Apple iPad or Google Nexus 7: Which one should you get?

Apple iPad or Google Nexus 7: Which one should you get?

Up until now, the question "should you buy an iPad or [blank]?" was almost always answerable with "iPad unless you don't like Apple." The Amazon Kindle Fire tried to change that equation, but Amazon has been coy about sales numbers, and beyond the U.S. border its content is so anemic it's still closer akin to a paperweight than a tablet. Now Google is taking its shot with the ASUS-manufactured, Google Nexus 7.

Our Mobile Nations sibling site, Android Central has just posted their complete Google Nexus 7 review, and according to Jerry Hildenbrand, it's good, but not a game changer:

The Nexus 7 doesn't bring a compelling reason to "go Google" when considering a tablet purchase like we were hoping. But the hardware and software on the Nexus 7 make it a very interesting piece of gear, and when the price is factored into the equation, there's simply not a better tablet for the money available from anyone, anywhere. Stock Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and updates direct from Google are icing on the cake. I would recommend the Nexus 7 to anyone and feel good about handing out that advice.

And here's what we had to say in our new iPad review:

Judged in a vacuum, the new iPad is incredible technology wrapped in gorgeous design at an unbeatable price. Taken in context, the new iPad will appeal most to “firsts.” First-time tablet buyers, first-generation iPad owners looking to upgrade, and first-adopters who simply want the future in their hands today. If any of those describe you, get the new iPad.

With that in mind, does the introduction of a Google branded tablet running the latest, greatest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software stack still offer a better alternative answer to iPad?

Hardware

The iPad is 9.7-inches with a 2048x1536 IPS Retina display at 264 ppi. The larger size makes it heavier to hold for long periods of time, and harder to carry around without a bag. It also allows for a more powerful class of software, and the larger interface makes it easier to use.

The Nexus 7 is 7-inches with a 1280x800 IPS display at 216 ppi. The smaller size makes it ideal to hold for longer periods of time and easier to carry around in jacket pocket if needed. However, 7-inch apps can sometimes be closer akin to smartphone apps than full-sized tablet experiences. And, in fact, Google's using a mix of the two on the Nexus 7; some apps use combinations of smartphone and tablet layouts.

Both are powerhouses, graphically and otherwise, though the iPad can be purchased with up to 64GB of storage while the Nexus 7 maxes out at 16GB.

Software

iPad photo gallery

The iPad currently runs iOS 5.1.1 but will be updated to iOS 6 this fall. It's a mature operating system with most features that most users need. It's designed for the mainstream, however, and what concessions it makes for power users are carefully hidden away from that mainstream. That means, while powerful and easy to use for just about everyone, iOS isn't as flexible or customizable as Android, and not as much fun for geeks.

The Nexus 7 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which keeps all the power and flexibility of previous generations yet promises a new, more "buttery" user experience. It's built by geeks for geeks, with concessions made to the mainstream. That means things can seem simple at first, but there's complexity if you go looking for it. Arguably it's still not as polished or friendly as iOS, but it's far more powerful and customizable.

Both are stable, rich operating systems with more than enough features to fill the needs of any consumer, though iOS still skews towards the mainstream and Android, the power crowd.

Media and apps

How to download movies and music on your new iPad

The iPad has access to Apple's iTunes ecosystem, which includes iTunes Music, Movies, TV Shows, iBooks, and the App Store. Hands down, iTunes provides the most content, in the most countries, and to this day no one else even comes close. The iPad also has access to a several of the Google Play services, including Books and Music, a lot of Amazon services, including Kindle, and other services. This all adds up to make the iPad unmatchable when it comes to content.

The Nexus 7 is a front end for the Google Play store and is optimized to help you buy and enjoy that content in the best way possible. Google Play offers a robust set services, but is still missing major studios in the U.S. and is perhaps even more anemic than Amazon outside the U.S. If you live in America and are heavily invested in Google, you'll be okay. But you'll probably be okay on the iPad as well.

Both have software markets with hundreds of thousands of apps and games, and both have media stores -- only Apple's media store has more content and is available in many, many more countries.

Price

The iPad starts at $499 for 16GB. If you don't need a Retina display, for $399 you can get last year's iPad 2 at 16GB.

The Nexus 7 is at $199 for 8GB of storage, $249 for 16GB.

The iPad is a good value for the price, but the Nexus 7 has the lowest price.

Conclusion

So which should you get, the Apple iPad or the Google Nexus 7?

Unless you really want something smaller and more portable, or already have a huge investment in Android apps, get the iPad. If you're outside the U.S., it's almost a no-brainer.

If you want a small, inexpensive tablet, or if you just want a tablet that's not made by or connected to Apple, the Google Nexus 7 is the best, most modern option.

Note: If you don't need a tablet today and the smaller form factor interests you, wait until the fall. Apple might just be releasing an iPad mini around about then, and if they do, it'll definitely be something to consider.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 31 comments. Add yours.

SoggyTempura says:

For me, It's all about applications and productivity for my work. Android can't touch that - - at least it hasn't yet. iPad/iPhone are it for me.

Duvi says:

I'll probably get one just to get one. The price point is pretty good. I probably, like my iPad 2, new iPad, PlayBook and Tab 7 plus, it'll stay unused.

dev84 says:

I ordered a Nexus 7 to go alongside my Retina iPad. Figure laying it around people will pick it up and not look for my iPad so much. Plus the size makes it the perfect bathroom companion

Rene Ritchie says:

I ordered a Nexus 7 as well. It'll be nice to have an Android 4.1 device around to play with.

mech1164 says:

Watch out Rene, soon after having the Nexus 7. We will be seeing you hosting those AC podcasts. Phil will have to fight for air time.:)

richard_rsp says:

I also per-ordered a 16gb Nexus 7 to go along with my iPad 2. I have really been wanting a smaller tablet that could fit in my jacket pocket, but none of the existing 7" Android tabs have been worth the money (i have bought and returned/sold several) - The Nexus 7 seems like its worth the price...

And if The iPad 7.x" comes out and I decide id rather have it, I don't mind selling another Android Tab either! :)

PilotPhil81 says:

I have an iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV at home, so I see no place for a cheap plastic android device that won't work with my home network.

jkurl15 says:

How do you know it won't work w/ your network? Have you tried it yet? As far as cheap plastic again have you even given it a chance? My guess is no for all three questions.

PilotPhil81 says:

It's android, so it's automatically crap!

LLoydTheDroid says:

People like this are like some type of caricature. Gotta move beyond that buddy.

PilotPhil81 says:

I used to ba an android owner. Droid 1, Droid 2, and Droid Incredible. So I am not just speaking out of my A$$. I know what I am talking about when I say android is crap!

eldaino says:

wow. so because you have used 3 android devices that are AT LEAST 2 years old you are qualified to say android is crap? you are just as bad as people who blindly hate apple for being apple. and unless you used a nexus device, you cant really compare android to ios/apple directly anyway.

dont knock something before you use it. it wouldnt be fair with someone with an original 3gs to be complaining about how his phone sucks when the 4 and 4s are massive improvements would it? but fanboys like you can never see past that.

lvavila says:

He meant eco-system, not ip network.

eric6052 says:

I have the New iPad, a Nook Color and an Acer Iconia Tablet. I won't be buying a Nexus 7. It looks pretty cool but I really have no use for it given the tablets I already have. The Nook Color is the portable 7 inch form factor but that's it's most compelling feature. I use it for reading occasionally but mostly my kids use it to play emulators of old SNES and Genesis games. The Acer is a 10 inch tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich. The lack of tablet apps thing isn't nearly as big of a deal as its made out to be in my opinion. The lack of great games is a problem but most core apps have a tablet version. The difference is where there may be 10 good Twitter iPad apps there will only be 1 or 2 for an Android tablet. You don't get as much choice but the apps are there. Finding them can also be a problem in the Google Play store because things just aren't as well sorted out as iPhone and iPad apps in the App Store. The Nexus 7'could help move Android on tablets along if they can get the word out to regular consumers, like Apple and Amazon both have done.

jkurl15 says:

@Rene great review w/ pluses for each device.

teepeeayy says:

Doesn't have a compelling reason to "go Google" but there's not a better tablet for the money? Does that sound like a contradiction in terms?

lvavila says:

I get it. Not enough "Google bling" for me to switch from Apple offerings but the price range makes it a good tablet other wise. Other wise = if NOT already invested in the Apple eco-system.

TiNuts says:

Can you elaborate JellyBean being "far more powerful"? Not trying to pick an argument, I'm genuinely curious.

swhaley1231 says:

I think he is talking more about power in terms of the power user features that Android offers... just a guess though. :)

scottae316 says:

I still have the original iPad, but would like something lighter and smaller. For me at the moment it is the PlayBook. Many useful apps, excellent OS and UI, and small enough to carry just about anywhere. I am really thinking about upgrading to the new iPad, a local Apple reseller is offering trade in on older iPads for the new iPad. But, I would really love a fully functional iPad "mini."

johncblandii says:

Whichever device works for you...get it.

Me? Both. lmbo.

LLoydTheDroid says:

Putting ICS on a Kindle Fire I had sitting around the house has made it a much more useful and fun device. I find myself grabbing it almost as often as the iPad. The Nexus 7 running JB will bring much better hardware and functionality so its a definite buy. 7 inch form factor is so convenient, it just slides into a pocket or is easily carried with other items in my hand. I find myself grabbing the iPad when I want a specific app, but much more prefer the experience inside of ICS/JB. I am that power user.

Dark_Blu says:

Get the iPad. Android sucks. Plus, Android sucks. And, Android sucks. ;-)

Dark_Blu says:

But in all seriousness, the Nexus 7 is a compelling device... until Apple brings the iPad mini. Then it's over for the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire 2.

eldaino says:

you mean its over for the ipod touch. assuming apple even makes a smaller tablet. though if they do, despite old rumours, its a knee-jerk reaction to the nexus 7, as google has never backed a tablet like this before.

and even if you did settle for an ipad mini, to get it even remotely close to the nexus 7 in pricing, you'll be ditching the camera (or having the crappy ones the ipad 2 came with) have less space (prob only 8 gig) and you'll have an inferior screen compared to the nexus (i doubt it will come with a retina display, it will more than likely have the ipad2's screen.)

you could argue the apps are better, and i'd agree there is more of them, but to me the only thing that would make me opt for an ipad mini would be infinity blade. they port that over to android and i wouldnt really long for any idevice anymore. now mb pros are a different story.

at any rate, even at the ipad mini's cheaper price, i'd still say the nexus7 is a superior buy

far kingdom says:

I'll get an iPad instead of Nexus. Reason is probably because I'm already in Apple's ecosystem. I'll only get Nexus 7 if I feel like trying Android.

HardCoreAppleFanBoy says:

I'll wait till Dec. If Apple Does not release 7", I will be compelled to but Nexus 7.

Dogzwild2k1 says:

good for the android community but I have the macbook pro and the iphone already, switching ecosystems would be a pain...I had android before (G1(twice), Motorola CLIQ, HTC Hero, EVO 4G) and the build quality was so bad across all manufacturers.. if it wasnt the battery, it was the antenna. I can say that the devices are looking sharper and the android OS is getting better throughout time...if the iPad Mini doesnt drop this year then ill try the Nexus 7 just to see how far android has matured

baldypal says:

Everyone, Google specifically stated that Nexus 7 was built to compete with Kindle Fire, not iPad. Also, Google's larger tablet has not been Announced yet. Then you can compare those 2.

griffindance90 says:

As an owner of both the Nexus 7 and the new iPad, i would recommend the iPad. I'm saying this from a graphic designer's perspective who relies on features such as the larger retina display, and AT&T's 4G LTE connectivity (available here in San Fran).

Johannes Lopez says:

so this is the Lil Crapple corner of this site huh! this is where most of the pretentious Crapple owners come and stroke themselves to an Apple nirvana and fill your petit brains with enough Crapple pompous material to fill your Lil Crapple fan boy hearts... good luck with your future Crapple since your brain and creator is now resting in the iCloud... this is the dawn of Android punks ! don't worry we'll make use of that Pad of yours when it gets run over by Nexus not to mention the embarrassment of desperate creation you call a mini. I will spit on the grave of its worthless hardware.