Editorial: Jelly Bean Finally Makes Android Tablets Usable

Way back in March of this year, I wrote an article, an article in which I stated that Android tablets were not ready for the general consumer. I held that belief for a long time, in my mind Ice Cream Sandwich on tablets was not enough for the non-tech savvy soccer mom. I found that it didn’t run smooth enough, nor did it have enough apps that took advantage of that extra screen real estate to truly be productive.

Sure, there were a couple standouts, a notable one being the Transformer Prime, but with a $500 price tag, I could in no way recommend it to anyone over the new iPad. Any Android tablet worth having at the time brought along too big a price tag to justify itself, and contenders like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet just didn’t have enough in them to be a true Android tablet. At their cores they ran the little green robot, but the skins over them completely changed the experience.

Now, with the release of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, everything has changed.

I recently purchased a Nexus 7, the first device to natively run Jelly Bean. From the moment I turned it on, everything changed. For starters, Project Butter is nothing to scoff at. Never before have I used a device so smooth, not even the Galaxy S III running the new TouchWiz. I went as far to prove this on video, which you can watch here. Everything from swiping between home screens to multitasking is smooth and elegant, and that alone is something Android sorely needed.

It’s been a couple months since I’ve used an Android tablet in-depth, but since then developers have made huge improvements. Apps scale much better, and there is a much larger variety of tablet apps. Games have also made huge advances, and I have been beyond impressed with big titles like Dead Trigger and Modern Combat 3. I have played both of those games on phones, but they seem to be more geared for tablet play.

Over the past few days I’ve found myself using Google Now more and more, something that truly surprised me. When first announced, I labelled it as just another one of the Siri competitors, but as time goes on I’ve found myself defaulting to it for Google searches and sports scores. Just the other night, I decided to go see The Dark Knight Rises again. I asked Google Now for showtimes in my area, and within seconds my plans were made. No, it’s not perfect (PhoneDog writer Evan Selleck and I could not get it to find the Red Sox’s score last night), but the future looks good for Google’s new voice utility.

My Nexus 7 has been the first Android tablet that I feel is truly productive, and while I was a little skeptical of my purchase at first, I know that I will be keeping this tablet for sure. Rumors state that Apple may reveal a smaller, cheaper iPad next month, something that would compete more with the Nexus than the current iPad. We’ll have to see how Android holds up, but Google has proven to me that their tablet OS is ready for the regular consumer.



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