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The Nexus 9 is a huge disappointment

Perhaps I expected too much out of this tablet, since it does not seem like it was rushed to market.   Today, Google has announced the Nexus 6, 9, and player, and out of the three devices, it seems like the Nexus 9 really got the short end of the stick.  Not that it's a horrible device by any means, after all, it has a powerful 64bit processor that should be great for gaming, and the device itself is slim and slated to weigh under a pound. Unfortunately, for a Google device that is priced at a premium, it falls short of modern expectations.  Let me explain:

The first problem is that a $400 tablet in 2014 is going to be released with a measly 16gb of storage.  To top it off, it's going to max out at 32gb of storage at $599 for the LTE version.  The Nexus 6 will max out at 64gb.  Meanwhile, Google continues to dodge questions about adding Micro SD support and with this being a tablet, there aren't really any physical space restrictions.  Matias Duarte did attempt to give some flimsy, half-assed excuse about Micro SD being too difficult for the average user to work with, and got flamed to high hell for it on Google+.  Duarte, if you really think that external storage is that difficult, then that means that you, and your team should come up with a solution to make it easier for the average user, instead of ducking out of it altogether.  My purchases from the play store have all but stopped because of the anemic storage on Nexus devices. Many apps, particularly games, can easily use up 1GB, and I have some that take over 4GB on their own.  Uninstalling apps is not always a solution, since you may lose your game progress, and not all games support cloud saves.  In some cases, there are apps that are no longer be listed in the play store and cannot be backed up without root access.   A tablet should start at 64gb these days, and top off at 128gb with an SD card slot for additional storage for those who need it.   Those that do not need that much storage (and have an unlimited data plan with a good connection) can stick with the cloud.  Everyone wins.

The loss of wireless charging:  This one just seems like a step backwards since Qi charging was included in most of the Nexus devices over the last 2 years.  Before that, they had pogo pin charging docks. I know a few people who have damaged their usb ports, and who now charge via Qi. While wireless charging is not for everyone, why get rid of a feature that screams elegance on a premium priced device?

I also have mixed feelings about going back to a 4:3 screen shape.  Most Google devices are 16:9, and with good reason.  Movies, and books (especially comics) just fit better on widescreen devices.  The reason given is that web pages look better in 4:3, however, one thing has been ignored.  Almost all Android web browsers, and many reading apps do not take advantage of "immersive mode" on Android.  This means that on a widescreen device, there are status bars, and soft keys taking up a ton of screen estate.  Removing or hiding the buttons automatically gives you a ton of real estate back, making web browsing a lot more pleasurable.  For an example, look at my "all in one gestures" article.  This app can force "immersive mode" on your android device without the need to root.

Forcing "immersive mode" allows more reading room in Pulse News.

Left: Normal. Right: "Immersive mode."  -  Web browsing is more spacious even on a widescreen tablet.

The use of an Nvidia processor will have many on the fence, due to mistakes by the company.  The Tegra processors of not too distant past devices burned many consumers. For example, the  Tegra 2 & 3 processors were premium priced and yet plagued with problems.  Support for Tegra devices have traditionally been poor as well as short lived, and many devices with these chipsets were riddled with performance bottlenecks.   I am aware that users of newer devices like the Nvidia shield have enjoyed improved support, but most consumers are not familiar with that device.  They are familiar with first generation Nexus 7 and the Asus Transformer tablets though. These popular devices lagged or were missing important features, and had support pulled from them relatively quickly.  The Nexus 7 will get Lollipop, but to this day, even with TRIM support, many complain about the tablet having lag despite having a quad core processor.  Another issue is with developers who double dip on apps that are supposedly "Tegra optimized" by selling a general version, and a separate Tegra version.  Madfinger games is one of these culprits.

At this time, Android Lollipop has not been revealed in its entirety, but there are no signs at this time that it will take advantage of the available screen space on this tablet to allow for multi-window use.  This is a feature that Samsung has added on their tablets, or that you can get through custom roms.  Microsofts tablets also have this feature as a default feature.  I'd like to see Google incorporate this as well.  It would be nice to watch a youtube video while chatting in hangouts, or have a FAQ guide up while gaming for example.  According to Androidpolice, some code that points to this feature was found, but no one should get their hopes up.

Lastly, there is the issue that with HTC making this device, the cameras will underwhelm as they have in the past.  Hopefully, the new software will make this a non issue, at least for the front camera. As for the back camera, I don't go around taking pictures with a tablet, but this might be important to those who do.

At least you're guaranteed fast updates for at least 18 months.  In the meanwhile, I'll stick to my Nexus 7 2nd gen until I get this in my hands.  Maybe it will impress me a lot more in person, but I don't know if the premium price can overcome the anemic storage.

What do you think?  Will you get the Nexus 9, or are the shortcomings dealbreakers?  Leave your comments below!

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  1. What's missing is a active digitizer for accurate pen input, which is mandatory for business and school use. Galaxy Note 8 and even 10.1 are better options in this regard. Disappointing.


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