The Nexus 7, made by Asus in partnership with Google, was the first really successful Android tablet that wasn't made by a bookseller. It brought the hundreds of thousands of games and apps on Google Play (formerly the Android Market) to a wide audience, and it did so at an unheard-of price point: Only $199, for a device packing a Tegra 3 processor which made it much more powerful (and better for gaming) than Amazon's Kindle Fire.
When the Nexus 7 launched, it was Wi-Fi only and had as little as 8 GB of storage space. Google and Asus have fixed both of those problems, and from now until Feb. 14, AT&T is offering $100 worth of credit towards your wireless bill with the purchase of a new Nexus 7 and the signing of a two-year wireless contract.
The tablet itself
The Nexus 7 isn't designed as a book-reader, but is more of a competitor to the iPad Mini. It lacks exclusive Amazon services like Amazon Instant Video, and many of the best iPad games and apps either aren't available for it or aren't available yet. It has far more games and apps for it than the Kindle, though, and can actually read Kindle books and run games and apps that you previously bought for the Kindle.
Its Tegra 3 processor allows it to play "THD"-enhanced games, which are roughly comparable in graphics quality to modern iPad or Xbox games. Finally, the model that AT&T is offering a discount on has both HSPA+ (a slower version of 4G) wireless Internet and 32 GB of storage, a combination which costs $559 on a similarly palm-sized iPad Mini. The Nexus 7 is only $299, and that's before the $100 credit.
The cheapest plan available is the $10 Mobile Share plan, which allows you to add the tablet to a plan that you already have. The next cheapest is AT&T's $15 plan, which offers only 250 MB per month -- okay for occasional email and web surfing, but completely inadequate for streaming videos regularly. Its $30 plan offers 3 GB of data, which still won't stand up to constant Netflix viewing but will hold up much better than the $15 one.
What else is there?
The iPad and iPad Mini are also available (and much more expensive) from AT&T, as is a new Lenovo IdeaTab. It's available for $199 off-contract and $99 on a two-year contract, but it's not as fast or powerful as the Nexus 7, can't play the same games, and has much less storage space.
Finally, if you like the Nexus 7 but aren't sure you'll still want it in two years (especially since the hardware is half a year old already), AT&T offers month-to-month wireless plans, which can be canceled at any time without paying an early termination fee. You just won't get the $100 discount unless you sign a two-year contract.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
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