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Google's Nexus 7 Has Issues - Is It Fixable, Or Is There a Bad Batch?

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2013-08-15-nexus_7.png

If you're in the US, you've had access to the Nexus 7 for a few weeks now. I'm in the UK which means that, technically, I have to wait until August 28 for the release on my side of the Atlantic. But the nice chaps at Google saw fit to wing a unit my way so I wouldn't have to wait. Lovely.

I was already aware of the experiences of some of my friends and colleagues who, already stateside, had received their Nexus 7s some time before me. One was understandably disappointed to find that the tablet he was sent was unusable; it would not boot.

I do not think either of us thought much of this, nor anyone else who heard about it. Duff devices happen, it's just one of those things. He was sent out a replacement which proved problem-free. I eagerly anticipated the arrival of mine.

It's quite common for there to be problems with a new device. I'd almost go as far as saying it is reasonable to almost expect a few teething problems with brand new devices, particularly if you're an early adopter. There are plenty of stories about people who are extremely happy with their new tablet, but for everyone who is happy with the 2013 version of the Nexus 7 there are plenty who have cause for complaint.

Considering the thousands of miles the package had to travel to sunny (!) Scotland, mine arrived at my door amazingly quickly. Tearing open the box I was greeted by the sight of a shiny Nexus 7 accompanied by a Chromecast. The latter was very quickly set up and put to use, but it wasn't long before my attention, and that of my girlfriend, turned to the tablet.

But the excitement was somewhat short-lived. I was pleased to find that I was not plagued by my friend's unbootable device issue, but it quickly became clear that something was amiss.

Browsing through websites or using Google maps, I found that my view would zoom in and out in a seemingly random fashion. Most irksome. But it didn't end there. Writing emails, typing documents, playing games... anything that involved using the onscreen keyboard, or just using the touchscreen in general, yielded unexpected results.

Trying to type a simple sentence took forever simply because I spent so much time backtracking to correct mistakes that had crept in. These were not typos I'd made, rather random key presses introduced by an unknown gremlin.

"No biggie", I thought, "I'll just try out my Bluetooth keyboard for now". No joy. The keyboard, which worked - and indeed continues to work - perfectly with a couple of Android phones and an iPad, just refused to communicate with the Nexus. It appeared to be successfully paired, but typing was fruitless.

Looking around online it soon transpired that I was far from alone. Perform a search for "Nexus 7 2013 Bluetooth problems" or "Nexus 7 2013 ghost taps" and you'll find countless disappointed Nexus owners gnashing their teeth.

Threads on the Google product forums stretch to many, many pages. There are people complaining of unbootable devices and GPS issues, but by far the biggest bugbear is touchscreen problems. Download the app YAMTT (Yet Another MultiTouch Test) from Google Play. If you're in possession of one of the problematic Nexus 7s (Nexi?) you will see ghost taps appearing as you place your fingers on the screen.

Perhaps the obvious thing to do is to try a factory reset. This shouldn't really be necessary with a brand new device, but it's worth a shot. Lot of people have tried doing this with no success. OK, plan B. Maybe it's a faulty unit... Take it back/send it back and swap it for a new one. Again, this is a route lots of people have gone down, with some forum users claiming to be on their sixth or seventh Nexus 7, each exhibiting the same problems.

This has obviously caused immense frustration among users. Sure, the new Nexus 7 is one of the cheapest tablets of its class, but that's not the point. Spend a couple of hundred dollars on a device and it's not unreasonable to expect it to work.

But what has annoyed people the most - certainly in the Google forums - is the fact that Google remained silent about things for so long. The fact that so many people appeared to be affected by the same issues would seem to indicate that there was a serious problem with the unit, but Google was saying nothing - despite raging speculation the company has not even made an announcement stating whether the thinking is that the problem is hardware or software related.

Finally, Paul from Google entered the arena. He didn't have much light to shed on the situation, but at least he had something to say: "The Android team is aware of this issue and investigating. I'll post an update when there's new information to share".

So, some weeks after release there are still many, many Nexus 7 owners who do not possess a tablet they can reliably use. Problems do happen. Product launches are not always perfectly smooth, but what's irritating here is the lack of communication. The Nexus 7 had a high profile launch, and to avoid addressing the issue head on, and publicly, smacks of deception. Something is wrong when no one is willing to step up to the plate and face the public.

Of course it is not practical to expect every single forum post to get a response from someone in the know, but some sort of update about what's going on is needed. To do otherwise is rude, disrespectful and terrible public relations.

I'm amazed that anyone has the perseverance to try six different units - in the same position I think I would have given up after three and started to save up for one of the slightly more expensive alternatives.

I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my first, and hopefully only, replacement Nexus. I sincerely hope the second unit is free from problems. I love the idea of the new Nexus 7 and, in theory, it has a great deal in its favor. But obviously it needs to work.

At the moment speculation is all there is - and there's a lot of it! We don't even know if there is a hardware or software problem, whether a firmware update is all that's needed or if there may be a recall. This is a poor show from Google. I'm disappointed in how things have been handled and I know I'm not the only one.

This article first appeared on BetaNews.