We're only a few weeks away from the grand unveiling of Google's Nexus tablet, which will supposedly cost somewhere around $150-$250. The device it should help Google's Android get a higher percentage of the tablet market share. So far, Google hasn't been very aggressive in making Android tablets a real threat to the iPad, in part because they got the pricing wrong from the very beginning, and also because they never really pushed to form a rich ecosystem of applications.
That was a big mistake – instead of tackling the problem head-on and going after developers to make tablet-optimized apps, they kind of threw the towel and said “we already have hundreds of thousands of phone applications and they will scale well!”. While many of them do scale pretty well, there are some apps that really need a tablet optimized version that can take full advantage of the screen real estate to look good. I think Google is awfully late at trying to be aggressive about the tablet market, but better late than never, right?
Today, we've got word about an entry in Rightware’s Basemark ES 2.0 Taiji benchmark. Here's the entry, and below, what we can make of it.
“model”: “Nexus 7″,
“display”: “XXXXXX-userdebug 4.1 JRN51B 3XXXXX dev-keys”,
The upcoming Nexus 7 tablet, according to the latest rumors, will feature a 1280×768 resolution and a quad core 1.3 Ghz Tegra 3 processor (probably the very same one as in the Transformer Prime).
First of all, I'm glad that this tablet will have an “HD” resolution, because unless the tablet costs $100 or less and is aimed at the very bottom of the market, there's absolutely no reason why we should see a 7-inch tablet with a resolution lower than HD anymore.
Now, the part that makes me really frustrated with Google, is that, once again, they are changing the default screen resolutions on developers. This has got to stop! We have resolutions that range from 320:240, which is a 1.33 ratio (height:width) to 1.77 (16:9), and everything in between. Can't they just decide on 16:9 or 16:10 already and make sure every resolution they adopt has the same ratio, allowing apps can to seamlessly scale from a lower resolution to a higher one? Is it really that hard?
Why do we keep going back and forth from 1280×720 to 1280×800 and now to 1280×768. This may sound like nitpicking, but this is the kind of attention to detail that have made Apple products great. If Google wants to make great hardware, they need to learn to pay attention to the small things, and design their products in a logical and elegant way.
I realize why they moved to 1280×768 over 1280×800 this time, because the bottom bar for the buttons is 48px, and 720+48=768. Basically they wanted a full 720p resolution for the videos, and keep 48px at the bottom for the buttons. Still, this could be fixed by making different design decisions for the UI, like replacing the buttons with gestures, or making the buttons appear on top of the screen when you tap in the middle of the screen, and so on.
I'm also quite sure the 10-inch tablets will be stuck with the 16:10 compatible resolutions like 1280×800, 1920×1200, and so on, which makes the whole thing even more frustrating. They aren't even “replacing” the old ratio, they are just adding a whole new one, for not a very good reason.
Moving on to this particular Nexus 7 tablet, it's supposed to run JellyBean, also called Android 4.1. Some may have expected it to be Android 5.0, but as soon as we knew about Google’s plan to launch multiple Nexus devices with multiple manufacturers this fall, it became pretty obvious that JellyBean will be different from Android 5.0.
The major dot-oh versions have always been released in the fall, in time for Android's anniversary (it was launched in fall 2007). The one exception was Gingerbread and Honeycomb, but in that case, the situation was a mess, because Google couldn't unify the tablet UI and phone UI in time for that launch, which is why they had two teams working in parallel.
So, Android 5.0 will launch this fall with those multiple Nexus devices, while JellyBean will launch with this Nexus 7 tablet, because Google needed something new to showcase on its brand new tablet and make it more exciting than just putting the same old ICS on it.
Speaking of different UIs, JellyBean might have quite a different UI. Rumors say that it will have a home screen for different things you can do with the tablet. For example one home screen could be all about books, one all about videos and movies, one about apps, one about games, and so on. This is an interesting ideas, and it's probably more than some full screen widgets, although that could still be all there is to it. But I think Google will take another go at making an intuitive and productive UI for their tablets.
My question is, will this new interface transition to 10-inch tablets as well, and how will this reflect on the phone version of JellyBean? Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Google take advantage of their advanced widgets. So far they've been mainly an afterthought for Google, and they haven't really used them as an integral part of the interface. But it also could be something completely different, so we won't know for sure until Google I/O, or more revealing leaks appear.