When Google announced the 2012 Nexus 7, I was carting around an iPad 2. Alright, alright; quiet there at the back! I disliked the iPad’s size, fragility, slippy chassis, iOS and Apple-ness of it, including that wretched logo on the back. But I liked how the iPad 2 had decent battery life, a reliable Bluetooth connection with my wireless keyboard and offered decent performance. It just wasn’t very… chuckable or portable. When Google announced the Nexus 7, I preordered the 8 GB model. Yes, I bought the cheap one, but here was a device that I could toss into my bag or even my rear pocket of my jeans, that offered acceptable performance and of course, an Android Nexus experience, for less than the price of the 8 GB Apple iPod Touch.
As the 2012 Nexus 7 received updates and moved through Android 4.1 to 4.2, the tablet started slowing down. We now know that this is because Asus used an inexpensive and slow RAM controller. When Android 4.3 was launched it promised a performance uptick thanks to some file management cleverness. And yes, on 4.3 the Nexus 7 was better but not as smooth as it was running the original software. Android 4.4 arrived and thanks to Project Svelte, again promised better performance, which in my experience did not materialize. The 2012 Nexus 7 is laggy and less than smooth. And now we’re seeing that Android 5.0 Lollipop is to be officially rolled out to the Nexus 7. Sure: there are questions. Will the 2012’s Nvidia Tegra 3 and 1 GB of RAM, hobbled by a slow flash memory unit, be less responsive than running Android Kit Kat? Let’s put that to one side as we consider the broader picture here.
See; Android 5.0 Lollipop is about making Android more accessible to the wider audience. It’s about taking something that has a reputation of being gee-whizz geeky and making it softer, more pliable, refined and easier to grasp. It’s less Star Trek: The Next Generation and more Friends. It’s still a mobile operating system, but it’s easier to grasp and understand than ever before. Google are making Android the centre stage for the OEMs, rather than allowing their own custom interfaces to be easier to manage. Because whilst Android purists much prefer stock Android, many customers have preferred Samsung TouchWiz, HTC Sense, Xiaomi MIUI to name three. By making Android better to use, it gives the OEMs one less thing to worry about (customers not liking the design and layout). Part of this experience is to keep older devices running the same interface, look and feel and there are a lot of 2012 Nexus 7s still out there.
It’s a shame that the 2011 Samsung Galaxy Nexus isn’t included in the Lollipop fun, but I understand that Google has to draw the line somewhere. And it’s a wonderful paradox that just as Apple is bringing iOS that little bit closer to Android, so Google is bringing Android that little bit closer to iOS. As for the venerable 2012 Nexus 7, it’s not in Google’s interests to have the tablet a laggy, unresponsive device. We’ll wait and see, but perhaps they’ll reduce the featureset in the older model, but given Android 5.0 is stuffed full of performance improvements, maybe they won’t need to?