Thursday, July 25, 2013

Google launches new Nexus 7 & TV streaming device

Google has launched a new Nexus 7 with an upgraded version of its Android operating system. The lighter, and slimmer device is said to be faster and more powerful than the first Nexus 7 which launched in 2012.

The new Asus-built device is slightly smaller [200×114×8.65 mm] compared to the first Nexus 7 [198.5×120×10.56 mm] though the screen area covers about the same area. It is also 50 grams lighter than the original Nexus 7, weighing in at 290 grams.

Aside of the physical attributes, it is the technical aspects which really shine through. The new device has a screen resolution higher than any in its class, boasting 323 pixels per inch. That is significantly higher than the iPad Mini's 163ppi and the 7" Kindle Fire HD's 216ppi. In fact the new Nexus 7 now has the world's highest resolution screen offering almost double the pixels per inch than the iPad mini despite being around £100 cheaper.

Given that it is priced much lower than its main competitors, Google could increase its market share even more than it has done thus far. However, there are some who feel that the new device will not necessarily see an increased take-up.

"I am not convinced that ordinary consumers will respond better to this tablet than the last one," said Jason Jenkins, from technology website CNET. "Apple has established such momentum, Google's real challenge isn't just making a better tablet than Apple, it's persuading ordinary people to care that it makes one at all."

Sharpest tablet yet

Nonetheless the new Nexus 7 tablet, both in price, technical specifications and adaptability, still rises above the competition [Comparison of tablet computers / ZDNet].

The 2nd generation Nexus 7 sports a 1.2 MP front-facing camera and a 5.0 MP rear-facing camera and supports 1080p video recording. It is based on a 1.5 GHz quad core Snapdragon S4 processor by Qualcomm, with 2 GB RAM.

While the technical specs are similar or comparable to Apple's iPad mini, it is Android which offers users greater flexibility.

Just as with Android 4.2, Android 4.3 allows users to create several accounts on the same device but also allows multi-user restricted profiles which is particularly useful for families as it allows access to limited content. Android 4.3 also adds Bluetooth Low-Energy support. In addition the tablet has Open GL-ES 3.0 which adds much improved graphics for games.

4G version

As well as a 16GB and 32 GB WiFi version there is also a 32 GB 4G LTE version, though this may only be available in the US for now [CNET].

As for the price, consumers will have to pay a little more than they did for the first Nexus 7. In the US the new Nexus 7 will cost $229 [£149] for the basic version with 16GB of storage. The 32GB WiFi model has been set at $269 [£175] and the 32GB LTE model at $349 [£227].

While no official prices have been announced, it has been reported that the price may be slightly higher when it becomes available in the UK on 13th September with a price of £199.99 for the 16GB WiFi only version and £239.99 for the 32GB WiFi version. If true, this may cause some ire amongst consumers across the pond [BBC / Guardian / Daily Mail / CNET / TMO News].

Target audience

The new Nexus 7 is particularly being targeted at a young audience with both gaming and education being specifically highlighted during the Breakfast with Sundar Pichai event [YouTube - duration: 1 hour]. Google announced plans for a number of changes to its Play store with the introduction of an educational section [CNET / Slashgear / PCMag]

The Internet giant has teamed up with several publishers of textbooks and educational material which will become available in August. Five major publishers, Pearson, Wiley, Macmillian Higher Education, McGraw-Hill and Cengage Learning will offer books in the new Google Play section. The books will be available both for purchase or hired for 6 months at a fraction of the cost of the book. And while Google did not give an indication of price it said it would rent books at up to 80% cheaper than regular retail prices. This could prove particularly attractive to students on a budget.

Chromecast TV streaming

The biggest announcement at the hour long presentation was Google's latest attempt to gain ground in the television industry. Previous attempts to bring the Internet content into the living room have all but failed.

In 2010 the company launched Google TV as it joined forces with Intel, Sony, and Logitech [The Register]. But the service was blocked by several TV networks and suffered greatly from requiring consumers to buy expensive hardware. Another partnership with Sony brought the introduction of a £200 set-top box, but that too was poorly received, likely because of the reticence by many households to have yet another box attached to their television.

Then there was the Nexus Q, a ball-shaped hardware device launched last year at Google's I/O developer conference. These $300 units were so unpopular that Google ended up dropping the price to nothing and just sending them out free to those who had already placed an order.

With many people already possessing either a cable, digital terrestrial receiver or satellite box and perhaps a DVD player, a simpler solution was needed. And with Google's new Chromecast dongle, it could not be any simpler. And priced at only $35 [£25] the device is likely to attract far more consumer interest.

The dongle is plugged into a television's HDMI port, and allows users to stream media directly from the cloud, through a WiFi connection but controlled from almost any smartphone, tablets or computer [Sky News / CNNEngadget / The Register / Wired / Gizmodo].

Content and compatibility

Apps that work with the device will show a Chromecast button, the pressing of which sends the content to the television. Only YouTube, Netflix, Google Music and Pandora was demonstrated, likely because there are few applications which will have had time to incorporate the facility. However, in time this could change with all video and audio streaming services updating their apps or web interfaces accordingly.

Even with the current content limited to YouTube and Netflix, there is much to be enjoyed through such a small, cheap and versatile device. Furthermore, early buyers receive three months of free Netflix with the purchase.

Subscriptions of course may be required to use with certain content providers, but there is nonetheless a great deal of free content on the web. As for compatibility, Google states Chromecast works with WiFi-enabled Android 2.3+ smartphones and tablets, iOS 6.0+ iPhones, iPads, and iPods, Chrome for Mac® and Chrome for Windows® as well as. The last point is one of contention. By specifically stating that it works with the Chromebook Pixel, it seems that the device might not be compatible with other Chromebooks, which would be a disappointing setback for those having bought such a device, or indeed a disincentive for those considering such a purchase. A power cord is also required, though it could also be powered by a USB lead from the TV itself.

But the biggest drawback amid this excitement is that it is only available in the US with no specific launch date announced for other markets.

tvnewswatch, Kunming, Yunnan, China

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