Forget election Tuesday. We have a bigger battle here. The iPad mini launched Friday, so we decided the gaunlet was officially thrown: the Nexus 7 would square off against the iPad Mini and we'd judge the contest.... And by the way, no, we did not have to wait in line. Yes, they there were plenty iPad Minis in stock. The Nexus 7 we bought direct from Google (via a banner ad no less). In both cases the purchase was painless, both Google and Apple are getting surprisingly good at taking your money.
Here’s how we judged the devices:
- Apps (Native & Web)
- Enterprise readiness
- Overall experience
We skipped the durability test, there are others who have covered that angle.
We all know that the iPad Mini is a little bigger from reading the specifications - but laying them on the table side by side really highlights the difference. The screen on the iPad mini is huge comparatively. Not only is the device bigger, but the borders/ margins are smaller. The screen is almost edge to edge.
But given its size, the iPad mini fits pretty well in an average size hand. The Nexus 7 also fits well, but the smaller size and larger margins sacrifice a good amount of screen real estate. Advantage: iPad Mini
Again, the specs told us that the iPad Mini was lighter. Nevertheless, weight isn’t an issue with either device. They both feel as light as a paperback book. If anything, the texture on the back of the Nexus 7 with the perforated-faux-leather made it easier to hold. The iPad by itself is smooth and slippery, and wrapping the cover around the back makes holding it a bit awkward to grasp. Advantage: Nexus 7
Both devices are billed as tablets so we wanted to compare native apps to web - the presumption is that with the larger screen you might be able to use a full featured web site vs a simplified native app.
For the native app test, we chose our own Social Sites 2.5 app and Glassboard . Glassboard is an app designed for a phone, so on these devices its viewed as just a larger version of the phone app. The Social Sites 2.5 app has a tablet version for iPad, and a larger Phone version for Android. In both cases, the iPad Mini with its larger screen size made it the clear winner. Bigger images & more visible content makes for a better experience. Advantage: iPad Mini
For this comparison we chose the Social Sites Lookout (web) and Glassboard's web app, viewing both in landscape (on its side). Again, as you can see from the images, the iPad Mini shows more of the screen, but the downside to both is that most web apps have not been optimized for small tablets, so the buttons and form fields on web pages can be really small and difficult to tap. Aside from casual web surfing or reading, neither device is ideal for the non-mobile-optimized web. What ultimately helped us to pick a winner in this category was the default browser selection. Chrome is a better browser than Safari (it does a better job remembering passwords - which seems to be the bain of any enterprise user). For that alone: Advantage: Nexus 7
Since the main purpose of this form factor is to read and consume content, we took a look at the Kindle app on both devices. In this comparison, there was almost no difference. The book covers were laid out well, and with the adjustments available from the kindle software it was easy to find a type style and font size that worked well. Advantage: Tie
No mobile device can compete with a full size keyboard. Full size iPads in landscape can’t even pull it off, so we weren’t looking to fit 8 fingers on home row. The optimal way to type on this form factor is to hold it upright and type with your thumbs, just as you do on your phone. Both thumbs can easily reach the center of the screen without feeling cramped. Holding either device sideways (landscape) proved cumbersome for typing, keypads were too small for home row typing, and thumbs had a hard time reaching the center.
The Nexus 7 was by far the thumb typer of choice. If you take a look at the thumb positioning in the photos below, you'll see that the Nexus 7 keyboard is higher up on the screen and directly under thumbs. Holding the iPad Mini the same way shows that the keyboard is much lower on the screen, so to get your thumbs properly aligned you either need to grab the device lower (uncomfortable) or stretch your thumbs downward. Either way, its not ideal. Advantage: Nexus 7
Had we compared iOS and Android even four months ago the iPad Mini would have walked away with this category. Apple has sold 100,000,000 iPads and there are 275,000 iPad apps today, but Android is catching up quickly, activating 70,000 tablets per day. What's more is that Androids are becoming more friendly for enterprise deployment - there are now VPN clients from Cisco & Juniper, and many of the major mobile device management companies like MobileIron, Good, and AirWatch are building out SDKs for Android, which was not the case as recent as a few months ago.
There is a case that neither platform is entirely enterprise ready (neither does a great job editing documents that are stored in the cloud), but that’s a personal decision... for the purpose of comparison we found that the Nexus 7 is just as ready as the iPad Mini. Advantage: Tie
|Category||iPad Mini||Nexus 7|
In the end, it comes down to your own preference, or more likely, whatever OS you have on your phone. There were no significant advantages or benefits between one device or the other that would make a clear winner. The Nexus 7 is easier to hold and type on, the iPad is easier to look at. Likely you’ll be happy with either device.
The only other consideration is the price as the Nexus 7 is quite a bit cheaper. The 16GB iPad Mini is $329, the 16GB Nexus 7 is $199.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments, or find me on twitter @walkerfenton - thanks!