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What the Google Nexus 7 Tablet means for schools

posted Jun 27, 2012, 6:27 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Jun 30, 2012, 7:56 AM ]
Without question, the Apple iPad has dominated the tablet market for schools for the last couple of years. And rightfully so. The iPad is an excellent device with a long battery life, ease of use, and massive library of apps. Also, there really hasn’t been any competition.

Until now.

At this year’s Google I/O convention, Google has officially announced the release of the first Google-endorsed Android tablet, the Google Nexus 7. With this device it looks like we finally have a solid alternative for schools, for several reasons.

  • Price - No question about it, as our budgets are constantly shrinking, price is critical to schools. The Google Nexus 7 is half the price of an iPad. It comes in at $199 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16GB model, compared to $399 for the iPad 2 and $499 for the iPad 3 (starting costs). At half the cost, schools can spend half as much, or get twice as many devices, by going with the Google Nexus 7. This really makes a huge difference for cash-strapped schools trying to embrace mobile technology.
  • Power - Even though the Google Nexus 7 is half the cost of the iPad, it is incredibly powerful. Inside the Google Nexus 7 is (warning: geek talk ahead) a 1.3GHz Quad-Core Tegra 3 CPU and a 12-core Nvidia GPU (for graphics). In short this means all the power you will need for cutting-edge apps, video, and more.
  • Battery life - Mobile devices need to be mobile, not plugged in throughout the day. The Google Nexus 7 battery is good for 8 hours of continuous active use, which is perfect for classroom use.
  • Apps - Is there an app for that? With the Nexus 7, yes there is. The Google Android Market (also known as the Play Store) currently has over 600,000 apps available, just a little below the 650,000 offerings in Apple’s App Store. Along with the massive amount of apps available for Android, a majority of them are free... around 70% free for Android compared to about 45% free for iOS. For great information on educational Android Apps check out Richard Byrne’s site http://android4schools.com/
  • Size - The Google Nexus 7 is only 7 inches diagonal, versus the iPad which is larger at 9.7 inches. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. The smaller size of the Nexus 7 makes it much easier to hold, especially for younger students, and the weight (340g versus 652g for the iPad) makes it easier to hold for long periods of time. The key here is that the screen must have a high resolution, or the smaller size will be a problem when displaying web pages and small text. Thankfully the Nexus 7 has a resolution of 1280 x 800 (or about 216 pixels per inch). This is more than high enough to properly display modern websites without any need to scroll from side to side, and to display crisp text and clear video. This is a higher resolution than the iPad 2 (1024 x 768, 132 ppi), although lower than the iPad 3 at 2048 x 1536 and 264 ppi.
 So is there anything missing from the Nexus 7? The most notable omission for schools would be a second camera on the back of the device. The Nexus 7 only has a front-facing camera. The front camera is great for video conferencing, but a camera on the back would lend itself nicely to taking pictures and videos.

All in all though, I believe the Google Nexus 7 tablet is a fantastic match for schools, and a great value. This means more schools will be able to enter the mobile arena, get more devices for their dollars, be more flexible with when and where students access technology, and even parents will have a more attainable option for their children.

Certainly the iPad is an excellent device, but for half the price schools can get the Nexus 7 with all the power of an iPad, minus a second camera, and a few inches smaller (which again is not necessarily a bad thing).

The other closest tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire, pales in comparison to the Nexus 7. The Fire is the same cost but is less powerful, with a lower resolution, less memory, no camera, no microphone, and only access to Amazon’s marketplace of apps rather than the full Android market (unless you root the device).

Bottom line: The Google Nexus 7 is the first real alternative to the iPad, providing schools with the features we need, at a price we can afford.

Of course Amazon is soon to release the Fire 2, and Apple will continue to improve on the iPad, and Google will continue as well. Competition like this is great for us all as companies race to provide more features at lower costs. I am just very pleased to see a powerful, low cost, alternative for schools in the Google Nexus 7.

What do you think? Will schools try out the Nexus 7? Has Google found a good balance of price and features? Leave your thoughts below in the comment box.

Side note: Back in December of 2011 we did our “Ed-Tech Predictions for 2012” episode of “The State of Tech” podcast, which can be seen online at: http://www.thestateoftech.org/2012/01/episode-8-podcast-ed-tech-predictions.html One of my predictions was “By the end of 2012, there will be a solid quality, easily available, $100 Android tablet. This will lead to much greater adoption by schools. At that time sales of new Android tablets will pass sales of new iPads.” It is still too soon to say if we will get down to the $100 mark by the end of the year, but the Google Nexus 7 tablet is certainly a large step in the right direction.

For a more detailed comparison of tablet features, see the chart below. Please feel free to correct me if any of these specs are wrong, as I did my best to pull the most recent data, but might have missed something.

Google Nexus 7 (8GB) Google Nexus 7 (16GB) iPad 2 (base model) iPad 3 (base model) Kindle Fire
Cost $199 $249 $399 $499 $199
Size (diagonal) 7 inch 7 inch 9.7 inch 9.7 inch 7 inch
Weight 340 grams / 0.75 pounds 340 grams / 0.75 pounds 601 grams / 1.33 pounds 652 grams / 1.44 pounds 413 grams / 0.91 pounds
Resolution 1280 x 800 1280 x 800 1024 x 768 2048 x 1536 1024 x 600
Processor 1.3GHz Tegra 3 quad-core 1.3GHz Tegra 3 quad-core 1GHz A5 dual-core 1GHz A5X dual-core 1 GHz TI OMAP dual-core
RAM 1GB 1GB 512MB 1GB 512MB
Storage 8GB 16GB 16GB (base) 16GB (base) 8GB
OS Android 4.1 (Jellybean) Android 4.1 (Jellybean) iOS iOS Modified Android 2.3
Camera Front camera Front camera Front and back cameras Front and back cameras No camera
Microphone Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Battery life 8 hours 8 hours 10 hours 10 hours 8 hours
WiFi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Cellular No No No (can upgrade) No (can upgrade) No
USB Yes Yes No No Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes Yes No
GPS Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Gyroscope Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Magnetometer Yes Yes Yes Yes No