Google's Nexus 7 tablets dying early due to defective hardware and software [u]

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Less than a year after hitting the market at an exceptionally low $199 price point, Google's Nexus 7 mini tablet is causing an uproar among early adopters who complain the device is already beginning to fail with frustrating lag and frequent periods of unresponsiveness.



[Update: While problems with the Nexus 7 originally appeared to be related to defective memory, it appears the problems users were seeing were related to both defective hardware and software deficiencies in Android.

An Android app developer initially commented on the issue, stating that it relates to a known "bug in Samsung's flash controller firmware."

When users fill up storage to the point of having less than around 3GB free, the firmware triggers a process that runs "unusually slow and can lock up the whole device for several seconds."

The comment adds "Google rolled out an update for the Nexus 7 with Android 4.1.2 which doesn't fix the bug but avoids triggering it," and notes, "Google also still hasn't included this fix in any of their Galaxy Nexus updates, which is quite questionable regarding numerous complaints in the Google product forums."

One year after the device was launched, Google unveiled an updated version with new Android 3.2 software capable of properly supporting TRIM commands required to manage solid state storage.]

"I can?t find one person who has been using the Nexus 7 for an extended period of time, and hasn?t seen a massive downgrade in performance," wrote Dustin Early for AndroidAndMe in an editorial titled, "One year later, the Nexus 7 has gone from the best to worst tablet I?ve ever owned."

"I cannot pick up my Nexus 7 without experiencing problems like a lag of ten seconds, or more, just to rotate the display," Early wrote. "Touches refusing to acknowledged; stuttering notification panel actions; and unresponsive apps."

Early said he was originally "blown away" by the Nexus 7, writing "it was the perfect form factor for Android, and probably the best Android device I had ever used at the time. All for just $200. You simply couldn?t ask for more in a device."

Now he says it's "just a shell of its former self," and called the device "an embarrassment to Google."

Despite trying a factory reset and then "drastic measures, like rooting and installing CyanogenMod 10.1" which Early "thought would surely fix everything" based on the assumption that "performance problems were merely a lack of software optimization," he concluded, "nothing seems to work."

Nexus 7 and the case of frustrating lag

Comments on the article indicate his experience is not unique. "I have all the same exact issues. Horrific lag when doing anything in the browser, any simple multi-tasking, and at least one crash/reboot per hour, wrote Kunal Patel. "I?m amazed at how quickly the Nexus 7 deteriorated."

A variety of comments noted similar issues, not just with Google's Nexus 7 but also other tablets build by Asus, the manufacturer Google uses to build the device. In particular, users called out the Asus Transformer Prime.

"My Nexus 7 became paper weight because of this issue," another user commented. "I tried all the regular and rooting routes?ended up selling it. I?ve also used the Transformer Prime extensively and Transformer Infinity for several months and they all fell to the same problems. This is most definitely Asus? manufacturing issue.""After a few weeks, the lag returns, the unresponsiveness creeps back, and tap recognition is hit and miss"

Other users blamed Android's software for failing to properly maintain devices' SSD memory. Several suggested downloading utility apps designed to manually zero out the installed memory, a process that takes about 20 minutes on a 16GB device.

"I tried that and, yes, it worked," one user noted. "But after a few weeks, the lag returns, the unresponsiveness creeps back, and tap recognition is hit and miss. No app can fix the physical problems that I and others have with our 7s. Screen separation in the lower left quadrant (in portrait orientation) is testament to the overall quality of this device. Every time I pick up my 'squishy' device, I am reminded of its bargain price."

Engineering challenges in solid state storage

One problem at the core of the issue seems to be related to early failure of SSD memory. Unlike the conventional mechanical hard drives, which typically either fail immediately or last for several years before nearing the end of their useful life span, solid state memory progressively wears out as it's being used.

High quality flash memory can provide a significantly longer lifespan than cheaper versions, but it also costs more. All SSDs requires intelligent, low level software to identify blocks that are no longer working and work around them.

SSD also requires routines for handling cleanup of erased data, as solid state memory must be erased to zero before being rewritten to, a step that isn't necessary for conventional magnetic hard drives. If these "garbage collection" tasks aren't performed properly, performance degrades over time.

Over the several years of engineering iPods, iOS devices and SSD based Macs including the MacBook Air, Apple has invested lots of resources into balancing performance, efficiency and longevity in its products using solid state memory storage.

The great expense of "torturous" value engineering

Last August, shortly after the Nexus 7 went on sale, Forbes interviewed Asus executive Benjamin Yeh, providing some insight into the rapid development of the Nexus 7.

After the disastrous launch failure of Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets on Xoom hardware developed by Motorola in 2011, Google "decided to look further afield than their acquisition Motorola Mobility," the report stated.

Google approached Asus in January 2012 after seeing the manufacturer's tablet designs at CES. Just four months of engineering work later, the two companies began mass production of Nexus 7.




Source: Asus


To provide some context on Nexus 7's unusually rushed design cycle Yeh explained, "For a mass-market device, from concept to mass production, we?re talking about six to twelve months. Six months is very tight."

Google wanted the device to be "fast, cheap and good," as well as "thin and light," and ready to debut by that summer's Google I/O conference. This placed extreme design challenges on Asus.

Asus chairman Jonney Shih described Nexus 7 co-development with Google to Wall Street Journal blogger Ina Fried, noting, "our engineers told me it is like torture."

And Google's former head of Android development Andy Rubin noted that, after factoring in the Nexus 7's marketing costs, "When it gets sold through the Play store, there?s no margin. It just basically gets (sold) through."

That brings to mind Steve Jobs' prescient observations on the "avalanche" of Android devices being launched in late 2010, nearly two years before the Nexus 7 shipped.

Jobs noted that there were only "a handful of credible entrants," and that they were forced to used a "tweener" 7 inch form factor to hit low price points in order to compete with the iPad.

"Our potential competitors [in tablets] are having a tough time coming close to iPad's pricing," Jobs said. "iPad incorporates everything we've learned about building high value products. We create our own A4 chip, software, battery chemistry, enclosure, everything. This results in an incredible product at a great price. The proof will be in the pricing of our competitors' products, which will offer less for more."

Two years later, Nexus 7 greeted as an iPad killer

At its launch, the Nexus 7 garnered much praise for its display, build quality and performance. Even TechCrunch reviewer MG Siegler, who is seen as an unapologetic fan of Apple's products, wrote that, "with the Nexus 7, Google has, for the first time, created an Android product that I would buy for myself. And I wouldn't have an issue recommending it to anyone else."

Nexus 4


Writing for The Verge, Joshua Topolsky, wrote, "Google's Nexus 7 isn't just an excellent tablet for $200. It's an excellent tablet, period."

The Nexus 7 also won product of the year awards from a variety of sources, including being awarded the "Best Mobile Tablet" at the GSMA Mobile World Congress; both "Tablet of the Year" and "Gadget of the Year" by T3, and "the superior small tablet" by CNET, ahead of Apple's iPad mini, which it called "the luxury latecomer."

And while a more critical review noted that "Google apps run better on the iPad Mini than the Nexus 7," CNET found it newsworthy that its "reader poll" favored the Nexus 7 over the iPad mini by a significant margin.

In reviewing the product for AppleInsider, Neil Hughes wrote "the Nexus 7 is a compelling piece of hardware," but added,"this device is no iPad, and it doesn't even feel like it was made to compete with Apple's market dominating tablet. The narrow screen feels best suited for primarily reading books with the occasional Web browsing and app usage, which pits the Nexus 7 as more of a Kindle competitor than an iPad challenger."

Asus warns of shrinking tablet demand

Despite its many awards and raving reviews, the Google Nexus 7 appears to have sold about 6.8 million units through Q1, according to estimates by industry analyst Benedict Evans. Google hasn't released official sales figures, but Asus does state how many tablets in total it has sold, a number that includes the Nexus 7.

Asus just recently warned investors that it expects shipments of both its Windows 8 and Android tablets to come in around 10 percent short of the previous quarter, with tablet shipments expected to reach just 2.7 million in the June quarter.

In November, Apple sold 3 million new iPad 4 and iPad mini units in its first weekend of sales. Apple sold another 19.5 million iPads in its March quarter, up dramatically from the 11.8 million in the year ago quarter. This fueled estimates stating Apple likely sold about 12.5 million iPad minis in the quarter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 191
    I believe the saying goes, "you get what you pay for."
  • Reply 2 of 191
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,447member


    I owned one for a while. I also owned a Samsung Galaxy s3. It seems like every Android device deteriorates in performance after a while, especially if you load a large number of apps on them. I've sold them all on over time because I hate lag and do not enjoy dealing with the issues that seem to crop up in a short timeframe of a few month.


     


    Android really reminds me of early Windows in that people developed a whole routine to deal with the manner in which the registry blew up and made the computer unusable during Win95-98. Most tech guys I knew had an install directory and could clear and recreate their desktop environment from scratch in a few hours and did so regularly, some as often as once a month.


     


    I'd bet money that these tablets would have their issues clear up if they were wiped and they started fresh on them. It says something terrible that an option like that has to be considered and unlike Apple, there's no iTunes or even iCloud to help them get everything back to the same state again.


     


    Too bad for them but thank goodness for all us Apple owners.

  • Reply 3 of 191


    Ouch, I bet that's all happening one day after the year is up on the warranty. 


     


    I bet Google will do their best to fix this, if it's a hardware problem. They can not afford not to. Even if it's something like the bumpers for the iPhone4. If it's a hardware problem it's gonna be a much bigger deal.


     


    I giggled a bit, but you know how this kind of tech stuff goes. Today it's them, tomorrow... who knows.

  • Reply 4 of 191
    Well two years is outside the Nexus 7's factory warranty period, correct?
  • Reply 5 of 191
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    Ouch, I bet that's all happening one day after the year is up on the warranty. 

    I bet Google will do their best to fix this, if it's a hardware problem. They can not afford not to. Even if it's something like the bumpers for the iPhone4. If it's a hardware problem it's gonna be a much bigger deal.

    I giggled a bit, but you know how this kind of tech stuff goes. Today it's them, tomorrow... who knows.

    Actually, "we" don't know how "this kind of tech stuff goes." I wouldn't accept a motor vehicle that doesn't function well after one or two years and I wouldn't accept accept a computer that does either.
  • Reply 6 of 191
    neo42neo42 Posts: 287member


    This is the first I've heard of any type of widespread early failure for the Nexus 7.  Interesting that it's coming from an Apple site.  I've had a nexus 7 since very shortly after the launch and have never had any problem with it. 

  • Reply 7 of 191
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Sounds like Asus needs to get their s**t together.
  • Reply 8 of 191
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,320member
    While the Nexus 7 examples sound far worse, my iPad 3 is notably lagging more than when I bought it. My past iPhones have got less responsive with time too.

    Apple aren't immune to degrading hardware, or hardware that doesn't meet the increasing demands of the software that runs on it.
  • Reply 9 of 191
    macslutmacslut Posts: 514member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Neo42 View Post


    This is the first I've heard of any type of widespread early failure for the Nexus 7.  Interesting that it's coming from an Apple site.  I've had a nexus 7 since very shortly after the launch and have never had any problem with it. 



     


    Nope, they have all kinds of problems.  Check the Android boards.  Another very common complaint is that it will sometimes fail to charge.  Recover from this involves button holding / restarting voodoo that doesn't work for a lot of people.  I rarely use the Nexus 7 I bought for development and testing purposes, and it has all kinds of problems.


     


    To be clear, these hardware problems are a different issue from my distaste for Android.

  • Reply 10 of 191
    zozmanzozman Posts: 391member


    I have a nexus 7, to me, honestly, it felt laggy & slow from day 1, i have wiped it at least 5 times since i got it, over time it just gets more unstable.

    the lower spec (on paper) iPad mini, is a dream, the real life speed is way more usable & consistent. 

  • Reply 11 of 191
    negafoxnegafox Posts: 480member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Crowley View Post



    While the Nexus 7 examples sound far worse, my iPad 3 is notably lagging more than when I bought it. My past iPhones have got less responsive with time too.



    Apple aren't immune to degrading hardware, or hardware that doesn't meet the increasing demands of the software that runs on it.


    I typically have to wipe my iPhones and iPads once or twice a year to address issues (performance, stability, etc.)

  • Reply 12 of 191
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 28,793member


    I just don't know if Dilger's articles can even be believed due his track record of exceedingly partisan Apple fanboyism.


     


    Any other sources that corroborate these claims?

  • Reply 13 of 191
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member


    But but but some of iOS 7 app icons are ugly.  That's way worse than this. Apple is doomed!

  • Reply 14 of 191
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    Well two years is outside the Nexus 7's factory warranty period, correct?

    Didn't the Nexus 7 only begin shipping in October 2012?
  • Reply 15 of 191
    nkalunkalu Posts: 315member


    Oops! There goes Nexus 7 the way of famous other iPad competitors. That's what you get when you rush into the market unprepared to compete with the iPad.

  • Reply 16 of 191


    Sounds a lot like the problems I had with my 4th gen ipod Touch.  People said I was crazy. 

     

  • Reply 17 of 191
    Didn't the Nexus 7 only begin shipping in October 2012?

    I stand corrected then. But same question; is it failing outside of the factory warranty period?
  • Reply 18 of 191
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,507member
    You get what you paid for.
  • Reply 19 of 191
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    negafox wrote: »
    I typically have to wipe my iPhones and iPads once or twice a year to address issues (performance, stability, etc.)

    Completely different issue. Nexus 7 shipped initially with "Jelly Bean" and still only has "Jelly Bean" to date.

    Apparently, Google needs to rename Project Butter to Project (whatever the opposite of) Butterface (is); Project Butterbody.
  • Reply 20 of 191
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Sounds a lot like the problems I had with my 4th gen ipod Touch.  People said I was crazy. 

    The difference is that your problem is quite unusual. OTOH, it looks like this particular problem is quite common.
    I just don't know if Dilger's articles can even be believed due his track record of exceedingly partisan Apple fanboyism.

    Any other sources that corroborate these claims?

    Sure:
    http://www.osnews.com/story/27132/The_Nexus_7_one_year_later
    http://gadgetsup.com/nexus-7-touchscreen-issue-your-nexus-7-touchscreen-might-becomes-unresponsive/
    http://yudone.com/tech-news/nexus-7-unresponsive-screen/
    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Google-Nexus-7-touchscreen-Jelly-Bean-Dead-Pixel,news-15966.html
    http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/mobile/7n1ger0IscA
    http://forums.androidcentral.com/google-nexus-7-tablet/284951-unresponsive-nexus-7-nothing-works-print.html

    Plenty more. Just search for 'nexus 7 unresponsive'.
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