Are The New Nexus 7 Improvements Enough to Dethrone the iPad mini?

Patrick Moorhead / July 30th, 2013

It’s hard to believe that 13 months ago, the preferred tablet form factor was 10” and Android was literally nowhere in tablets.  Then came the first Nexus 7 at Google IO in June 2012, Kindle Fire 2 in September 2012, then the iPad mini in November 2012 changing the preferred tablet form factor to 7-8”.  A year later Apple still reigned in tablets of all sizes with IDC reporting that in 1Q13 Apple held nearly 40% market share while its nearest competitor, Samsung, registered around 18%.  Android as a whole did come in at 56% share, 247% growth.   With Asus and Google upping the ante, can the new Nexus 7 dethrone the iPad mini? Let’s first go over what Google launched last week.

Google and Asus last week launched the new Nexus 7, improving many of the specifications.  Here are the major changes:

  • Display:              720P to 1920×1200 resolution, registering a PPI of 323
  • SOC:                     Nvidia Tegra 3 to Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
  • WWAN:              None to LTE
  • RAM:                   1GB to 2GB
  • Cameras:           1.2MP front-facing to both 1.2MP front-facing and 5MP rear facing
  • Price:                    $199 to $229 for WiFi only

Sure, it’s a bit thinner and lighter and uses a rubberized backing versus faux leather, but outside of the additions I listed above, I didn’t notice anything personally that dramatically impact the experience.  Let me talk a bit about the experience.

On the plus side, the display was gorgeous.  I had to strain to see pixels on V1 but I cannot see any pixels on V2.  I’m extremely near-sighted and notice any video aberrations.  I watched three full-length HD movies on V2 and they looked great.  I didn’t experience any arm strain, either as Nexus is light.  Photos really looked awesome, too.  Games were extremely fast and fluid, as well.  Finally, you can’t beat the price of $229, particularly when compared to the iPad mini at $329.  Now let me get to the downsides.

It’s hard to explain, but when compared to the iPad or to my HTC One phone, the Nexus 7 V2 has some kind of user interface lag.  It’s not a lot, but it’s perceptible, at least to me. GMail is annoying too, and I have never gotten quite used to it, which is why on my Android devices, I use whatever the manufacturer like Samsung or HTC offers. The 5MP camera is disappointing as it exhibits tremendous shutter lag and pictures appeared grainy.  So what does this mean to the iPad mini?

Comparing the new Nexus 7 to the iPad mini is harder than you can imagine.  On one hand, the Nexus has a much cheaper base price, a superior display,  and offers a great video, photo and game experience.  On the other hand, the iPad mini’s UI and interface feels quicker and its camera generates higher quality pictures and videos with no shutter lag.  The mini’s mail and calendar experience is so much better as well.  Personally, I was a bit disappointed with the Nexus 7 V2 as I expected more.  Based on specs, I expected no interface lags like on my HTC One and decent pictures.  As odd as it sounds, personally I still prefer the Nexus 7 V2 to the iPad mini because I prefer the Android ecosystem and I am a sucker for a great display.

In the end, I do think the Nexus 7 will pick up some share at the expense of the iPad mini, but not as much as you might imagine or for the reasons you may think.  It is a much closer competition than appears on paper.  Those consumers with iPhones will most likely go with the mini as they have bought into many iOS apps and content and are very comfortable with the experience.  Tablets are still a considered purchase and are perceived as risky and going mini lowers the consumer’s risk.  To a small portion of consumers, the display will be enough to pull them toward the Nexus, but the primary purchase driver will be the cheap opening price and the great display.  Distribution will play a factor too, as V1 had limited distribution, but V2 is expected to have very wide distribution around the world.

So everybody calm down, I don’t believe the iPad mini is dead nor will Apple lose extensive market share based on the Nexus V2.

 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • FalKirk

    The Nexus 7 is a big phone. The iPad Mini is a small tablet. That that makes all the difference in the world.

    • Patrick Moorhead

      I don’t know if in this circumstance that makes a difference to the experience. I can make that case for 10″ Android tablets but not 7″ ones. Most every 7″ Android app off the phone “tree’ scales pretty well.

      • FalKirk

        There’s no tablet specific optimized software for the Android machines. They’re good at doing what a phone does – phone apps and watching video – but they’re not good at doing what a tablet does – presentations, and slightly more sophisticated and business oriented software.

      • Herding_sheep

        You don’t know whether there’s a difference in experience between a scaled phone application versus a full-featured tablet application? I think the difference is striking. The size of the screen is irrelevant, whether its a 7″ or 10″ screen. Its a tablet form factor, period. iPad Mini runs tablet apps, Nexus 7 runs phone apps and the occasional tablet app ported from the iPad environment.

        For people who simply use tablets to browse the web and watch videos, then yes their experience will not be compromised simply because the web browser is redesigned for the form factor and video playback does not need to be. But when you start to dig any deeper, and use amazing applications like DJay 2 or Garageband on the iPad, comparing them to the iPhone equivalent there really is no comparison. Or even finance applications. The list is endless. These applications fully utilize the form factor and its potential. Scaling the iPhone apps to just LOOK useable in a higher resolution would be an absolute waste of potential.

        • Patrick Moorhead

          My point is that I’ve heard few complaints from users or very little written about people experiencing issues with 7″ Android tablets leveraging phone apps. The same CAN’T be said about leveraging phone apps on 10″ Android tablets. See: http://techpinions.com/are-the-latest-10-android-devices-doa/17841

  • Defendor

    I haven’t seen one yet, but I was playing with a friends original Nexus 7 on the weekend, since I am seriously considering getting a new N7 when it gets to Canada. I really had no complaint with interface speed. I think you actually need to compare it with an iPad to notice the deficit. So I don’t think that will hinder new N7 sales.

    Screen PPI doesn’t seem to matter that much to most people. When I mention seeing pixels on the original N7, my friends look at me like I just sprouted a third eye. Heck Apple keeps selling iPad 2, that unit is seriously hurting from low PPI. That said, I am only buying a table ~300+ PPI. I find the regular N7 fine for movies/pictures/comics/apps, but for reading pure text, I hold it close and the fonts don’t look so hot.

    If Apple doesn’t ship a Retina Mini this year, they will definitely take a lashing in the press, but I don’t know how much in the market. If people keep buying iPad 2, the Mini PPI shouldn’t be much of an impediment for many. Take some share? certainly. Dethrone? certainly not.

    I think it is most likely that I will get a new N7 for my tablet. The main thing I miss with respect to the Mini is the screen size/aspect. The N7 screen is smaller and narrower making it less useful in both Portrait and Landscape mode and this is made even worse by the extra space lost to the Android onscreen buttons. This really puts them in different classes (N7 more like a Phone as John indicated). But there is the advantage of the Nexus being a more narrow in your hand for holding ease.

    • Patrick Moorhead

      Good points. PPI was innocuous until Apple started marketing it heavily and I think it plays against them in this case. I actually like the thinner form factor 16:9 because it fits into more back pockets and jackets than the 4:3 mini.

      • Defendor

        I acknowledge the N7 will fit in more places (though mini would fit in my Jacket pockets) and the N7 will likely be more comfortable to hold (for me anyway), but I would take Retina Mini sized screen without hesitation. I really feel it is in a different size class that makes for much less pan and zoom in use.

        But I expect even if Mini does get a Retina Screen it will likely increase in price, making a hard sell against the new N7.

        • Hosni

          “I expect even if Mini does get a Retina Screen it will likely increase in price …”

          I don’t believe that’s been Apple’s practice in the past. When the iPhone and iPad got retina displays, their prices were unchanged.

          • Defendor

            There was a healthier margin in the full size iPad to absorb the change.

            I also should have said, if they get a retina screen this year. Which is what I meant. This is also a quick change after the introduction. If they wait till next year, there is more time for component cost reductions.

          • Hosni

            If I had to guess, it would be that Apple will introduce an iPad Mini w/retina display later this year at the same base price, $329, and continue selling its original Mini at a discount — say, $279-$299.

  • I got a Nexus 7 v1 because I wanted a cheap Android tablet. I went from an 9″ iPad to the N7 and although I paid less money, it is kind of disappointing. The v1 display is pretty bad, the Android OS is fine but what really kills me is the standby time. On the iPad (sure it was a 9″ vs 7″) I had days (maybe even a week) of standby time – so much time I never even noticed it. With the N7 I constantly pull it out of my bag only to find the battery is drained after a day or two. Perhaps the problem is I don’t use the N7 as much as I did the iPad but that’s not a good thing for the N7.

    Maybe I’d like the N7 v2 with its better screen. Then again maybe I’ll go back to an iPad if they come out with a retina mini.

    • Patrick Moorhead

      Interesting point on the standby. I haven’t noticed the difference, but I’m always plugging in my N7 nightly.

    • Glaurung-Quena

      Apple claims a full month of standby time for the ipad, BTW.

      • Maybe that’s why I never had a problem with it. =)

    • snake4812

      Go into your wi-fi settings and have it turn off during sleep that will make an enormous difference

  • Glaurung-Quena

    I think the answer to the question in your headline is no. It’s true that non-apple tablet activations have soared, but tablet usage remains extremely low for everything that’s not an Ipad.

    Furthermore, the “several months in” reviews I’ve read about the first Nexus 7 indicated that battery longevity was very poor, and that once the SSD has filled with deleted data, the device became unusably laggy. From you, I learn that the rear-facing camera in the new one is poor quality, and that upping the screen resolution has basically undone all that Google accomplished with last year’s “project butter” efforts for smooth GUI. So it sounds like Google is continuing to meet their chosen price point by allowing Asus to put in bottom of the barrel components.

    Computer industry OEMs (other than Apple) have been cutting corners on laptops and desktops for so long that they’ve forgotten how to build any other way. You can get away with corner cutting on a PC because there is so much headroom — CPUs are far more powerful than they need to be to power the GUI; the power budget, even for laptops, has a lot of leeway to it; the range of angles at which someone will be looking at a laptop’s screen is narrow enough that a TN panel will do; and so on. Asus and the other non-Apple OEMs have yet to learn that you cannot do the kind of penny-pinching they are accustomed to in a tablet, because the headroom isn’t there for it.

    Result: a severely compromised user experience, with batteries that die after a few months, poor standby times as other comments here have observed, and so on. Which leads, in turn, to a lot of dissatisfied customers who will either swear off tablets, or else pay the premium for an Apple tablet next time… and who end up not using their android tablets very much at all, leading in turn to Apple continuing to command 85% of tablet usage.

  • DarwinPhish

    I am really surprised you had nothing to say on battery life. The iPad mini’s battery is about 10% bigger and early reports suggest the new Nexux 7 lasts about 1/3rd less before needing to be charged.

    • Patrick Moorhead

      I try to stay away from battery tests and leave up to the pro’s unless I experience something that has concrete differences from my own experiences.

  • Marie C

    Google is a disgrace. They just steal from Apple. Schmit is a disgusting philanderer. He soundproof’s his apt to savage innocent women in a pagan sacrifice.

  • Bravadu

    The mini came out, what, 10 months ago? That’s almost a full generation ago, so the new Nexus 7 will probably spend most of its time being compared to the mini 2, not the mini 1.

  • linux_ftw

    I think it is still missing a few key applications and some UI polish the iPad has. But Google in regards to user experience and fluidity is getting there. The real question is – Is the extra $100 worth a few more apps and a bit less lag? Is it really worth that to the average Joe?
    History shows yes. But that could change as tablets become complete commodities.

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