How Google Nexus 7 with mobile data changes connected tablets
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In this always on, always-connected world, it's increasingly difficult to give up mobile broadband while traveling, even when overseas. The beauty of GSM networks and the SIM card has always been the relative universality of the networks, and the interchangeable nature of SIM cards. Granted, some regions don't use GSM; and to enjoy this flexibility, one needs to have a phone or tablet that's "unlocked"—meaning, not tied to a carrier. Until now, all of the tablets shipped with mobile data in the U.S. were tied to a carrier. The Google Nexus 7 with WiFi + Mobile Data breaks free of that paradigm, and in so doing literally opens up the world for those on-the-go.
The allure of mobile data is strong, yet I despise the idea of paying absurd amounts of money to my mobile carrier for the honor of international roaming. When I've traveled, I've often added mobile data to a local SIM card, and the results have been nothing short of eye-opening. Having mobile Internet makes travel so much easier—museum opening times, live mapping and directions, restaurant recommendations, addresses and phone numbers all right there at my fingertips. I've used mobile Internet to catch a cab driver in Brussels purposely taking me the long way around, locate an obscure hidden statue, find my way in Barcelona, and check on a meeting place for dinner in Hong Kong. Using a local SIM card isn't the only way to go, of course: Earlier this week, AT&T reduced the rates on its global data packages reduced the rates on its global data packages, in a way that makes paying for global data on a phone or a tablet more viable than ever before. It's still not as inexpensive as the approximately $12 I paid for a week of data connectivity in Hong Kong last year, but it still beats the highway robbery that international data plans have constituted in the past.
The inclusion of an unlocked multiband cellular radio that supports more than 200 GSM providers worldwide—including AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States—catapults the Nexus 7 with WiFi + Mobile Data into a unique vantage point among tablets. So far, no other tablet from a mainstream manufacturer has come out with an unlocked Micro-SIM card slot. This means you can pick up a SIM card as needed, wherever you may be; assuming, of course, that the service offers a Micro-SIM, or that you can buy your SIM card at a shop that can cut a regular-sized card down to fit the smaller Micro-SIM slot. While the decision to support as many regions as possible makes sense from a manufacturing perspective—both for Google as well as manufacturing partner Asus—it happily makes sense for consumers, too. It's highly appealing to think about marrying the convenience of mobile data with the portability and benefits of a 7-inch tablet. I find 7-inch tablets to be among my personal favorite for size; really, anything up to an 8-inch display seems to hit an optimal sweet spot to balance weight and physical size, whether you're using it on a street corner, or while sitting in a meeting.
The Nexus 7 with WiFi + Mobile Data is even more compelling when you consider its price tag: $299 for a 32GB model. (Beyond the Micro-SIM slot, this model is the same as the less-expensive Nexus 7, available with 16GB or 32GB of storage.) That makes the cellular-connected HSPA+ option, a mere $50 step-up over a standard Wi-Fi Nexus 7, a veritable bargain compared with the $130 premium Apple charges for its mobile broadband-capable tablets. Kudos to Google for pushing the existing paradigm for connected tablets beyond what's the de facto norm today.