I recently bought a Nexus 7 tablet mainly to show stored photographs to Longwood Gardens visitors, but that alone seemed extravagant, so I was looking for additional uses. Sure enough, like so many others, I have already found I am feeling lost without having it constantly nearby.
The Nexus is marketed by Google and much of it is oriented to Google, which I find to be an advantage. The “7” refers to its small 7-inch size, which is just right for me. A larger 10-inch tablet would be more cumbersome to carry around. The Nexus 7 has an unusually high resolution screen. At only $269 for the 32 GB, WiFi only, model, I suspect Google is barely breaking even on the cost.
It has a long learning curve, and I still do not have everything working properly, so be warned if you are easily frustrated by computers. It is much like having a portable laptop computer, but everything is an app (application) that has to be individually learned. I have 37 of them loaded on mine. They are readily available for downloading from the Google Store and they install automatically. All of mine are free and easily uninstalled if I find I do not use them.
I almost immediately realized I needed a case for the Nexus. The screen may still break if dropped, but the case gives it some protection. But more importantly, the case quickly turns it on and off. The Nexus has a magnetic sensor built in, and the cover of the case has a hidden magnet. Open the cover like a book and the tablet instantly wakes up. Close the cover and it goes back to sleep. Very handy. The case folds back to form a stand so the tablet can stay on indefinitely (powered by the charger), displaying a clock or a photo slideshow. Like smartphones, you can orient the display by turning it 90 degrees.
A tablet is a portable source of information. What sort of things would you want to know as you move through your day? The time and date, of course, and this appears on the opening screen. The weather, and this, too, is on the opening screen. Details and a weather map are a tap or two away. Where am I? It has a very good GPS that shows where you are on a Google map. If I ask to find Chinese restaurants, it shows me those near wherever I am, not my home address (provided I am connected to the Internet via a WiFi hotspot). What’s my schedule today? It will show you and even sound an alarm as a reminder.
Speaking of the GPS, I downloaded an app on my desktop computer that will show me on a map where the tablet is, like if I left it at Longwood Gardens. If it was misplaced around my house somewhere (very likely) I could cause it to ring. If it was stolen, not only would it show its location, I could, from my desktop, lock it and erase any sensitive files. Of course, it would have to be connected to a WiFi account, as it would be at Longwood Gardens. I do not have a cell phone account, so I did not get the Nexus model that would also connect that way. I expect a thief would eventually connect it to WiFi, and then I would have him (or her). I admit it would be more satisfying to watch my stolen Nexus move along I-95 on a map, but that should never happen, anyway.
It has two built-in cameras, front and rear facing. I have only tried the front facing, and it is surprisingly good for casual snapshots. It has no flash, but it sees pretty much what I see. The rear facing camera is not as accurate and would be used as a selfie for something like a Skype call.
But the main use for me is reading the many books and Word documents I have stored on it without needing a WiFi connection. These are things I would normally read on my desktop computer, but now I can read them in bed, in the backyard, on the SEPTA train to Philly—anywhere. In bed I can dim the screen and read in the dark without disturbing my sleeping wife. I can lock the screen in portrait position and read lying on my side. I can bookmark any number of pages to review later. This alone would be worth the cost for many readers.
It is like carrying a library with you. The USB cable that charges it also plugs into my desktop computer so I can download photos, music, or any documents I have stored there. The 32 GB of storage on the Nexus is plenty. An online dictionary and Google search are readily accessible as I read. It will even read for me, very accurately although in a flat, computer voice. I tried it, but don’t generally use it because I doze off too quickly. I am thinking of trying it on an exercise bike at the fitness center.
Many people find typing difficult, and for them a built-in microphone converts speech to text. That, too, works very well. At the Google Now screen, all I need to say is “Okay, Google,” to turn on the microphone feature, then say whatever I am searching for. It recently understood “Edi Amin Dada,” which I thought pretty amazing. I couldn’t even spell it. It brought up the search results on the screen and even started reading them to me.
I quickly became aware of those uses that are from the Internet and require a WiFi connection, and those that do not. For example, a local GPS map is stored in the Nexus, but if I were to travel to a distant city, I would need to download that GPS map beforehand or find a WiFi hotspot once I got there.
If I need to enter data, the apps will bring up a screen keyboard that I can type on with my thumbs. If I often had things to type, I could buy a real keyboard that would wirelessly connect to the Nexus by Bluetooth. Swiping on the screen took getting used to, but I admit it works well on a mobile device where a mouse would be impractical. In all of my 50 years of computer experience, touching the screen was an anathema that always left a fingerprint. It still does, and I keep a microfiber cloth tucked inside the Nexus case to frequently clean it. Eventually, I will get used to seeing the smudges, but not yet.
Google’s Chrome browser is already loaded on, so I can access anything on the Internet as I normally would, but I usually use a special app for each location that formats the display for the smaller screen. YouTube, now owned by Google, is a preloaded app. Google Earth is also preloaded, so give me your address and I can bring up a street view of your house, maybe with you in it (my house photo caught me in the front yard trimming a shrub).
Google is clearly aiming for everyone to be dependent on their services throughout the day. Suits me. I may never get out of bed again.