Just a few weeks ago, I sold my Galaxy Nexus. This was just before Google announced that it was having an event to announce new Android devices, but I was expecting new Nexus hardware soon and wanted to get the most for my device as possible. In the interim between the sale and a new Nexus device, I planned to simply use my Nexus 7 as a primary mobile Android device, and simply do without a smartphone. Since I rarely make any calls anyways, this seemed like a fine solution.
In fact, it worked so well that I am reconsidering the number of mobile devices and tablets that I really need. For most of this year, I was content just to have the Galaxy Nexus, while waiting eagerly for Google to announce its rumored tablet during the summer. The Galaxy Nexus was a fantastic phone, and worked well for organizing all of my cloud data, media, and generally just fit my personal usage situation. That’s not to say that I had no complaints, as the lackluster camera, small screen, and less than perfect reading experience did mar the experience ever so slightly. Still, I used the smartphone for nearly everything, as it was my only mobile device.
Then, just after Google announced it, I bought the Nexus 7. As I said in my review, at first I was a bit underwhelmed. The tablet was good, but it wasn’t anything revolutionary. However, as time went on, I began using the Nexus 7 for more and more things, in lieu of my Galaxy Nexus. Eventually, I stopped using the Nexus for anything but phone calls and the occasional bit of browsing when the Nexus 7 was out of reach, simply because the Nexus 7′s display makes any kind of content look so much better.
For some people, the fact that the Nexus 7 doesn’t really fit into a pocket would mean that this wouldn’t happen. With my personal use, though, I nearly always have a laptop bag or some other sort of backpack with me. I actually used to keep the Galaxy Nexus in the same bag with the Nexus 7, because I don’t like the weight of the device in my pockets. Because of this, both my smartphone and tablet are always in the same place, and since the Nexus 7 is much nicer to use than the Galaxy Nexus, it is what ends up being used. Basically, the point of all this is that because of how I use my devices, I didn’t really notice anything missing when I got rid of my Galaxy Nexus.
After a few weeks of living without the Galaxy Nexus, I began to consider the idea that perhaps I didn’t need to buy a brand new smartphone. Before Google announced the 3G Nexus 7, that was an option that I had never seriously considered. However, when Google announced the 3G Nexus 7 at $299, it suddenly became a real possibility. With apps like Google Voice and GrooveIP, I could turn the 3G Nexus 7 into a VOIP phone using a T-Mobile GSM data plan. Not only that, developers would likely make custom ROMs to unlock the stock dialer on the device, which would mean that it could potentially be used with a regular voice plan.
Between GrooveIP and the fact that I don’t really make a lot of voice calls, the Nexus 7 begins to look like a better option for me than the Nexus 7. Instead of having two devices that duplicate functionality quite a bit, I could keep the one that has more advantages, and save a lot of money as well as reduce the number of devices I have to carry around in a day. That’s not to say that the Nexus 7 is a perfect phone replacement, as it still lacks a camera, wireless charging, and enough portability for some, but it has gotten quite close to being a passable replacement.
The reason that I’ve told this long, personal story is twofold. First, I wanted to put the idea of using a 7-inch tablet as a primary mobile phone out there, and see if anyone else has tried it or has an opinion. Second, I also wanted to make a small note on the fact that in my opinion, 7-inch tablets still duplicate a lot of the functionality of smartphones, and vice versa. The Nexus 7 even runs the phone version of Android, and doesn’t include anything to differentiate it from a smartphone other than the larger screen (and a few tablet optimized apps). I know others like to have both devices, but I’ve found that when I have a smartphone and a tablet, one device sits around most of the time, while the other is used for nearly everything.
Some people say tablets are still a luxury, non-essential item, and that may be true if you primarily use a smartphone. However, when the smartphone is used strictly for phone calls and the tablet becomes the primary device (and can also make phone calls), perhaps the smartphone is now the non-essential item.