes with 16GB of storage. This was the only thing that gave me pause in purchasing this device. I was able to get past this quite quickly though. With my entire music collection being in the cloud via Google Music, I felt comfortable enough to know that I could stream all of my music at any time (especially since in most places I have Wi-Fi for streaming). For those times that I need music offline, I still have plenty of room to download a playlist or two that has the albums that I’m feeling at any given time. This is exactly what I did when I had to take a trip to Nashville for work a couple of weeks ago.
In terms of my usage of the device, it really hasn’t been any different than how I used my previous Android phones. For me, my phone primarily serves as a messaging & communication device, as well as my music player. With that in mind, I’m a heavy SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Google Talk & Google+ user. Music is handled primarily by Google Music, with DoggCatcher for podcasting and Spotify & Pandora for “radio” streaming. Aside from that, it’s used for the occasional game (Words & Hanging with Friends), and of course as a Bible in my pocket (Logos, Olive Tree & YouVersion).
I’m quite pleased with the phone and think it was a great purchase. The build quality is solid and it is by far the best phone I’ve ever owned & would recommend it to anyone that wants a solid Android phone that they can take anywhere in the world.
Nexus 7 Tablet
As I stated above, I had owned an Android tablet before & had been wanting another one since giving my other one away. I also knew that I wanted a tablet that had a smaller form factor so that I could use it as an e-reader. Yes, I have an iPad that can do all of these things; but, when it comes to reading (especially in bed or one-handed) the iPad can become heavy very quickly, which makes reading for extended periods a chore. Thus, a smaller & lighter tablet would be great for doing extended reading, which is something that I’ve been trying to spend more time doing. All of these things taken together, along with my love for vanilla Android devices, made the Nexus 7 the perfect device for my needs. I wanted to get the 16GB version, but opted for the 8GB model since it was in stock & I convinced myself that I could live primarily in the cloud and would be working in conjunction with my phone.
The easiest way that I can sum up my use of the Nexus 7 is to say that it has easily replaced my iPad as my everyday tablet. Since owning the Nexus 7, I have rarely had need to pull out my iPad, which was primarily for work purposes. Everything that I used my iPad for I have been able to do on my Nexus 7, even without being hindered by the 7-inch screen size. For example, this was written entirely on my Nexus 7 (in Evernote, using my Apple wireless keyboard).
With only 8GB of storage on my Nexus 7 it has forced me to be creative with how I use the device. This means that I am making sure that I am primarily using this device for what I purchased it for, which is reading. The majority of the apps that are installed are for reading and/or productivity. Very few games are installed, and primarily are games that look & work better on a larger screen, or ones that are very light on space (like Sudoku).
My reading apps consist of the following: Google Play Books, Nook, Kindle, Google Reader, Logos Bible Software, OliveTree, YouVersion, Marvel Comics, and Comixology. This combination allows me to read books from just about anywhere. The Nexus 7 has also become my primary Bible, as I can read & study the Bible very easily (while only downloading resources locally that I use everyday or am presently reading). Using Logos, everything I do (notes, reading position, etc.) syncs with my desktop install of the software. Plus, I can get my comic book fix quite easily (again, only downloading the comics that I’m reading at the time, leaving the others in the cloud until needed).
Other apps that I use frequently include: Play Music (streaming only), Evernote, Chrome browser, WordPress, Google Drive, Dropbox, andYouTube. This allows me to access my files when I need them and create new ones that I can access from anywhere.
All in all, the Nexus 7 has been a great device and I’ve really enjoyed my time with it. Being such an avid Android user who is steeped deeply in the Google universe, this tablet has been perfect for me. The form factor is great for long periods of reading, and it is still large enough to serve as a productivity tool while on the go. It is definitely a worthy replacement for my iPad, which I rarely use anymore.
Final Thoughts/Looking Forward
To say that I’m pleased with the Nexus 7 & Galaxy Nexus would be an understatement. These are both very solid devices & work beautifully for someone who is always connected and doesn’t mind living in the cloud. The Galaxy Nexus is a wonderful phone and you can’t expect to find such a powerful phone that is unlocked and able to go nearly anywhere for such a low price. Seriously, $350 is a steal. The Nexus 7 is a steal too. For the hardware that gets packed into this device, you cannot go wrong in spending $200 on this tablet, even given it’s 7-inch size. It’s a worthy upgrade to spend the $50 more & get the 16GB version (which I may do down the road).
I look forward to using these devices for quite some time and fitting the needs that I have in my life, both personally and professionally.
Both the Galaxy Nexus (349 USD) and Nexus 7 (199/249 USD) devices can be purchased from the Google Play Store.