Jul 27 2012
07:46 am

As mentioned in last week's review of the Google Nexus 7 tablet, Google has decided for some reason to use a portrait mobile/phone layout for the tablet.

Motorola is rolling out an OTA 4.1 Jelly Bean update for the Xoom tablet, and ours got it yesterday. The visual differences from 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich aren't really all that noticeable except in the settings menus and the status bar and notifications, which are at the bottom of the screen in the Motorola stock Jelly Bean implementation.

Comparing Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7 v. the Xoom highlights the differences in the Nexus "native" mobile/phone layout v. the Xoom tablet layout. The home screen rotates on the Xoom and doesn't on the Nexus. More frustrating, though, is the noticeable lack of tablet apps for the Nexus as compared to the Xoom.

For example, popular tablet apps such as the USA Today tablet edition and Huffington Post Newsglide do not show up in a Google Play store search from the Nexus, but do when you search using the Xoom. Both have mobile/phone layout versions that show up for the Nexus. I side-loaded both from the Xoom to the Nexus and the HuffPo app worked fine but the USA Today app had trouble with the layout even in landscape mode.

Some apps work with either layout. For example, Taptu, a really nice feed reader app, works fine on the Nexus in either portrait or landscape mode, so apparently it's possible to write one version that works with either a mobile or tablet layout.

It appears that Android tablet app developers have some work to do to make their stuff compatible with Nexus. It's unfortunate that Google couldn't make the Nexus backward compatible with ICS or Honeycomb tablet apps, because it seems to sort of defeat the purpose of jump-starting the Android tablet market and it's likely frustrating for developers as well. And for some reason, Google really wants you to hold the Nexus in one hand in portrait mode.

jah's picture

Interesting. Apparently the

Interesting. Apparently the DPI of the N7 is in between "tab" and "phone" dpi, so some apps will see it one way and some will see it another way. There are some articles out there about why that is, but I think it comes down to looks and an unconventional ppi.

You can easily change the DPI to a lower number. I get these things confused (DPI vs PPI vs DP, etc), but I think the N7 is set at 240, and lowering it to 160 would make it a tab - and make everything smaller at the cost of true HD. But it might be fun to play with, if you are rooted.

Most 7" tabs have a lower PPI and simply display phone apps every time. Your tab has great PPI, but they chose to make its density higher at the cost of tab apps. All they had to do to make it "backwards compatible" was to lower the screen density. Or they could have made the screen slightly larger (= why you see several 7.7" tabs floating around).

Check out this thread on XDA - (link...)

R. Neal's picture

Couldn't apps just report a

Couldn't apps just report a fake DPI in the manifest? Wouldn't they get the real DPI from the API and adjust accordingly? (I don't really know how all that works. Will check out the XDA thread.)

R. Neal's picture

Ah, I see from the XDA thread

Ah, I see from the XDA thread that the problem is the DPI the Nexus reports to the Play store and apps. I'd rather not root my tablet because I'd probably screw it up. Google should change this or make it an option. Looks nice in tablet layout, though, just like my Xoom!

jah's picture

My understanding of screen

My understanding of screen density is extremely basic. If I had found the XDA link sooner, I probably would have saved a lot of time and sounded more intelligent, too.

As far as rooting, that's usually not a very big deal. At a glance, I saw a couple of posts with one-click root, although it looks like they might wipe the device, which is kind of unusual. It's extremely rare to brick your android by rooting. The only real risk is giving apps more permission (and I guess you could lose your warranty if you are very unlucky). But then you get tons of benefits such as full or partial backup and restore, ad blocking, better tethering, dns control, tons of tweaking, etc. And there are apps like BetterBatteryStats and GestureControl. And changing launchers and making the new launcher a system app so that it stays in memory.

Obviously, I'm a bit of an advocate. I can't imagine having an android without rooting it first thing.

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