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

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.