Welcome to the Nexus: A Beginner’s Guide to the Google Nexus 7



Welcome to the world of the Nexus! You hold in your hands one of the most powerful, versatile and fun pieces of technology currently available. This article will help new owners of the Google Nexus 7 get up to speed on their new tablet and learn how they can make the most out of their new purchase.

This article assumes you are new to the Nexus 7 and tablets in general – and that you are new to the Google Android Operating System (aka Jelly Bean). If you are migrating from another Android tablet, this article will be of some use to you but the bulk of the content is for brand new folks to the ecosystem. If this is your first Android-based tablet and you’re coming from WebOS or iOS, this article is definitely for you.

The goal of this article is not to belabor the obvious – but to show you some of the lesser known features of your tablet and the Android Operating System as well as get you acquainted with “outside the box” possibilities with your new bit of kit.

Introduction to Nexus 7

I assume you didn’t leave your Nexus 7 in the box while waiting to read this guide – so I’ll assume you’ve had some hands-on with your new tablet. You probably know where the power button is – where the volume rocker can be found – along with the charging microUSB port and the headphone jack. You’ve already identified the location of the front facing camera and you have played around a bit with the user interface (UI) of Jelly Bean. These are all pretty straight forward.

What about what you can’t see? Every Nexus 7 is identical out of the box with the exception of how much storage memory it has built in. Since the Nexus 7 has no BUILT IN means of extending the memory, you need to be congnizant of how much memory your unit has (either 8GB or 16GB). This will control how much “stuff” you can have installed at one time. For most people, either size will be quite adequate for your needs, but in some cases you may want to consider artificially extending that memory (more on this later).

Your Nexus 7 is equipped with gyroscopes and acccelerometers so it can tell how you’re holding it and what you’re doing with it. This allows you to do some pretty cool stuff.

While you probably know that your Nexus 7 is based on wi-fi (not cellular service like 3G or 4G) so you need to be near an accessible wi-fi spot to use the internet features of it – what you may not know is that your new tablet also has full Bluetooth support and contains a GPS chip. Your Nexus 7 is also equipped with NFC (near field communications). These goodies will allow you to do all sorts of things you might not have considered (we’ll be talking about that later).

Unlike some tablets, the Nexus 7 is a “full service tablet”. That means that while it is tied to Google’s
ecosystem (Google Play) you are not limited to or restricted to the Android applications and content you can consume. Some tablets are only loosely based on the Android Operating System – which limits what you can and cannot do. The Nexus 7 is a true Android device – even the windows into the Google ecosystem are removable should you not wish to partake in them.

Overview of the Google Ecosystem

Unlike iTunes or Amazon’s ecosystem, the Google ecosystem is very open-ended and encourages developer interaction. That isn’t to say it isn’t without its faults, of course – but comparatively speaking, you’ll find the ecosystem is pretty easy to get into and the parts of the system work very well with each other.

I will put out this warning; while your participation in the Google ecosystem is completely voluntary – you will miss out on a lot with the Nexus 7 if you’re not using at least some of the ecosystem. At the very least, you need a Google account to truly leverage the Android Operating System. From there, you can “opt” to use the services like GMail, Google Maps, Google Play, etc.

Most people even new to Android products are already at least partially involved with the Google ecosystem; the search engine, youTube, Gmail, Maps, Google Drive (previously known as Google Docs), the Google+ social network – maybe even calendaring. Google has a wealth of services that all work well together and they all do so in what is known as “the cloud”.

“The Cloud” confuses some people – so let me take a moment to explain it. All The Cloud really means to you is that most CONTENT that you will be using is NOT stored on the device itself – it is instead uploaded to a centralized storage system. This centralized storage system is massive, redundant and is 99.9% available at any time you need it. This manner of storing and retrieving content is often simply called “The Cloud”.

The Nexus 7 was designed as a “cloud-centric” device; meaning Google expects you to keep most of your content in the cloud with the exception of the applications (or “apps”) that you install on the tablet itself. Small items like books or magazines may get stored locally, but most media including music and video will “stream” down from the cloud to your device on demand. In some cases, you may be able to using this content “Offline” – meaning it will download the entire TV show, movie or album – and you can play it when you do not have wi-fi available. Because of this expectation, they chose to keep the memory in the Nexus 7 small and not offer up an external memory option like a microSD card.

What you need to know about “the cloud” is that as long as you’re using Google apps like GMail (contacts and/or mail), Chrome (web browser), etc. that the information in those accounts are stored in the cloud. You can access them from your Nexus 7, an Android phone or any device with a web browser. If you lose your Nexus, it gets destroyed in a pool – whatever; your data is safe. It is a very good reason to use “cloud-based” services like GMail.

Google uses a single account login for almost all of its services. So, when you set up your Google account on your Nexus 7 (you may have done so when you first used the device), the Nexus 7 can automatically sign you into other Google services using that account information. Don’t worry – you will ALWAYS be prompted anytime you venture into an application that will use your Google account to sign in. As a bonus, if you use Chrome as your desktop browser – you can “sign in” to your Google account both on your desktop and your Nexus 7 and your bookmarks and logins will be immediately available to you in both places. If you’re browsing a page at home, then take your Nexus 7 to the dentist office – while you wait, you can pick up the pages you have open at home and read them on your tablet!

In some cases, you may use services that have Google equivalents; like Facebook (Google’s service is called Google+) or Flikr (Google’service is called Google Photos aka Picasa). These services will require separate logins and may or may not work in a similar manner as the Google equivalents. My recommendation to folks jumping into the Google ecosystem; go head first with both feet in. The benefits of using Google as an entire ecosystem on the Nexus 7 is an incredibly transparent experience. Even if you elect to stay with your old services, I urge you to give the Google equivalents a try; you may find yourself pleasantly surprised!

Understanding The User Interface

if you’re coming to Nexus 7 from an Android phone, you may be familiar with names like Motoblur, Sense or TouchWiz. These are UIs developed by Motorola, HTC and Samsung to “extend” the Google Android experience through changing the look and feel of the product to better match what they believe their customers need.  One may lean toward social networking while another may lean more towards making the experience as beautiful as possible. Google’s latest version of Android – Android V4.1 (aka Jelly Bean) – is the only UI on theNexus 7 – making it one of the few tablets out there that is “pure Google”. The best part about “pure Google” is that Google themselves updates the device; not Samsung or HTC or even Verizon. This results in faster updates and an overall smoother user experience.

Some folks have never used Android at all; either they are new to Android (smartphone or otherwise) or they came from a competing product like iOS. For these folks, we need to tour the interface a bit and see how things work. We won’t cover things comprehensively – but we’ll get you comfortable with the basics.

The life’s blood of Jelly Bean is the soft button panel at the bottom of the device. There are three
buttons that control the overall UI interactions; both on Nexus 7 screens as well as the apps you’ll be running here. From left to right, they are BACK, HOME and APPS.

The BACK button has two functions – take you back one screen/menu/selection or (if you are at the very beginning screen of an app) act as a CLOSE button. Apps may or may not honor your desire to close them using the BACK button on their first screen. We’ll talk more about that later. Think of it as your desktop browser’s BACK button and you will be ok.

The HOME button does exactly what you think it should do; shrinks all apps out of the way and takes you right back to your primary home screen. Note: running apps will continue to run. If you are a Windows user on the desktop, think of this as the same as “Show Desktop”. The HOME button has a second function; which is to bring up the GOOGLE RING. We’ll talk more about that later.

Finally, the last button is the APPS button. Windows users? Think of this as an ALT-TAB; that is, when you hit this, you will see a scrollable list (with picture) of all the apps currently running on your tablet. You can CLOSE a running app by simply swiping it to the side. Note: any unsaved data in that app may be lost! We’ll talk more about how to handle running programs later. Simply scroll up and down the list until you find the program you want to return to and tap it.

One step up from the soft buttons area is the launch pad (Google calls this the “hotseat”). This can hold up to 6 icons (or folders – more later) of apps you run the most frequently. To use this bar, just drag and drop the icon of the app you want to add. If you drop it on TOP of another icon, they will “stack” and make a folder. For now, we’ll just assume we aren’t stacking any icons. You can remove the icon from the launch pad by “long holding” the icon (tap and hold your finger on the icon until it “picks up”) and dragging it to the X REMOVE area at the top of the screen.

It is worth noting that anything on your home screens can be dragged and dropped using the “long press” or “long hold”. Under Jelly Bean, other icons and widgets will “move” out of the way to allow you to put your dragged item wherever you like – even on other pages. Anything on the home screens are SHORTCUTS – and not the apps themselves. Just like on Windows, if you delete a shortcut on the desktop, the app is still installed. Same thing here.

The circle in the middle of the launch pad with the six dots is the Apps Drawer. Clicking that will take
you to the “drawer” where all your installed apps live. This is in alphabetical order, and you can scroll through the apps by swiping left and right. You can launch any app here by simply touching it. If the app is already running, it will bring up the app – already running. If not, the app will launch fresh. Similar to the home screens, you can “long press” the app icon and drag it to X REMOVE. Note: This actually removes the application from your system – and will delete any non-cloud stored data. You will be given a warning before the un-install takes place. If the app you uninstall was purchased on Google Play’s store, you still own it – and can re-install it anytime. It is worth noting that LONG PRESSING the app will assume you want to make a shortcut on a home screen; so when you long press, the main homescreen will show up. You can move the icon you’re holding to the right and left edges to scroll to a new homescreen. The Nexus 7 has 5 total home screens.

The app drawer is also shared (via the tabs on the top) with a great feature of Android; widgets. We’ll be covering those more later. Tapping the tab area for APPS or WIDGETS will take you to the applicable “drawer”.

Finally, at the top of the drawer area, you will see a shopping bag with the play logo inside. This is a
shortcut to the Google Play store (more on that later, too).

Let’s go back to the home screen (hitting the HOME button). No matter which of the five homescreens you slide left and right to, the top of the screen stays the same. The area right above the icons is the Google Search Bar. Touching the gray area takes you to a Google Search textbox, powered by the new Google Now engine. Keen eyes may note that there is also a microphone icon on the far right side of the bar. Tapping this will take you directly to Google Now’s voice search. We will be covering Google Now in detail later. At the very top of the screen you will see a thin bar. On the right side, you will see indicators for a clock, your current battery level and your wi-fi connection. If enabled, other services like Bluetooth and Airplane Mode will present an icon in that upper right corner. In the upper left, you will see Notification icons. These tiny icons alert you to updates, notices or other things that may demand your attention. The Android notification system is EXTREMELY useful and you will maximize your enjoyment out of any Android device by understanding and using it. The icons are just minor indicators; to access the full Notification system, you need to pull down the Notification Shade. Put your finger on the very top end of the screen, and pull down (you know, like a window shade) and you will get more details about each notification you have.

The top-most notification has priority; and will show you slightly more information (if available) that the subsequent ones. This is new to Jelly Bean. Every notification can be expanded (and the top one contracted) by placing TWO FINGERS at the bottom of the notifications and dragging UP or DOWN. This will show or hide more information. Not every notification may have more data for you to see. You can interact (aka launch the app and go to that information) by simply touching the notification. Notifications can be “dismissed” by swiping them to the side with one finger. This removes it from the list and the icon from the notification area in the top left when the shade is closed.

While we have the shade open, there are a few icons you can interact with at the top. From left to right, the spinning device with arrows locks the screen and keeps it from rotating. The slider icon will take you directly to your SETTINGS (more on that later) and the Jenga looking stacked blocks will clear ALL notifications in one touch. Note: If you’re connected to a wi-fi network, you will see it displayed on the bottom of the shade.

To dismiss the Notification shade, tap anywhere outside the shade, or press and hold the bottom of the shade and slide it up.

Finally, if you hold down the power button for a moment, you will be given the options to power off the tablet, turn on Airplane mode or silence the unit.

That’s pretty much it for the general UI. Let’s peek at some of the more advanced UI concepts.

Advanced User Interface

Once you leave the home screens and enter the apps themselves, the apps control how things look and work within them.

Most of the apps that come installed on your Nexus by Google use what’s called “Holo” – that is a theme that Google has deemed as the “standard” for applications to follow. Holo apps have a few consistant UI elements you can count on.

Older versions of Android actually had a MENU button as part of the soft keys. This meant you could go into pretty much any app – and always know where the menu button was. Google has moved this to the upper right corner in the icon shape of three vertical dots. Holo themed apps will usually have a toolbar of icons in the upper middle of the screen (varies from app to app of course) and finally, on the left is the in-app “back” icon. Usually if you have drilled a couple of levels into an app (say, Gmail) this app icon with a back caret arrow will take you back one screen (just like the BACK button). I guess having it in two places may keep you from having to move your hand all the way down to the bottom to hit BACK when all the app’s icons are on the top.

Holo-themed apps should also respect the LONG PRESS and swipe-to-dismiss actions you learned earlier as well.

Possibly the most COMMON Advanced UI question I’m asked is, “How do I cut and paste text?”

It is pretty simple once you know how. Open up some text (like an email) you want to cut/copy some text from. LONG PRESS on any word of the text and it will highlight with little blue marks on either side.  Drag those markers until all the text you want to copy is highlighted. At the top of the app, you should see a TEXT SELECTION bar with the standard controls for handling text. Note: Some older apps may not use the exact same text bar at the top. Sometimes there are only icons without labels. If you aren’t sure which one is copy or cut, just long press the icon and it will tell you what it does (without doing it).

When you want to paste the text, just LONG PRESS into an area that accepts text until a PASTE button appears. Tap PASTE and your text copies over.

A couple of other UI notes … first, when running apps – if you’re looking for a MENU or SETTINGS of an app, look for three vertical dots. This is the Google code for MENU. Many apps also allow for LONG PRESS actions, so be sure you try that as well. Most “built in” apps are “Googlefied”, meaning they follow the guidelines and standards of Android. Other apps may be written for older versions of Android and may store their menu items and such in other places.

Google Play

Google Play is iTunes for Android.  Google Play allows you to buy apps, books, magazines, music and videos (TV/movies).

Until recently, there was only one way to pay for Google Play purchases – and that was to have a credit card on file.  For a lot of people, that is a major point of contention.  Google introduced Google Wallet – which still required backing with a credit card – so that wasn’t much of a solution.

However in the fall of 2012, Google introduced pre-paid gift cards in denominations of $10, $25 and $50.  At the time of writing, the cards are available at Target, Radio Shack and of course Gamestop.  These will allow you to purchase content without a credit card.  Redeem cards on the web here.

Chances are, you got a $25 credit on Google Play when you got your Nexus 7.

Google Play doesn’t just exist on  your tablet – it is also on the web.  As long as you’re logged in, you can purchase and send apps directly to your Nexus 7.  For a lot of people, using a comfortable web interface is a nice gateway to getting used to using Google Play.  You can even remotely install apps from the internet!

There are both free and pay apps – free apps usually come with a catch (ads in the app, in-app purchases and what we call Smurfberries – undisclosed in game currency you have to constantly buy to keep playing the game).  Google Play will ensure that the app you’re looking at is compatible with your new device – in fact, the app won’t even show up in Google Play’s store on the Nexus 7.  If you’re using the web version of Google Play, you will see all apps, even if they are not compatible (but Play won’t let you install it).

If you’re looking at games, be sure to keep an eye out for Tegra enhanced games.  The Nexus 7 has the latest Tegra 3 graphics processor and Tegra games will perform fantastic on your tablet.

Most apps (and games) offer a 15 minute refund policy.  To get a refund, use the Google Play app on the Nexus 7, find the app and select REFUND.   Not every app offers this, but most do.  Also, if you still don’t like the app after 15 minutes – you can request a refund from Google Play and they will probably do it for you anyway.  You have to request a refund of this nature from the web version of Google Play (find the app on the list and hit REPORT A PROBLEM).

To consume media like magazines, books, music and film – you will need to use the appropriate Google app after purchase.  Google apps exist for each media – Google Magazines, Google Books, Google Music and Google Video.  Simply run that app and your purchased media will appear and can be consumed.

When buying magazines, remember that many can be purchased at a reduced rate if you subscribe for a period of time.  Most videos you available are “rentals” meaning you have to watch it within a specific time frame.  You can OWN some titles – and many are available in HD for an additional fee.

Most importantly – remember that the content you buy isn’t locked to your Nexus 7 – it is owned by your Google account.  If you get an Android phone, Google TV or other Google-aware device – all the content you own can exist on any or all of the devices.

Understanding The Settings

For this beginner’s guide, we’re not going to cover every single setting offered by Nexus 7 and Jelly Bean.   Instead, we’re going to talk about the most common settings and a few of those settings that people tend to miss.

Wireless & Networks

This seems obvious – but you will turn on and off certain settings, like turning on and off your wi-fi, choosing an available wi-fi point to connect to, toggle on and off Bluetooth (as well as registering a Bluetooth device like headphones or speakers) and checking your data usage.

Hidden under the “More …” menu item you will find a toggle for NFC (you can leave this on – we’ll talk about this more later) and the Android Beam feature you’ve probably seen on Samsung commercials).

One of the best hidden option people ask about is how to turn off wi-fi when the device is asleep.  If you go under wi-fi, hit the MENU button in the top right and choose Advanced.  You can also set whether the Nexus notifies you if an open wi-fi spot is available.

Wireless access points are stored on your device (and are even backed up to the cloud) so once you have logged into an access point – your Nexus 7 will reconnect to that access point next time you’re near by.

If you look under Data Usage, Jelly Bean will show you what your data usage has been and what applications are using the data.  Since you’re not on a cell network, you probably won’t worry about data usage – but watching data usage can help you find apps that are chewing down your battery.

Devices

Here is where you can control the sound levels and display – plus check out your storage usage, battery level and control applications you have installed.

If you’re wondering how to make your screen stay on longer (or shorter), go into Display and change the Sleep setting.

If you are using an 8GB Nexus 7, you may want to slide into the Storage area and see what’s taking up space and how much you have left.  Remember, Android takes up 2.5GB of your space – so if you have an 8GB unit you only have about 5.5GB free; 16GB owners will have about 13.5GB free.

If you want to see what’s chomping down your battery power, look under Battery.  There are plenty of third party apps that will do a good job of breaking down your battery usage – but Jelly Bean’s built in battery tool will tell you plenty.  NEVER USE TASK KILLERS – see why here.

Finally, you can go under Apps and see what’s installed, what’s been downloaded, what’s running, etc.  Selecting an app installed will tell you tons of stuff about the app – including it’s size.

Personal

If you’re worried about privacy, you want take a look under Location Services.  There are options here that allow Google to anonymously track your location.   Understand that if you disable these sort of services, it can remove functionality from other services that Google offers.

Want to lock your tablet and keep out prying eyes?  Maybe you want to try out the new Face Unlock option.  All this and more is tucked under Security.

Under Language & Input, you’ll find plenty of options; one that always seems to elude people is how to enable profanity in voice to text.    Look under Text-to-Speech Output and uncheck BLOCK OFFENSIVE WORDS.

For the “anti-Google” people, you’ll want to disable BACK UP MY DATA under Backup & Reset.  That will stop your Google cloud-able apps from backing up data.  You can also reset your tablet back to factory (like you just took it out of the box) under this option.

Accounts

Things that sync automatically will fall under one of your accounts.  Many services can use this area (like Facebook) to control synchronization of various apps.   Something a lot of people do not know is that you can have MULTIPLE Google accounts and MULTIPLE other accounts on the same system.  If you click into your Google account, you can enable and disable various sync services of Google – Calendar, Drive, Gmail, etc.  If you don’t use these services, be sure to disable the syncing of these apps.  There are other privacy settings under this area as well.

System

For the most part, most people won’t need to get into this area.  Date & Time is set here – and you can override the settings if you need to.

Under About Tablet you can force a check for updates to your tablet. Most of the time, Google will notify you if there is an update – so you probably won’t need to be in there.

Widgets

Widgets are new to a lot of people because these don’t exist on other platforms like Apple products.  But, widgets are one of the most exciting things about Android.

Simply put, widgets are windows into information provided by your apps.  Most apps provide you data constantly – but you don’t always want to go into the app itself to get an update.  Take GMail for example.  What’s the most important thing about GMail?  The InBox.

A widget for Gmail allows you to see  your inbox right on your home screen.

Weather is a popular widget.  Why go into your weather app when you can have a gorgeous animated Weather widget displaying the weather, the 5 day forecast and more?

Almost every app has a widget attached to it – you just need to find them and drag them to one of your home screens.  Go into your Apps drawer, then tap the Widget tab.  Scroll through the widgets, long press one and drop it on your home screen.

Spend some time in the widgets drawer.  There are so many great widgets in there – and it is really one of the most powerful things about Android and your Nexus 7.  Search Google Play for “widgets” and you will find amazing windows into data and web content you may not have thought about.

The Camera

You have a front facing camera on the Nexus 7.  Out of the box, you might not find an immediate use for it.  Obviously, it is most useful for video chatting (similar to Facetime on Apple) – but which app can you use to do so?

Google Talk will allow you to video chat with others on Google Talk with a camera.  It’s free and easy to use – and it is definitely the preferred method for Google lovers.  It is interchangable with the desktop Google Talk program as well.

Of course, there are always venerable favorites like Skype.

Sometimes, you just want to take a snapshot of yourself.  Oddly, there is no camera app already installed.  Search Google Play for “Camera Launcher for Nexus 7″ and you will find one from Modaco or click here.

Bluetooth and NFC

Most people are familiar with Bluetooth devices – like headsets, stereo headphones, wireless speakers and more.  But what you may not realize is that there are game controllers that are Bluetooth ready (see Wii Controller below).  There are also Bluetooth keyboards and mice you can use with your Nexus 7.  Unlike some Samsung devices, Nexus 7 has a full profile Bluetooth – which means almost any Bluetooth device should work.

NFC, on the other hand, is new to a lot of people.  Near Field Communications (NFC) allows you to use  your tablet (via Google Wallet or other payment processing app) to pay for goods and services at thousands of retailers across the country.  It will also allow you to read and write NFC tags – which can automate your common device tasks (like launching apps, dialing a number, toggling on GPS, etc.)

You can learn a lot more in my article on NFC.  Check it out here.

Overcoming Limitations

For most people, the Nexus 7 is a perfect product out of the box.  But sometimes, you need a little something more.  This section will give you the means to overcome those limitations.

OTG Cable

Sometimes you want external memory on your device.  Sometimes you need to get pictures off your microSD card from your camera.  Maybe you need some work documents off a flash drive.

Accessing USB on a tablet is a great thing – and thanks to some really cool technology, you can access your USB drives.  This is thanks to a little little cable called USB OTG (on the go).  With this cable and an app from Google Play,  you can read data off just about any USB device.  Unfortunately, you cannot WRITE data to the USB drive without modifying your device (outside the scope of this article).  If you are already rooted (why are you reading this?) then you can write to your USB devices with StickMount.

You can also use this cable to hook up USB devices like keyboards and mice!  Finally, use this clever cable to plug in USB controllers like the wired Xbox 360 controller.

Take a look under Accessories below and drop by Green Robot Gamer (my Android gaming site) to learn how to use this to it’s full potential!

Print From Your Nexus 7

With great tools like Google Drive for creating and editing your documents (plus a whole suite of Office compatible apps like Kingsoft and Quick Office) – you might find yourself in a position to need to print a document.

As they say, “There is an app for that”.

Granted there is a little set up required, but it can be done.  Check out PrinterShare!

Make A Phone Call

I know – crazy right?  It is possible to use the Nexus 7 to make phone calls over wi-fi.   Why would you want to do this?  Maybe you forgot your phone at home – and since all your contacts sync to the Nexus 7, you can make that important call using an app called Groove IP.

Make the Nexus Look like a 10″ Tablet

REQUIRES ROOT (see below).  If you came from a 10″ tablet like me, you might have noticed that the Nexus 7 looks more like a “big phone” than a “little tablet”.  By changing one little setting on your device, you can make it look just like its 10″ brothers.  Check out this article.

Accessories

What are your fellow Nexus 7 buying for accessories?  Here are just a few things that you might want to consider.

OTG Cable

This handy dandy dongle/pigtail/connector will give your Nexus 7 a real USB port; suitable for powering LOW POWER consumption USB devices (mouse, keyboard, flash drive) or a self-powered device (hard drive, powered USB hub, etc).   It doesn’t seem to have enough power to run a 2.5″ non=powered hard drive.  You can pay as little as $.83 (if you want to wait for the boat from China) or up to $10 from someplace like Monoprice (after shipping).  Either way, it’s a great tool to have in your bag of tricks.

Wii Controller

The Wii controller is excellent for playing on the Nexus 7 because you can turn it on its side like an old NES controller, it is cheap, readily available and easy to get hooked up.  You’ll need an app (free or a deluxe pay version) to map the Wii controller to your favorite game.  If you’re into emulation, Robert Broglia’s Emulators will all use Wii controller WITHOUT any special app!

Tablet Stand

Sometimes you don’t want to hold it – you want to watch it.  A nice, cheap table top stand like this one from Gamestop is cheap, easy to fold up and cart around – and it works a treat for numerous devices.

Cover / Case

If you’re looking for a slip over “clutch” to haul your device around in to protect it, you could do a lot worse than this inexpensive case from Amazon.    If you’re looking for something a little more fancy with built in stand and hand strap, I recommend this cheap case also from Amazon.

Screen Protector

The screen is Corning, but not Gorilla Glass – so you might consider a screen protector.  Fortunately, the awesome Ghost Armor carries a kit for this tablet and they are in many malls across the U.S.  or you can order the kit and apply it yourself.  Several others are available from Amazon as well.

Portable Power

I have several of this portable power units from Monoprice.  They are cheap, hold a charge for weeks without use and come in various mAh ratings so you can get the one you need.  Perfect to pop into the Nexus 7 for an “emergency” charge or to keep it alive while using it in the car for GPS or music playback.

Apps and Games

This is just a small list of useful apps and games that really show off or aid your Nexus 7.

Unlock and Root

This section is not for the newbies or those uncomfortable with messing around with the software internals of your tablet.  You’ve been warned :)

If you’re the hacker type, or have just been around the block with Android enough to want to get your hands dirty, the Nexus 7 is a great tablet to do it.  The bootloader is easily unlocked and “rooting” the unit is super simple.  One tool does it all; Nexus Toolkit.

Rooting will also allow you to mount a network share as a real location on your Nexus 7.

Once rooted, you may be interested in a couple of these applications.

  • Build.Prop Editor – Great tool for editing your build.prop to change DPI, rotation, etc.
  • Ad Away – The consummate (and free) ad blocker for web/app ads.
  • Mount Manager – Easy tool to help you mount your network shares to your Nexus!
  • Reboot Widget – Put a nice easy reboot icon on one of your homepages.
  • Titanium Backup – Keep incremental backups of all your apps AND data – even system stuff!

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

21 comments to “Welcome to the Nexus: A Beginner’s Guide to the Google Nexus 7”

  1. Tomen8r says:

    Outstanding job defining what Android and the Nexus 7 is. This can be used as a guidline for any smart phone or tablet (simply swap out Nexus 7 for current application), particularly to the flood of new users converting from iOS.

    Well done!

  2. RewindMe says:

    I want to thank you for all your work in writing these reviews, and to agree with someone else on your site: your writing is outstanding, so well-organized and thorough. I really appreciate your point of view,too.

    Thanks for all the great stuff!

  3. AW says:

    good stuff, gonna read it more closely once mine comes in.

    thank your buddy from neoGAF for posting the link

  4. ektoll says:

    Indeed, very nice work putting all this together, bookmarked!

  5. Fixed the bad game links. Appreciate the heads up!

  6. Bill Moore says:

    ” Unfortunately, you cannot WRITE data to the USB drive without modifying your device (outside the scope of this article).”

    I copied some movies(ripped to MP4) directly to the USB drive movie folder. Everything seems to work. Is this going to screw-up anything?

  7. I want to get one of these, but my girlfriend won’t give it to me!
    , annoying

  8. BOBEL says:

    looks good can’t wait untell I get one.

    you did a excellent job for us new to android rooting.

    Bob

  9. Brendan says:

    Hi, do you know why headphones only partially go into the head phone jack? Is that factory defect or do i simply need to just push them in farther. Email reply would be much appreciated thanks!

  10. Marie says:

    I am new at this technology (received Nexus 7 (32g) as a gift). Is there software I can download to make it a rear camera. I was really looking forward to using the camera feature.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

  12. Christine says:

    Please help. I am in Manchester in the UK and all my location settings are on yes. When I am out and about I connect my Nexus to wi-fi via my phone so I have connected. HOWEVER when I am near a bus stop I do NOT get a google now card telling me when the next bus is coming. Why not? Help me please.

    Thanks

    • I’m not familiar with how Google Now works with bus route updates. However, I do know that the syncing doesn’t happen in real time. There may be a lag.

      Also, Google Now may not be able to tell where you are – perhaps your GPS cannot get a fix or your GPS is off?

      Are you sure Manchester is covered with bus route info?

      • Christine says:

        Hi Shane

        My GPS is on. I just assumed that as the facility works in the US it would work over here. I don’t know if Manchester is covered with the bus route info and I don’t know how to find out

  13. Ann Timms says:

    Hi I hope you can help, my nexus keeps going off, its like sleep mode but when you try to unlock it to carry on using it, it wont let you without powering it off and on again. I’ve just done a full factory reset and it’s still doing it. Do you have any hints to what it can be? Thanks

  14. Ann Timms says:

    Please help, why does my nexus go into what I can only say is a sleep mode when I am using it and then to unlock it again I have to power off and on again? I have tried a full factory reset and it hasn’t worked. Thanks

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