Google Nexus 7: Android’s salvation?

I tried to write this review on my Nexus 7, but impressive as it is, it’s not cut out for content creation like the iPad is.

Not that I’m complaining. You’d have to be slightly crazy to expect a 7-inch tablet to be a comfortable workhorse, and at $250-odd for the Nexus 7, you’d be forgiven for thinking “dedicated backlit book reader”, like I did. Fair warning, though: you might find yourself inexplicably drawn to the other niceties of Google’s new tablet.

I still love my iPad, and I still think iOS is the bomb, but for the first time ever, Android has genuinely impressed me. The Nexus 7’s “Jelly Bean” UI is every bit as smooth and responsive as iOS, the physical device is a delight to hold and use, and the operating system itself finally feels both polished and robust.

These improvements won’t solve Android’s inherent device fragmentation problems, but I think the buzz Google has created by so successfully launching a slick, affordable 7-inch tablet will go a long way towards attracting high-quality tablet apps to their app store. (There are still relatively few tablet-optimised Android apps available, but it’s reassuring that Google Play is making it easier than ever to find them. I’ve been particularly impressed with Evernote, Instapaper and Plume so far.)

Will the Nexus 7 take a sizable bite out of Apple’s enormous tablet market share? It’s too early to say. My hunch is that we’ll see Android grow as iOS developers port their apps for Nexus 7 users, but if Apple reply with a cheap 7-inch iPad before Android tablets gain momentum, the strength of Apple’s app ecosystem will continue to make it tough for Android.

May all of the good products win!

(Also: Google/ASUS should take packaging lessons from Apple. Liberating my Nexus 7 from its box required surgery to the box ;) )