Google Nexus 10 deep-dive review: Android, supersized

An in-depth look at where Google's new 10-in. tablet shines -- and where it falls short.

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What about the apps?

Before I wrap up, there's one elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: the apps. Android is frequently criticized for the lack of apps that are optimized for the tablet form, particularly in comparison to Apple's iOS platform.

So how real of a problem is it? Well, it's all relative. In terms of objective measurements, Google doesn't release numbers about the percentage of "tablet apps" vs. "phone apps" within its Play Store. Android apps aren't really classified separately like that in the first place; rather, apps that are properly coded to Android 4.x design standards can scale up from one form to another without issue. (Very few Android apps have separate phone and tablet editions.) If they're designed well, they'll also incorporate additional UI elements -- multiple on-screen columns, for example -- when a larger screen size is detected.

Based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, I'd say it's probably fair to conclude that iOS has more apps that are optimized for the tablet form at this point. It's also fair to say that Android's collection of tablet-optimized apps is rapidly expanding -- and there's no shortage of sharp-looking selections to be found.

Pretty much all of Google's applications -- Gmail, Maps, Google Docs/Drive, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google+ and so forth -- look fantastic on a 10-in. device, as you'd expect. Popular note-taking apps like Evernote and Springpad are fully optimized for the large-screen form, as are video-streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus. You can find plenty of tablet-friendly office suites, communication tools, multimedia programs, reference utilities and news and weather applications, too, not to mention resizable, interactive widgets that live and function right on your tablet's home screen.

There's still progress to be made, of course -- some popular programs like Flipboard are still inexplicably unavailable on 10-in. Android tablets -- but as a platform, Android today is anything but the barren wasteland of "scaled-up phone apps" some companies paint it to be.

The bigger issue, if you ask me, is discoverability: While Google does have a section of its Play Store dedicated to "featured apps for tablets," that really isn't enough. The company would be wise to start letting developers flag apps that are fully optimized for the large-screen form and then allow users to filter their searches based on that designation. While the vast majority of Android apps will run on tablets and look okay, apps that are optimized for the form obviously provide a better experience -- and it should be easy for users to find them.

Bottom line

Google's Nexus 10 is a standout tablet with a lot of good things going for it. It has a gorgeous HD display with superb front-facing stereo speakers, excellent performance and outstanding battery life. It also runs pure Google Android software and is guaranteed to receive future OS upgrades as soon as they're released.

The device does have very limited on-board storage, though, with no option to add extra space via an SD card. It also has a plastic-based body that looks and feels less premium than some of the competition.

But if you can stomach the storage -- and don't mind the unassuming design -- the Nexus 10 offers tremendous value at a relatively low cost. For anyone looking for a solid 10-in. tablet with a great all-around user experience, it's a tough act to beat.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. For more Android tips and insights, follow him on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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