The Nexus 7 comes preinstalled with the latest version of Android, That’s Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean as it’s known.
It’s not a huge step away from the previous version, Ice Cream Sandwich. The most noticeable improvement is in the smoothness of the user interface. This is due to something Google calls ‘Project Butter’, Which makes the entire interface render at 60 frames per second, And makes it look and feel ‘Buttery Smooth’. So now there’s no lag. Apps open and close with ease, With a nice fade in and fade out effect that adds to the smooth feel. You even get a similar feel in the app and widget drawers. In fact, all the transitions have a very flowing feeling to them, there’s no jerkiness. There are no physical buttons on the front of the Nexus 7, And when you turn it on, boot up time takes about 29 seconds. The next thing you see is the new Jelly Bean lock screen. The Google logo at the top launches ‘Google Now’ when you swipe up to it. Otherwise, swipe to the side or down to unlock. The home screen on the Nexus 7 doesn’t rotate to landscape mode. So it’s portrait mode only, just like a phone’s home screen. The dock has space for seven icons. By default you get the main Google apps here, along with a folder containing more of them. And in the centre is the app drawer icon. This is the only one you can’t change. All the other icons you can remove or swap as you want. Below the dock you’ll find three navigation buttons. There’s the back button, The home button which takes you to the home screens, And the multitask button, which shows all your open applications. If you long press on the Home button, you get the Google Now shortcut. Apps inside the app drawer are arranged alphabetically. And the app section scrolls straight into the widgets section. There are five home screens in total. And each can fit six app icons across, and six down. Widgets can be resized to fit on the homescreen. Also there’s a smart alignment feature where widgets and icons rearrange themselves on the homescreen to make space for something else. One widget I find really useful is the quick toggle widgets for things like wi-fi, bluetooth, GPS, screen orientation and brightness. The ‘My Library’ widget sums up what the Nexus 7 is all about. It puts all your content like movies, music, and books, on show, And it gives you direct access to the respective Play stores. It’s a very tempting way of getting you to purchase more content for your device. There’s also a Play Store recommendation widget for apps, books, and movies. In the US, this would also recommend magazines and music. It recommends things that you may like based on your past purchases. Personally, I found the recommendations thrown at me to be really off mark. The Google Currents app shows online news feeds in a magazine style. It’s like Flipboard. The YouTube app has been redesigned, And there’s more scope to personalise it now. The notifications bar is much more interactive in Jelly Bean. It also looks good, with the same smooth action as the rest of the interface. I particularly like this new font in Jelly Bean, even very small text is clear. At the top you get the time and date, screen orientation lock, a shortcut to settings, and an icon to clear all notifications. One example of the new interactivity in notifications is with emails. If you have several emails waiting, Swipe down with two fingers in the notification area to see the subject lines of each email. Swipe up again to contract this list. Another type of interactivity is with any calendar events. If a calendar notification comes up, you get the option to snooze it right in the notification bar itself. In previous versions of Android, you’d be taken to the calendar app to do this. Another change is, long pressing on a notification brings up an ‘app info’ pop-up. This takes you to the info page for that particular app. There’s an easy way to take screenshots on the Nexus 7. Press the power button and volume down button together, and hold until you see the screenshot being taken. You can then access it straight from the notifications bar without going into the gallery. You have the option to share it here. There’s a new gesture in Jelly Bean. Just like swiping down from the top bezel brings down the notifications bar, Swiping up from the bottom bezel activates the home button shortcut to Google Now. Google Now is a very personalised service. Based on your search history, your location, and your calendar, it automatically shows you information that it thinks may be useful to you. Everything is shown in an index card format. So you can see what the traffic is like where you are, train or bus times, flight information, Your next appointment and even interesting places around you. It’s a predictive feature, and improves as it learns more about you. Google Now is an opt-in service. And if you don’t want to use it, you can disable it in it’s settings. Once Google Now is disabled, all you’re left with is normal Google search. Google Search can be accessed from the persistent search bar at the top of all the homescreens. You just type your question into this search bar. If it’s a simple question like checking the weather, the answer will appear on cards, The Google web search results are also available, And can be pulled up from the bottom of the screen. If your question is a bit more complicated, There are no card answers, and the Google web search results are shown straightaway. You can also apply this search to your content. And in the tablet search settings you can choose which apps to include in the search results. Pressing the microphone icon in the search bar activates Google voice. In the voice settings, it gives you a list of the languages that it recognises. It’s not a long list. If you want to use voice search when you’re not connected to the internet, Just download the offline speech recognition data. It’s a file of about 15 MB (megabytes) to 22 MB (megabytes), depending on the language. It’s a male voice in the UK, I think it’s female in the US. And it reads out the search results if they’re on a card. What’s the weather like in London? What are London to Paris flight times? If there is no card result, then it just shows the normal Google web search results. How tall is Big Ben? What’s the meaning of life? At the moment it only handles straightforward questions. Don’t get all philosophical on it; you won’t get any snappy answers. Set timer for five minutes from now Google voice isn’t just limited to searches. You can use it for things like setting alarms. You can email yourself, if you ever need to Note to self, Call Tom You can email others Email Mary, meet me at the club at 10 pm But Google voice isn’t really a personal assistant like Siri and S-voice try to be. It doesn’t manage any calendar items, and schedule events for you. Chrome Browser is now the stock browser in Jelly Bean. And on the Nexus 7, it’s really smooth and lag-free. The 7 inch screen gives plenty of viewing space for the desktop versions of webpages. I’ve always liked the neat user interface, especially the tabbed browsing, which is really nice on the Nexus 7. The only thing missing is Flash. So you won’t be able to play videos from webpages like BBC iPlayer. Flash will no longer be supported by Android from Jelly Bean onwards. The stock keyboard automatically uses the system language that you set on the Nexus 7, And there is quite a large choice of languages here. However, if you go into the settings for the Android keyboard, You can change the keyboard language to something other than the system language if you want . I like the layout of the stock keyboard, the keys are large and nicely spaced. It’s not very different to the Ice Cream Sandwich keyboard before it. The portrait mode for the keyboard is easier to type on than the landscape one. In the landscape mode, there isn’t an option to have a split keyboard, As there is with third party keyboards like SwiftKey Tablet. Whenever the keyboard is up on screen, The back button changes to a down arrow. So you can remove the keyboard from the screen quickly. A small, but very convenient feature. Long press the voice dictation key and it will take you to the keyboard settings. There’s also an emoji key, which you can long press for more selections. I found the voice dictation to be very good, And it can be used offline as well. Voice dictation in Jelly Bean One improvement in the Jelly Bean keyboard is it’s better predictive ability. Having used it however, I don’t think it’s as good as the third party keyboards’ predictive function. You can turn off the next word prediction in the advanced keyboard settings. Then when you finish typing a word the top bar of the keyboard will just show punctuation symbols. To set the wallpaper, just long press on any home screen. And I just want to quickly show you the default wallpapers you get with the Nexus 7.