Ladies and gentlemen, it is, officially, on. Google has enjoyed modest success with its 7-inch Nexus tablet, thanks mostly to its absurdly low price. Not to be outdone, Apple has stepped into the ring with a smaller tablet of its own. Is this a death match, or is there space for two pint-sized tablets? We take a closer look.
Matters of size
Interestingly, Apple hasn't played copycat with its smaller iPad, shrinking its winning tablet formula to the same height as the Nexus 7, but keeping it considerably wider. The result is a screen that's nearly an inch larger. It is also nearly 100g lighter, which is quite a bit in a device of this size.
|16GB, 32GB, 64GB options
|8GB, 16GB options
Since its launch, the Nexus 7 has held the title of the cheapest yet most capable tablet in its class. The introduction of the iPad Mini doesn't shake the Nexus from its throne, but it is definitely food for thought for anyone who had previously considered an iPad but been turned off by the price of entry.
|iPad Mini Wi-Fi 16GB
|iPad Mini Wi-Fi 32GB
|iPad Mini Wi-Fi 64GB
|iPad Mini Wi-Fi/3G 16GB
|iPad Mini Wi-Fi/3G 32GB
|iPad Mini Wi-Fi/3G 64GB
|Nexus 7 Wi-Fi 8GB
|Nexus 7 Wi-Fi 16GB
iOS vs. Android
Seriously, you could write a book on this topic, but we'll try to keep it brief. With the introduction of the Jelly Bean version of Android, Google's system is more polished than ever. Unlike early versions, Android now has a slick, unified design aesthetic and hardware-accelerated animations. The result is a responsive tablet experience on the Nexus 7.
You get this too with iOS, but, more than that, you have the simplicity of Apple's system. We've all seen videos of cats and babies using iPads, and there is a reason for it. Using an iPad is easy, and the learning curve is gentle. Android does take a little more persistence, though we'd argue that the rewards are greater, with the Android system offering greater flexibility for experienced users. But this won't be for everyone.
There is also content to consider. iOS offers great access to all manner of content through Apple's numerous storefronts. Music, videos, books and apps are all available, and the iTunes back catalogues are impressive. Android now offers most of the same things, including magazines (but excluding music in Australia), but it only takes a quick glance to see that there is more in most multimedia categories through Apple's offerings.
As much as we hate to say it, Apple's Phil Schiller is right: it is all about the apps. The iPad Mini hits stores with 275,000 apps designed specifically for tablets, while the Nexus 7 relies mostly on apps designed for phones, which are stretched across its larger screen.
That said, there are still hundreds of Android tablet apps, and, at the end of the day, how many do you need?
If the number of press releases in the inboxes of CNET Australia's editors is any indication, there are going to be dozens of accessory options for the iPad Mini. Everything from keyboards to folios, and jelly sleeves to imitation pinball cabinets.
Meanwhile, it took months for Google to ship its first-party cover for the Nexus 7, let alone dedicated accessories from the same third parties that are working on Apple bits and pieces. The Nexus 7 is compatible with all Bluetooth keyboards, and there are options on eBay, but it's not close to the support that you will have as an Apple customer.
And the winner is?
As we mentioned in a similar showdown between the iPad and Microsoft's Surface, to make the best decision here, you have to be honest with yourself about how you are going to use your tablet. If you will use iTunes to download TV episodes, you are going to need an iPad. If you want a tablet to pair with a Bluetooth keyboard for work, then Apple's tablet is still your best choice.
It's important to remember that Google designed the Nexus 7 purely as a consumption device, and it excels at this, and is cheaper than the Apple option. You may miss out on all the apps there are to download on iOS, but there is still a great selection, and loads of multimedia content options, too.
Still, unless you have a deep aversion to Apple or its products, it's hard to go past the iPad Mini. We want tablets to be light and thin enough to carry comfortably, but powerful enough to breeze through web browsing, movies, multitasking, etc, and the iPad Mini ticks all of those boxes. It is a bit more expensive for a comparable model, but it is probably worth the step up in price to access everything that comes with iOS.