Google recently roared onto the tablet stage with Nexus 7, an impressive Android tablet with a potentially bright future for educators. At less than half the price of Apple’s iPad, schools now have an exceptional tablet alternative. There is no doubt that Nexus 7 is positioned to crush a similar competitor, Amazon’s Kindle Fire. However, the disruption doesn’t stop there; Google’s tablet strongly competes with the iPad and, ultimately, offers a better value for struggling schools seeking affordable technology options.
Weighing in at a feathery 12 ounces, Nexus 7 is compact and smooth enough to easily slide into a back pocket. In spite of a diminutive build, it feels sturdy and durable. A dimpled, rubberized back mimics the feel of leather and provides a solid grip—ideal for preventing slips and drops. Unlike larger tablets, the Nexus 7 strikes an ergonomic balance between physical size and practical function. The unit is easy to carry and comfortable to use.
Power and volume rocker buttons are located on the top right of an otherwise button-free shell. Microphone and USB charge ports are located on the bottom as well as a speaker port. The scratch resistant screen is excellent; text and graphics are sharp; glare is minimal; and colors are bright and vivid. A front-facing camera stands ready for video conferencing or a fast profile picture update.
Performance-wise, Nexus 7 is stellar. A super-fast Quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 12-core Nvidia graphics chip fuel the hardware engine. In shorthand, this means Nexus 7 is a powerful tablet. Graphics-rich apps are highly responsive, HD video is silky smooth, and web pages are zippy. Internally, a GPS, gyroscope and accelerator are included features.
Battery life is a key concern for classrooms. Charging devices is a pain, and, in many schools, problematic due to power outlets being scarce or inconveniently located. Nexus 7’s battery life is exceptional. In my real-world testing, it easily sailed through over 10 hours of active use—ideal for classrooms where mid-day charging is a drag on instructional time.
Nexus 7 runs Google’s latest Android 4.1 operating system, code named Jelly Bean. Android is an open source system based on Linux. Guided by an open licence, developers are free to modify and reuse the Android system on mobile phones and other devices. Android may be found on hundreds of smartphones, netbooks, smart TVs, and other electronics. As the worldwide mobile system leader, Google reports over 400 million devices running Android, with nearly a million new activations every day.
The Android system has always been an exceptional mobile platform. However, Jelly Bean improves on past successes with a faster, smoother, and more personalized experience. One standout feature, Google Now, adapts to your custom habits and presents information based on your personal search and information request history.
In the mobile domain, apps are the keys to the kingdom; Nexus 7 unlocks the royal door. It is tightly integrated with Google Play, the Android mobile marketplace service for apps, books, music and movies. Similar to Apple’s iOS app store, Google Play currently boasts over 600,000 apps across a broad range of categories. To sweeten the deal, Nexus 7 tablet purchases include a $25.00 Play credit to help fill the new tablet. However, many high quality educational apps are free for Nexus 7. Plus, the vast majority of iOS apps are also available for Android. (I’ll feature some of the best Android apps in a future post.) In the meantime, check out the custom PM News app, our mobile district news app for your Android phone or tablet.
Although a myriad of tablet devices are on the market, the iPad has largely dominated popular educational technology discussions. Nexus 7 fundamentally changes the conversation and presents a serious alternative to the much more costly Apple tablet. Is an iPad considerably better than Nexus 7? And is it $300 better? The cost value proposition is a central concern for educational leaders seeking creative ways to stretch shrinking IT budgets. For $199, schools may purchase twice as many Nexus 7 units as iPads, thereby expanding the reach of technology devices to more students and classrooms. Nexus 7 may indeed be the droid that schools are looking for.
Update August 22, 2012: Check out 5 great education apps for Nexus 7.