Thursday, December 27, 2012

Unboxing the Nexus

For months, I’ve eyed my shoulder bag, filled with books and magazines, date books and expense books, camera and Mp3 player, Dutch dictionary and working notebooks. There must be a better way.  So, this Christmas, I worked with Santa to acquire a Google Nexus: 7” version, WiFi and 3G, 32 GB, ordered from the Google Play store.  

I chose the Nexus for it’s combination of apps, screen resolution, price, and performance.  Reading and movies are important but not enough, ruling out the Kindle, while the iPad mini seems expensive.  A 10” form factor, the Surface or regular iPad, offers little advantage over the netbook I usually carry.

So I’ve been playing with the new device for a couple of days now, and I really like it.  I haven’t fully crossed over to using it as a shoulder bag, but I’m making a full effort to be thee within a couple of weeks.

The device is bright and fast, pretty intuitive to operate and I like the touchscreen interface for everything except typing text.  The battery life is excellent: I can go most of the day without charging, and the WiFi connectivity seems seamless.  The ‘Live Tiles’ update more reliably than the Win8 tiles, and with better variety and configuration options, so I’ve actually started removing application shortcuts in favor of the little preview widgets.  I like the drag/swipe/resize touch controls, and it makes me think that I would like Win8 much better if I wasn’t constrained to using a mouse.

I need to get a cover for it, which has been hard to find: stores seem to stock for the iPad and Kindle, but never the Nexus.  A reasonably priced “Pay-as-you-go” data plan has also been elusive, running about 50 / month for reasonable support.  And international coverage is pretty much a lost cause.

I’m going to treat the Nexus as a content consumption device rather than a content creation one, so I’ve resisted the urge to hook up a keypad and run a file manager and shell script interpreter.  So that means loading and configuring apps.  There are lots of good recommendations on line for the best app for different purposes: here’s where I‘ve ended up so far:

  • Social Networking:  Facebook, LinkedIn, Plume for Twitter, Google+ al have wonderful live interfaces.  eMail in place of gMail is working well for aggregating mail and plays nice with Windows Live Mail on my other machines, sharing the cloud without deleting my messages.
  • News and Media:  The FT works nicely; the Economist doesn’t.  Stitcher and TuneIn for radio and podcasts.  Audible and Kindle for reading: Adobe Reader coupled with DropBox has brought my collections of .pdf’s within each without burdening the device memory. I’ve loaded media sources Zinio, Pandora and Netflix, but I haven’t played with them yet.
  • Travel:  Orbitz, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, Booking.com cove my usual sites.  NS, 9292, and National Rail all have apps for train schedules, OV and Oyster for (uselessly) managing your cards, but NL Train Navigator is really good, literally putting the station displays and delays in your hand. I’m still choosing among currency exchange rate calculators.  Delta’s app doesn’t work; Weather Clock is very nice.
  • Business:  Skype, of course, and I plan to experiment with receipt- and business card- scanners.  OneNote and Pocket for capturing thoughts and web pages respectively, and Documents to Go for reading Office files.  I need to get Calendar and Contacts resolved, but that is a much larger task.
  • Dutch:  Kranten en Tijdschiften NL gives all the dailies, but I haven’t found a satisfactory dictionary yet.  Google Translate works well, I need to find radio and video access so that I can stream in my practice media.  Rosetta doesn’t have a widget, so I’ll need to configure the college materials.
  • Misc:  Photo capture, edit, upload seems important and I’m fiddling with Snapseed and Pixlr without being convinced.  There is only a rear-facing 1+MPix camera: great for video-conferencing, but no substitute for snap-and-shoot.   The Flickr app is not compatible.
  • But I can still play Pocket Tanks and NetHack.

Further suggestions are welcome, of course 

The device feels nice in my hand and it take almost no space within a much smaller shoulder bag.  Overall, the reading / watching experience is very good (even for my 58 y/o eyes).  It’s nice to use around the house for email, browsing , and social media, but I’m not sure whether to take it to exercise for reading / listening on the bike.

And I’m really looking forward to seeing how it works on the road.

Disclaimer: I was neither asked to, nor paid to, use these products.  I choose and buy what I use, buying retail and paying retail, and write what I think, for better or worse.

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