The Nexus 7 is one of the better tablets on the market, so you've done well by scoring one for Christmas. Here's how to make the most out of your new toy.
Out of the box, your Nexus 7 looks exactly like everyone else’s Nexus 7 – and every other 7” tablet, as a matter of fact. To make your new tablet look like it's yours, you can start by customising its wallpaper.
Assuming you’ve already got some photos on your Nexus 7 (if not, jump to the ‘Transferring photos, music and videos’ section below), you can make one of them your homescreen and lockscreen background. Go to Settings > Display > Wallpaper > Gallery, find the album the photo is in, and tap on it.
The largest blue rectangle indicates the part of the image that will appear on the main homescreen and lockscreen view, and the two smaller rectangles on either side of it are the ‘extended’ parts of the image that will be visible when you swipe left or right. You can resize the rectangles so that more of the image will be included in the wallpaper. Tap OK when you’re done.
Another way to make your Nexus 7 stand out is by sticking it in a case. JB Hi-Fi stocks the official Nexus 7 'travel cover' in a range of colours (including light blue, pink and orange), and you can also find plenty of third party cases from online vendors.
Downloading apps and games is probably the first thing you did when you took your Nexus 7 out of the box. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out our ‘Top 25 apps for Android tablets’ feature.
A few more great apps have come out since then. Fairfax has released the excellent SMH and The Age apps on Android, which are virtually identical to their iOS counterparts, Flipboard has released an updated version of its app that works across all Android tablets in landscape and portrait modes, Houzz has released an Android version of its excellent interior design app, and Archos has released an outstanding video player that supports hardware-accelerated video decoding and automatic movie and TV show information retrieval. The brilliant 'NoteLedge' note-taking and inking app has also crossed the pond from iOS to Android.
Once you’re done with all of your downloading, it’s time to put shortcuts to your favourite apps and games (along with any corresponding widgets) on your homescreens. The latest version of Android makes this easy: from the app launcher, just tap-and-hold on the app you want on your homescreen and drag into the optimal position.
The same goes for widgets – switch to the widgets tab at the top of the screen from the apps launcher, and tap-and-hold the ones you want. You can move them to different homescreens by dragging them on top of the homescreen divider lines.
Transfer photos, music, movies and other files
If you have a Windows computer, it will automatically recognise your Nexus 7 as an external drive, letting you drag and drop files using the standard Windows file explorer. On a Mac, you’ll need to download the Android File Transfer to copy files across.
Prefer to let iTunes handle it? The Nexus 7 isn’t recognised by iTunes natively (surprise, surprise), but iSyncr works well on both Windows and Mac computers for syncing music and videos over a wired or wireless connection.
The other option is storing all of your files in the cloud and pulling it down to your tablet as needed – an attractive option on the Nexus 7, given the limited storage space and lack of memory expansion. Dropbox continues to be the cloud storage service of choice as it works with the most third party apps and has an excellent Android client. If you want more than the 2GB of storage that comes with the free account, you may want to consider Box or SugarSync.
Kit it out with accessories
The Nexus 7 may not have the vast accessories ecosystem enjoyed by the iPad, but there are still lots of cool accessories you can buy to enhance its capabilities. As far as external speakers go, you could go down the wired route by plugging a male-to-male 3.5mm audio cable into the Nexus 7's headphone jack and a speaker's auxiliary input (most speakers have one). For better audio quality, you can dock the Nexus 7 into one of the few Android speaker docks on the market, such as the Philips Fidelio AS851 Docking Speaker.
But aren't wired connection a little retro? You can stream music wirelessly from your Nexus 7 to any Bluetooth speaker dock. If you're cashed up from Christmas money gifts, the Jawbone Big Jambox gets our recommendation for outstanding sound quality in a relatively portable package.
To get around the lack of microSD card slot in the Nexus 7, you can use a wireless drive to add more storage. Seagate has the Satellite Mobile Wireless drive with 500GB of storage and USB 3.0 support, and Kingston has the smaller Wi-Drive Portable Wireless Storage, with capacities from 16GB – 128GB.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of typing, you may want to consider pairing your Nexus 7 with an external physical keyboard. Any Bluetooth keyboard will work, but Logitech and Zagg have smaller offerings that match the Nexus 7’s size of the Nexus 7.
Take advantage of the newest Android features
Google Now, introduced with Android 4.1, adds intelligence to your tablet by giving you directions, traffic information, the weather, flight updates and other useful bits of information before you ask for them by combing through sources like your Gmail, calendar and web search history. But it isn’t enabled out of the box – to set it up, tap and hold on the home button, drag your finger up to the Google circle when it appears, and follow the prompts.
If you’re sharing your new tablet with other family members, you can set them up with their own accounts so they don’t mess with your apps and email (not to mention your Facebook status). This is accomplished by going to Settings > Users and tapping “Add User”. Each new user will get their own social media and email accounts, wallpaper, homescreen arrangements, apps and multimedia files.
Android 4.2 introduced a 'Swype'-style function on the keyboard that lets you type words without lifting your finger off the screen. Google calls this "gesture typing", and while it takes a little getting used to, it's a lot quicker for typing than the usual two-thumbed approach.
While your Nexus 7 is charging, there’s no need for it to be a blank screen. The new ‘Daydream’ feature (found in Settings > Display > Daydream) lets you put a clock, colours, Google Currents news items, a photo frame, or a photo table on the lockscreen. Tap on the ‘When to daydream’ button to specify when this feature is activated.
Last but not least, Android 4.2 introduced support for lockscreen widgets; you can view these by swiping to the right while you’re viewing the lockscreen. Out of the box, there are calendar, Gmail and clock widgets, and you can get more by downloading apps that support this feature, such as Tasks, Plume and HD widgets.