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The Nexus 7 2 and the Android tablet-usage gap

The Kindle Fire first defined the shitty-7-inch-tablet-for-$200 category. Last year’s Nexus 7 showed the world that it was possible to hit the same price point while shipping something halfway decent, but it hasn’t aged well even after just one year.

Here’s hoping its new successor ages better. The screen sounds great, at least:

The tablet’s specifications are largely in line with recent speculation: its 7-inch screen has an increased resolution of 1920×1200, retaining the previous tablet’s 16:10 aspect ratio.

While I don’t care for such a skinny aspect ratio at that size, I’d love to see a pixel density like that on the iPad Mini.

As we know with the iPad 3 and 4, high-DPI tablets to date have needed to make substantial trade-offs to drive those panels. The results have been mixed at best: the Retina iPads are bulky and (relatively) expensive, and most high-DPI Android tablets have suffered from poor GPU performance or other issues.

Just as the first Nexus 7 showed that a previously terrible category could be done better, I wonder what the new Nexus 7 will tell us about the feasibility of a Retina iPad Mini this year.

Also, Google is claiming that half of all tablets sold so far in 2013 run Android. John Gruber asks a great question:

I’m curious how Google squares these claims with all the usage share numbers that show Android tablets at far below 50 percent. Either the usage share numbers are wrong, or people just don’t use the Android tablets they buy.

John Moltz gave the best answer I’ve seen:

…if you were not entirely committed to tablet computing, wouldn’t you be likely to buy the cheapest tablet available? And when the user experience doesn’t wow you, you tend not to use it. It’s obviously not like that for everyone but I wonder if that doesn’t explain some of this.

Another potential contributing factor: I’ve often heard from people who bought Nexus 7s or Kindle Fires as cheap tablets to give others, usually their children, spouses, parents, or grandparents. Children are less likely to show up in web-browsing and e-commerce marketshare surveys, and giving cheap tablets to adults who didn’t already use tablets on their own — and therefore aren’t necessarily committed to using them — might increase the chances of them being used very lightly or abandoned.

I own two 7” Android tablets — one shitty Kindle Fire and one halfway decent Nexus 7.1 I bought both primarily for Instapaper testing and secondarily “to play around with.” Granted, I’m not the typical user, but they’ve both sat in my closet, unused, since a couple of weeks after getting each. I bet this story is common among geeks like me, at least.

I’d be tempted to get the new Nexus 7 “to play around with”, but last year’s model sitting in my closet2 reminding me I’ll never use it is a very effective deterrent.


  1. I previously owned a shitty Nook Tablet as well, also for Instapaper testing, but have since sold it (lol) for almost nothing.

    Still, that’s three Android tablets sold to someone who isn’t even an Android user. Sure, I’m an edge case. But add up enough of these edge cases and you start to explain the huge gap between claimed marketshare and real-world usage. 

  2. I offered to give my Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire to Betaworks in the Instapaper acquisition, but they had so many of both sitting around already that they declined. Tech companies with mobile apps can practically tile walls with outdated Android devices. They’re the new AOL CDs. 

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