I really want to love this Nexus7, but I didn't set out to buy a "fixer upper."
Let me just start off with a tiny bit of background. The first thought that many people will have when reading that headline is that I must be some kind of Apple fan-boy. I would counter that with some personal history.
I love Linux. Or rather, I love Linux in certain situations. I've used it quite extensively for years, both in desktop and server functions. I've built web servers, mail servers, DNS servers, and file storage. I've waded through the dependency tangles on the desktop and fought to get the wireless working on many many laptops. (Remember the Broadcom wrapper installation procedure? I do.) When I had a web design studio, I used Linux exclusively on my machines for roughly a year.
However, I found that when it came to daily functional use, I was spending more time making the system work than I was working at the system. With Linux, I always had some issue for which I would have to find a workaround. Ultimately, I decided that unless I was putting together a purpose-built server, I was wasting too much time tinkering with the OS.
When Android surfaced, I saw a brilliant opportunity for purpose-built devices on open-source software to excel and kick some serious butt. I ran out and bought a Nook Color and rooted it. After a week or two of playing with it, I was again finding that I spent more time getting it to work than I did actually getting to use it.
I figured it was probably just because this device wasn't intended to be used with stock Android. I had rooted it, after all. On top of that, I found the applications for the device to be all over the place in terms of quality or function, or even resolution (more on this later). I found very similar experiences with the handful of Android devices I had to support while I was an IT administrator for several years.
Around this time, I bought a first generation, used iPad for my kids to play with. It has functioned completely flawlessly and still does to this day. Every "app" I buy for it functions as advertised, and they are all designed for this exact piece of hardware, though I understand it is possible to run iPhone apps on the device. I have had zero hardware bugs.
I recently found myself in need of a portable system for writing while I travel, so I started shopping around. I was immediately drawn to the the Nexus7 v2. This thing is a piece of beauty with its amazingly high-resolution screen, thin and light construction, and fantastic battery. Google has put a lot of work into the Play store in the last couple years, which really gave me hope for the application issues. I bought one and did it happily. That part of me that hates being mainstream rejoiced in the ability to figuratively give the finger to the big evil corporation of Apple.
Today, I'm returning it and getting an iPad. No single issue has led me to this point, but rather, a collection of small annoyances has outweighed my desire to have an Android device.
1. Bluetooth is broken.
My intention was to buy a tablet for writing while I travel. I imagined myself propping this thing up in an airport or hotel room, connecting my Bluetooth keyboard, and typing away happily. Unfortunately, what I found was that Android 4.3 (what comes on the Nexus7), has an issue rendering most Bluetooth keyboards completely incapable of functioning.
I couldn't believe it. This seems like it would be a really big deal, but it is yet unresolved. A quick Google search finds that I'm not alone in this. You begin typing and the keyboard goes nuts repeating characters until it decides to stop.
2. Applications suffering from hardware fragmentation.
Google has worked really hard on the play store. I booted it up and it looked fantastic. Things were clearly labelled and buying things was fantastically easy. However, I still found that some applications were just the cellphone versions scaled up. While it doesn't take much effort to uninstall a cruddy app and hunt down another, it is still incredibly annoying. I also downloaded a couple games that crashed when I attempted to run them. I understand that this is because tons of Android devices are out there and it is impossible to build software that will work flawlessly on all of them.
3. Bugginess in both the OS and the applications
This is the biggest annoyance. The touchscreen has decided to become unresponsive at least once a day since I bought it. It will be working fine, but then suddenly finger touches don't count. I have to hold my finger in place for a second for it to register, then sometimes it will register it as multiple touches. A quick reboot fixes the problem, but that is a pain in the butt when you're trying to carry out a task.
When the tablet reboots, it goes through the process of bringing up the lock screen. I don't know about the others out there, but mine does not cleanly transition from boot sequence to lock screen, there is a flickery mess that happens. This is in no way hindering me from carrying out a task, but rather is just another notch in the "this doesn't feel completed" column.
I realize that this isn't necessarily the fault of Android, but my Netflix application has become completely unresponsive several times in the past two weeks. I have uninstalled it and re-installed it, which fixed the issue (twice). Again, not a show stopper, but a pain in the butt. Did I mention that you can't watch Amazon streaming video on it? Well, theoretically you can if you root it and install some unsupported software (which still didn't work on mine), but out of the box you can'y.
I am hoping that I got a lemon. I've owned this thing roughly two weeks and I now have a nasty dead column in the middle of my screen. It isn't completely dead, it inverts colors from elsewhere. If it had worked flawlessly for a year I could almost overlook something like this, but it is two weeks old and already carrying the baggage of the annoyances listed above.
I actually want to love this thing. It is sleek, feels good in my hand, and has a vivid and colorful screen. The sound quality is good, the battery is good, and Android is so close to being something I would hand to my grandmother with confidence. When applications work they are fast, and there's no lag in navigation at all. If I were one of those guys who had to write a review after an hour of hands-on time, I'd be gushing over this thing.
However, I'm faced with the following issues right now:
I can't work on it (I'm not writing a 1,000 word article with the admittedly nice on screen keyboard).
I can't count on it to work correctly when I pick it up.
I really hope that Google digs in and refines this product. I would love to see even half of these problems worked out. I've decided that I'm not in the market for a "fixer upper" right now. I need a device that will actually just do these things. I'll get an iPad and just accept that maybe I'm not one of the cool kids (in my crowd at least).
"and While techy guys like you or me were fixing issues on low quality products, the whole world learned how to enjoy their high quality phones/tablets with thousnads of apps poured in the market,"
yep, that right there. I still get a little excited installing linux on a machine knowing that I'm going to have all these little problems to reasearch and fix. It is actually part of the fun. However, that just isn't practical on something that I need to be able to whip out and work on.
Like said, after using both Android and iOS right from the start, as a mobile software developer, my first feeling was to say "Great article Caleb, that's exactly how things go, Android is buggy and iOS is nicely polished and working flawlessly".
However the comparison between the two is a bit stretched, and the results are a bit irrelevant, here's why:
Android is an open source platform. Google doesn't impose major guidelines to manufacturers so the total freedom results both in a lot of creativity (we see android running on endless devices of all kinds) but also a lot of fragmentation and problems when porting applications (the screen size is a minor one, as there are a lot more)
On the other hand, Apple carefully designes just a few hardware devices, carefully controls the production and then is also able to control in every details the way their final product works and feels. Do we want that? Maybe we do: as said, iOS will preform flawlessly and all applications including the OS will show little bugs and issues.
But... we love hacks, don't we Caleb? Having the platform open source not only allows us to hack into the OS and extend it to our needs, but we are even free to correct the so-called bugs and push updates if we want so.
You'll never get this freedom in the iOS world. So we get it simple and nice, or we get in complex but then we must be prepared to face the consequences: in a more complex system there can be bugs, issues and glitches but at least it's open source and we have a chance of changing something.
The ones which worked perfectly for me, were all made by Apple. S3, when I got it from my carrier, was loaded with bloatware and made me want to stomp on it. You always have to tune this & that to make it work properly. All the 5 Apple devices I had, combined crashed on me, may be less than 10-20 times in 3-4 years. While S3 alone crashed on me atleast 200 times in the 8 months I used it. Though I like the several added features in Android(swype, digitiser pen, larger screen), If I want something reliable I will always pick Apple.
I totally hear you Caleb, wearing the IT admin hat as the main or occasional responsibility.
I too never liked the idea of beiing controlled by an application (iTune) and not being able to manage my files, HW resources, etc.,and since it was not cool to use an end-user type device from Apple, I avoided that for a long time.
However, after some years of super successful market for iPhone, iPad, and other iThings, I came to belive that Apple is doing somethin right and one of them is to deliver what is advertised\promised in their product. I know many average iPhone, ipad end-users from all ages and background whom their only problem that I have heard they had were caused by physical or water damages and everything is so simple that they can all manage it without any deep technical knowledge.
and While techy guys like you or me were fixing issues on low quality products, the whole world learned how to enjoy their high quality phones/tablets with thousnads of apps poured in the market, hope to hear your feedback again after you adopted to your new ipad.
I really just can't afford to spend all my time making it work and researching the workarounds. I have gotten a lot of responses like... you could root it and then load a custom bluetooth driver to see if that helps... or you could hunt down and buy this one keyboard which we've heard still works...
nope, give me the product that does what it says it will do on the box. thanks.
I spent many of the PC years fighting with BSOD issues, driver issues, etc., and was often envious of those who bought the expensive desktop machine from that other company and claimed that it always "just works." Back then I was willing to invest a fair amount of my time troubleshooting & fixing software issues because I convinced myself that the money I saved was worth some of my time.
But when the tablet era arrived, I bought one from that other company -- primarily because they happened to be out there first -- and the thing has worked flawlessly ever since. I think I have gotten spoiled now, and have no desire to go back to hackerware, or uninstalling & reinstalling software to see if I can get it to work again, or delving into the nuances of BT or WiFi simply because the thing randomly stops connecting to a network to which it used to connect.
The hardware is first rate in all of these devices and it's rare to encounter an actual hardware problem. But until I'm convinced that software is as universally robust among the various mobile platforms, I'm content to stick with something that "just works."