After days of leaks the new Nexus 7 has been announced. The tablet features one of the best screens on the market, a rear facing camera, and faster processor, but do these make it a better teaching device?
The new Nexus 7 may look similar to its predecessor in images, but under the hood it’s a very different beast. The washed out screen of the old Nexus 7 is gone, replaced with a bright and colourful 1920 x 1200 panel with a pixel density of 323ppi — arguably one of the best tablet screens available. The new Nexus 7 runs Android 4.3 but there are few new features worth mentioning in an educational context. Inside is a 1.5GHz Snapdragon Pro processor with Adreno 320 graphics and 2GB of RAM which bests most of the competition.
So, is it time to hand in your iPad Mini and switch to Android for conducting your lessons?
While Google’s foray into education with Chromebooks has been more successful than anyone — especially Microsoft — could have imagined, the company simply doesn’t seem to have the same drive to encourage Android uptake in schools. Is this simply a lack of initiative or by design? Will this improve in future now that the head of Chrome and Android are one and the same?
With the new Nexus 7 we now have the rear facing camera demanded by teachers, Google Play for Education scheduled for release in September, and a smooth responsive operating system running on high-end hardware. But there’s still something missing!
Give us screen mirroring Google!
I don’t mean screen mirroring where I have to root a teacher’s device and install a dodgy third-party app, or find a botch using VNC. Give us real screen mirroring built into the core of the operating system and encourage hardware vendors to support it in televisions, projectors, and other devices so that we don’t have to purchase additional expensive hardware for our classrooms.
Google, you need to properly support Miracast.
With the previous Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, Google alluded that Miracast — an industry standard screen mirroring technology — would be supported, however, this never happened. Currently the only Nexus device that supports Miracast is the Nexus 4 phone.
For many teachers the iPad’s ability to mirror its screen to an Apple TV or desktop is a primary teaching function. Without screen mirroring a mobile device’s use as a teaching aid is severely limited. Google’s apparent failure to recognise this has resulted almost singularly in the slow uptake of Android in education.
With iOS7 set to include management of Apple TVs by MDM services, Apple is showing it recognises the core benefits of AirPlay mirroring in education and is streamlining the system. In the meantime, Google seem to be floundering, unsure which direction to take.
Google should be laying a foundation for Miracast with its Nexus line of devices in order to encourage other hardware and software vendors to support it. Instead Google has announced the Chromecast Key, an HDMI wireless media streaming device.
The Chromecast Key plugs into the HDMI port of your television or projector and, using any device running Chrome (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Android), allows you to stream content to the television or display Chrome browser tabs on the remote screen. This effectively makes your phone or tablet a remote control for the television.
It’s Miracast without the screen mirroring.
Google has also released a Chromecast API to allow software developers to build Chromecast streaming functionality into their apps. At $35 (approximately £23) the Chromecast dongle is cheap, but its success will hang on how many developers support it, and how many customers purchase it.
Google needs to produce a benchmark device targeted at the education market. In the same way the Nexus line of devices forces manufacturers in the consumer market to provide better hardware so Google should do the same for schools. The current situation of operating system fragmentation, and proprietary technologies defines Android and only makes the case for the iPad stronger.