Nexus 7 Obsession

It has been a while since I talked about my mobile devices, just a bit over a year. You could say that I have happily realized everything for which I bought my Nexus 7. To address my sole complaint at the time, I even upgraded to the 32GB model when that came out. When I bought the 2nd generation model when that came out, too, well then I may have been given in to a bit of an obsession. In my defense, I only bought the two successive upgrades after arranging to sell the old ones so that they’d avoid the landfill and I was only paying an incremental cost.

Having lived with just about every model of this device, except the fully mobile data enabled ones, I have a few thoughts I want to share, about the devices themselves, an emerging concern, and a bit of an obligatory review though not for the tablets themselves.

Having such a strong relapse of my old gadget obsession is a pretty solid endorsement of these devices, for starters. The Android OS has come a long way, in terms of fit and finish, so much so that while I have been tempted on non-Google experience devices to try an aftermarket firmware like CyanogenMod, I have not felt that same urge with the Nexus 7. Everything just works and the experience is seamless.

Unlike the popular, fruit themed alternative, that extends to my ability to run open source apps and services and have them integrate very well into the overall device. I have another long overdue post in mind discussing my reasons for moving away from some Google services to alternatives that I control, specifically for data where on principle I would be upset or concerned if Google received a demand for that data.

I actually wasn’t going to buy the third tablet in this compulsive series. On paper, it seemed like a truly marginal improvement over an already stellar device in the first generation incarnation. When I mentioned selling my old devices, what I ended up doing was using them as part of teaching my kids responsible technology ownership. I have been supporting both in cultivating good spending and saving habits. After depreciating even relatively new devices considerably, they proved to be approachable and attractive rewards for their efforts.

Well, I should say, I did this with the first tablet with my older son who had been working on his responsible personal finance skills longer. When the 2nd generation Nexus 7 came out, I was tempted but figured I could wait until I had gotten a much greater use out of my 2nd tablet. That was the plan, until I realized that my younger son still had the oldest hand me down tech in the house, was learning the same lessons about responsibility, and it would simply be more fair to offer him the same deal, which just would happen to offset the cost of a new tablet for me enough to make it more of an impulse decision.

That’s what I tell myself.

Now comes the reservation, in the form of a thought provoking piece by Ron Armadeo on Ars Technica. It is well worth the read, the whole thing. With Microsoft buying Nokia, rumors of a buyout of Blackberry, and at this point everything but iOS and Android pretty being an also ran, the thought of Google following Apple’s lead into a more tightly controlled roadmap is chilling. It bears watching as Google has frustrated me before with similar turns away from the more open origins of several of its projects. Unlike iOS, at least there are still a few viable alternatives for the truly dedicated who wish to take a stand on the extension of the principle of user control from data to full devices.

And not to close this post, the obligatory bit, in the form of a quick product review.

I generally am skeptical of cases for my gadgets. I’d much prefer that they be able to withstand ordinary use well enough on their own, if not accrue an attractive patina over time. Silly but I really like the idea and I think it has actually been key to my otherwise much more staid approach to gadgets in recent years.

Unfortunately, the original Nexus 7 really did need a case. The gray plastic on the bezel was prone to scratches and the soft, leather like back did manage to get a nick or two, even in the short time I had each model of the 1st generation.

I tried a keyboard case but gave up on that as its lesser build quality saw it discolor in a way that made it obviously no longer match the device. The way it fit onto the tablet, it also was starting to lightly scratch the merely resistant screen. I tried a slim-line leather or leather-like case, which worked well until the piece holding the cover started to fray. For the 1st generation, the best case I tried was the stock one offered by Google in their own store. It fit snugly, it didn’t add any stress on the tablet itself, and it held up well. The cover was not a smart cover, nor did it quite work to prop the tablet up, but just to keep the tablet in good shape floating around in my bag, it fit the bill.

There is a similar case for the 2nd generation but I didn’t get that, I wanted something a little smarter, to go back and try a few more options. The build quality of the 2nd generation seemed to be higher, anyway, with the nick prone gray bezel replaced with a tougher black plastic piece. Even the grippy back seemed more like a durable rubber rather than a patterned leather so far less prone to scuffing.

While considering my options, I received an email from a case maker, The Snugg. I am not sure their press person actually read very deeply on my site because they initially offered me an iPad or iPhone case for review. I asked if they’d send me their case for the 2nd generation Nexus 7. After looking it over, it fit my policy of only accepting items for review that I might buy anyway on my own.

Despite sending me a color other than the one I requested, I tried it out for a few weeks. The short takeaway is that I would have happily bought this on my own. Unlike the last case in this style that I tried that frayed after a few weeks, the construction quality on The Snugg is quite high. The cover is a smart cover, triggering the sensor that matches the devices wake and sleep functions to opening and closing the cover. There are also a couple of magnets that help secure the lid when it is closed but gently so that it is still easy to flip open when fumbling for the devices on a crowded train for my usual commute reading. There is even an elastic strap built into the back that sits away flush when not in use but can be used to help hang on when using the tablet one handed.

My sole complaint with the case isn’t a problem with The Snugg per se but this style in general. The construction and choice of material means it is a tad on the bulky side. That can be attractive, if you want something with an excellent executive style, like an old school leather folio. The combination of that, though, and the very thin bevel on the long sides of the Nexus 7 made using the full screen, such as with the vast array of indie games I have accrued via the Humble Bundles, a bit frustrating at times.

Ultimately, just because of my personal preference and past experience, I bought the new Google designed case. If like me you want something a bit more snug in the hand and in your bag, this is a good choice. The cover is not a smart cover though despite the marketing text in the ad description so bear that in mind. If you want something with a classic style and the smart cover is a must have, I can definitely recommend The Snugg.