Google’s Nexus 7 seems on track for its first annual refresh, with Reuters reporting that a new version of the 7-inch tablet will launch in July.
Citing two unnamed sources, Reuters says the new Android tablet will have a Qualcomm processor, a higher-resolution display (1920-by-1200 would be my guess) and a thinner bezel design. Once again Asus will be the manufacturer, and Google hopes to ship 8 million of the tablets in the second half of 2013, Reuters claims.
I use a Nexus 7 regularly, having bought the 16 GB version soon after it launched last summer. And while I have no regrets, there are certainly a handful of things that could use improvement. Here’s what I’d like to see in Google’s next Nexus 7 tablet:
More Storage Options
Although the first Nexus 7 managed to hit a $200 price point by offering just 8 GB of storage, Google quickly realized that most people want more. So last November, the company scrapped the 8 GB model, dropped the 16 GB model’s price to $200, and started selling a 32 GB model for $250. Why stop there? Let’s see a 64 GB Nexus 7 in the $300 range, for those who really need the extra space for movies, music or games. (A microSD card slot could be nice, but it’s unlikely as Google prefers built-in storage for Nexus devices.)
A Much Lighter Design
As someone who uses the Nexus 7 regularly, the first time I picked up an iPad Mini was a revelation. Apparently it’s possible to have a full-blown tablet that’s as easy to hold as an e-reader. And while I wouldn’t call the Nexus 7 heavy, it does start to weigh down on your hands and wrist during long reading sessions. Reuters reports that the next Nexus 7 will have thinner bezels around the screen, but that only makes sense if the tablet doesn’t require as much effort to grip. Let’s hope a lighter design is on the way.
Longer Battery Life
On paper, the Nexus 7’s battery stacks up well against the iPad with up to 10 hours of advertised use, but that’s not always the case in the real world. In my experience, playing high-end games can wipe out the Nexus 7’s battery in as little as a few hours, and 10 hours of web browsing seems like a very generous estimate. Standby is also an issue, as the Nexus 7 loses its charge much faster than the iPad when it’s not in use. I’ve gotten in the habit of charging my Nexus 7 every couple of nights regardless of runtime, whereas my iPad can sit untouched for a week and retain most of its battery life. According to Reuters, Google is switching from Nvidia to Qualcomm for the processor in the next Nexus 7 for “power reasons,” so perhaps the new chip will bring better battery life.
Double the RAM
The 1 GB of RAM inside the existing Nexus 7 isn’t always enough. Moving between apps is sometimes sluggish, and opening lots of browser tabs can grind the tablet down. Though I can’t be sure that memory is always the culprit, my guess is that a bump to 2 GB would make for a pleasant performance boost. It wouldn’t be unheard of, considering that most high-end smartphones are now shipping with 2 GB of RAM on board.
A Google-Branded Game Controller
Lately I’ve been using my Nexus 7 as a portable gaming machine, connecting a SteelSeries Free controller via Bluetooth and propping the console up in my lap with a Breffo SpiderPodium. It’s an fine setup, but I’d rather see something tailor-made for the Nexus 7 from Google, something like the attachable gamepad on the Razer Edge. This is a long shot, I know, but maybe it’s not so crazy in light of the sudden interest in Android gaming.
Support for External Displays and Miracast
On a related note, I wish the Nexus 7 could connect into a television or external monitor. That way, you could play games on the big screen or watch videos without needing another set-top box. Although the Nexus 7 has a microUSB port, it doesn’t support MHL which means you can’t connect a USB-to-HDMI adapter. And while Android now supports wireless screen mirroring to other Miracast-supported devices, Miracast isn’t supported on the existing Nexus 7. Whether wired or wireless, some way to connect to larger screens would be helpful.