After playing with the Nexus 7 this evening, I think there are more questions that I have than answers. First and foremost, I'm an iOS geek and haven't really spent a ton of time with Android. There are a number of reasons for this, but at its core I haven't found Android to be as compelling--both from a consumer and development perspective.
I ordered a Nexus 7 because I have found the 'phablet' form factor to be interesting just because it grants greater real estate than what a phone currently offers, but isn't as bulky as a 10" iPad. Not that the iPad is a problem carrying around, per se, but the Nexus 7 is something in between.
I think it's worth repeating, but it's really, really hard to be objective. There are so many things that I feel iOS does well that are really, truly fundamental to the mobile computing experience that for some reason Android just hasn't mastered. I think it directly points to the foundational flaws in the Android OS, but why can't we get smooth scrolling? If Jelly Bean is the pinnacle of Google's operating system and we have some fairly decent hardware, why, oh why can't I scroll down an item list without it being all herky-jerky? Why can't I double tap on a paragraph on a web page and have it zoom smoothly in?
Something new to me is this whole concept of widgets: little mini-apps that live on your home screen with limited functionality. These have been nothing but annoying to me, at least the ones that come preinstalled. There's a "My Library" widget that stores a number of pre-installed media items, like music, magazines, and movies, but I can't remove it. I don't want it on my screen, but Google has seen fit to make sure it's there, a reminder that they have gifted me those things. I can't arbitrarily add things, like apps, to it. They also show recommended media and apps, which IMO are glorified advertisements on home screen. Can't remove those, either. (If I could figure out how to take a screenshot, I'd toss one in, but...)
Coming from an iOS background, I find the OS very confusing and impersonal.
The hardware is pretty slick. The front face reminds me of...an iPad?, only smaller and sans a home screen button. There is a front facing camera so that I can unlock it with my face (fun gimmick, BTW), but no rear facing camera. The headphone jack is on the bottom of the device, which I actually like, as is the micro-USB connector. There's a speaker grill on the back that is centered on the bottom of the device, but is pretty weak like the iPad. The backing is made of a textured, non-slip material and is comfortable to hold. The Kindle Fire can't hold a candle to the Nexus 7 in this regard.
I have two things that I really, really dislike about the Nexus 7 hardware wise. First, the power and volume buttons. I'm glad that there is a hardware volume rocker, but it has the same shape and texture of the power button right next to it. I accidentally turned my device off several times because I kept hitting the power button. Bad experience.
Second, I feel that the display is complete, utter garbage. Obviously, Google isn't going to pack a Retina-like display in a cheap device like this, but the color seems off and gradients look truly awful. The first generation iPad did not look this poor.
I'm still learning the user ins-and-outs of how Android works, but the one thing that kept lingering in my mind was this: Is this the best Google could do? This was their first foray into the tablet space and this is how they chose to leave their mark? I think Samsung has done far better, but even they have fallen short of the gold standard.
If you're still holding your breath for a good tablet in a small form factor, I don't think this one is it. Amazon is supposedly going to be releasing a refresh to the Fire within a couple of months, but I wouldn't get my hopes up, either. The Nexus 7 is a decent product, but falls far, far short of where it needs to be to compete in any fashion with the iPad. There is no grading on a curve here.
Follow-up 31 JUL 8:45:33pm
After even more use I find that the Nexus 7 has a nice strong point for reading content (pretty much Instapaper), but it has one flaw that pretty much ruins it for doing something as simple as a typing a blog post. Consider the keyboard layout and soft-keys below it. Any guess what happens when I do some extensive typing on Android???
That's right, I frequently find myself being exited out of my apps. It's an infuriating experience and extremely disruptive to trying to lay down complete thoughts. This a an absurd usability problem and since this is a system-wide 'feature' there's really not a good way to solve this. Fail.