If it feels like we’ve all been talking about the new Nexus 7 and Android 4.3 for months, it’s because we have. Rumors and leaked details of both have been flowing since April, if not sooner, but now we can all put the rumors to rest: This week finally saw both Google’s new small slate and the latest version of Android on Nexus devices.
Both were introduced this week at a press event with Sundar Pichai, SVP of Chrome and Apps at Google, on Wednesday morning. This year’s Nexus 7 is priced a smidge higher than last years tablet — a 16 GB Wi-Fi model costs $229 v. $199 for the prior edition — but based on my initial impressions of the Nexus 7, the added cost is well worth it.
The 1920 x 1200 display may be the biggest improvement and it’s the best 7-inch screen I’ve seen on any device yet. The tablet ships with Android 4.3 and includes 2 GB of memory; paired with a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro the performance is zippy. The addition of a 5 megapixel camera is welcome and it’s not a bad sensor: Your smartphone likely shoots better images, but this camera isn’t that bad. Sound is much improved as well with a second speaker and support for surround sound.
About the only issue I have with the new Nexus 7 is the large bezel above and below the display when held in portrait mode. That’s just personal preference, really and it’s only because it looks silly to me. Hold the Nexus 7 in landscape mode for movies or games, however, and it makes sense because the device is easier to hold. Overall, I can’t find a major flaw or feature omission in the device, which is already available in retail stores.
As mentioned, Android 4.3 is on the Nexus 7 and the software is also being released to Google Nexus devices in a phased roll-out. The Google Experience devices will see the update “soon” although no details on timing were shared this week. That’s a bit disappointing but since the kernels on those devices were built by the handset makers (Samsung and HTC), there’s likely extra work to be done.
So what’s in Android 4.3? Not many changes that users will see. Depending on device capabilities, Android 4.3 OpenGL ES 3.0, allowing developers to create apps with improved graphics. Bluetooth Smart support is also included — that will come in handy for Android phones and tablets to work more efficiently with wearable devices — and the supported Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 profile enhances remote media controls and can show media metadata.
Restricted profiles are included with the new software so multiple users can share a tablet but not see each other’s data or apps. You can even limit the allowed features and functions within in app, which could pose interesting challenges to developers. And the new Wi-Fi Scan Only mode lets location-based apps temporarily use Wi-Fi to complement GPS data without the user having to enable the Wi-Fi radio.