I’m assuming you’ve powered up your new Nexus (or similar tablet with Android 4.2), logged in or created a Google account and have had a bit of a play. Here’s how to start mastering it.
Basics from the store
You’ll have probably installed the standard apps from Google Play. When you download the next app, tick the ‘Allow automatic updating’ box so apps update in the background in future. If there are any system updates sitting in the notification drawer up the top of your screen, you should also install them.
Add other users
You can add separate users to tablets running Android 4.2. Each user has their own space to customise with their own apps, files, wallpaper and so on. This way, each user can have a device customised to their needs, and you remain the admin and can remove them at any time.
Get your home screen sorted
The ‘Home’ button always takes you to the middle screen and there’s no way to make another screen your default home. So just get rid of unwanted widgets and start populating the home screen with your essential icons.
Change the text size
If you struggle with the default size of the 7-inch Nexus 7 text, you can increase the size by going to ‘Settings > Accessibility’ and clicking ‘Large Text’.
Sync your tablet bookmarks
In the latest versions of Android, the default web browser is actually Google Chrome. If you don’t already have it on your PC, install it and sign in with your Google account. This will let you share your browsing history, as well as your bookmarks, passwords and other form data. You can even view the web pages you have open in your computer’s tabs, so it’s a cinch to swap from reading an article on your desktop to reading it on your tablet and vice versa — just go to the ‘Other Devices’ tab at the bottom of the ‘New tab’ screen.
Use Face Unlock
Don’t you just hate typing in passwords? With the Nexus 7 you can use Face Unlock, which uses the device’s camera to recognise you and let you in. On the previous version of Android, this was notoriously insecure and could be fooled by someone holding up a picture of you! However, in the latest 4.2 (or Jelly Bean) version you can enable an extra security feature called a ‘liveness check’, where the person unlocking the tablet must blink at the camera to pass as genuine.
Tether your tablet
Many tablets don’t include a 3G modem, so the only way to access the internet is via Wi-Fi. If you have a smartphone you can set it up as a Wi-Fi access point. If you have an Android phone, open up ‘Settings’ and under ‘Wireless & Networks’, tap ‘More > Tethering & portable hotspot’ and check the ‘Portable Wi-Fi hotspot’ box. On an iPhone, enable tethering from ‘Settings > General > Cellular > Personal Hotspot’. When you switch this to ‘On’, you’ll have 90 seconds to open up the Wi-Fi menu on your tablet and connect to your iPhone.
There are many guidebooks on Google Play, but if you got a Google Nexus 7 for Christmas, one you should download is the Official Nexus 7 Guidebook, which will give you a good grounding in your device and best of all, it’s free.
While Google’s Music service may not yet be available as you read this, you can still upload your MP3 songs to the Nexus and play them through the Music app. When Google Music finally launches here, you’ll be able to install the Music Manager software and upload your music to the cloud, ensuring it’s accessible from other Android devices.
Get to know Google now
One of the best things about Android version 4.1 and above is that it comes with a pretty revolutionary upgrade of Google Search called Google Now. It’s a more advanced Google Search that tries to anticipate what you want by remembering data you generate on your tablet, from your searches and web browsing to your GPS location and calendar entries. It then presents information it thinks you want, depending on the time and location, via a series of live cards under the search box.
You interact with Google Now via a natural voice assistant, reminiscent of Apple’s Siri, which can do everything from running your search queries to creating appointments. It seems to understand sentences better than Siri, but sometimes fails miserably at certain simple words.
The beauty of Google Now is that the more you use it, the more uncannily accurate it gets at predicting what you need at a particular place and point in time. So if you’re often searching for weather reports, it adds a ‘Weather’ card under the search box, giving you the current weather at your GPS location.
Set your home and work address, and it creates a card that tells you how long it’ll take to get to work based on the traffic at the time, or add an address to your meetings and it will tell you when you should leave to get there on time.
There are also cards for nearby events and movies, news updates, upcoming appointments, hotel info and even popular photo spots near your location.
After I searched for some places to eat, Google Now figured that I was interested in local eateries, so it created a card for those as well. It’s quite an extraordinary app and one that you’re compelled to keep using because every time you do, it gets smarter.
To get to Google Now, swipe upwards from the base of the tablet. A semi-circle will appear, followed by Google Now’s search page. It gives you the option of bypassing, but don’t, whatever you do, because it’s one of the most spectacular elements of the latest Android (4.1+) tablets.
The must-have apps
These are some useful apps for the Nexus 7.
If you’re into graphic novels, the free Perfect Viewer app supports the most common formats and the pages look simply fantastic on the high-resolution display of the Nexus line.
Price: Free, $5.40 ad-free
The Nexus is perfectly suited to video, so there are many options for viewing them. MX Player will play any video format you can throw at it.
Price: Free, $3.99 ad-free
On a more practical note a good file manager app is necessary to handle email attachments or send files downloaded from the browser to other apps. Astro File Manager includes an intuitive gesture-based navigation system and native support for Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive.
Price: Free, $5.99 for pro version
Dropsync allows you to set any folder on your device to remain in sync with your Dropbox account. This means you can have your camera folder on your phone immediately sync with Dropbox and then in turn have that sync with your tablet’s camera folder.