Google Nexus 7: Software
The Nexus 7 brings with it the latest version of Android, this time it's called 4.1 Jelly Bean, an incremental update to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. See also: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean FAQ: What you need to know.
There's no major overhaul of the interface so existing Android users will be immediately familiar with the layout and the way things work. However, Google has improved the performance and responsiveness of the operating system. In a word it's slick, a polished and refined version of Ice Cream Sandwich and finally closes the gap between Android and iOS.
We experienced no lag whatsoever across the entire tablet whether we were moving around the home screens, menus or scrolling through a video. Web surfing with the pre-loaded Chrome browser also gave smooth performance, loading pages fast and not batting an eyelid at pinch zooming or scrolling.
Nice enhancements have been made to notifications, now shown in a drop down bar again. Some of which expand to show more information and allow you to respond via action buttons without opening the associated app. For example, the Gmail notifications group emails together and can show the subject line of each.
Widgets now resize automatically to the space you place them into while app shortcuts, and other widgets, rearrange themselves if you place a widget over the top. There isn't a great deal of pre-loaded widgets to choose from but the Play Store has plenty on offer.
The one issue we had with the interface on the Nexus 7 was that the home screens don't support a landscape mode. The tablet is designed to be held in portrait orientation but we still would like the option to use it in landscape mode as well.
Dictation can now be used offline and there are a number of improvements and changes to Google search. Search results are displayed in information cards and you can use voice to ask questions and get answers back in an audible voice, like Apple's Siri.
We found the voice recognition understood the vast majority of questions we asked and gave us an answer quickly as well as providing excellent accuracy for dictating emails and such.
Google Now is the main feature of Jelly Bean and aims to be a step ahead by predicting what information you will need, such as directions or train times so you don't actually need to manually search for it. It will gather what it thinks is useful information and presents it neatly in separate cards.
The feature is accessible via the lock screen, by swiping up from the bottom of the screen at any time or by holding the home button and selecting the Google icon. We found it really handy since it gives you all the kind of information you would usually search for with additional suggestions such as local attractions based on your location. Its downfall is the need for an internet connection meaning when you're out and about you'll have to tether it to your phone.
Probably the biggest issue with 4.1 Jelly Bean is the lack of Flash support. This means you can't, for example, watch Flash-based video content on websites like PC Advisor and while you wait for update to the BBC iPlayer app you can't access it via the Chrome browser. Until content providers move away from Flash, the Nexus 7 will be somewhat limiting.
Google Nexus 7: Battery life
Google touts an iPad matching 10 hours of battery life while browsing the web over Wi-Fi using the Nexus 7's 16Wh battery. In our tests the Nexus 7 lasted two and a half days' worth of use involving regular periods of use connected to Wi-Fi.
We were pleased with this result after using the Nexus 7 for a variety of tasks. Like with most smartphones and tablets, the screen used the majority of the juice.