Google cuts the ribbon on the LTE 4G version of its Nexus 7 tablet, entices buyers with a free month of T-Mobile data service.
Google Nexus 7, Chromecast: Visual Tour
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Google this week added the LTE-equipped version of the Nexus 7 tablet to the Google Play Store. The Android 4.3 Jelly Bean tablet costs $349 and comes with 32 GB of built-in storage. The device is shipping with a T-Mobile SIM card installed, and T-Mobile is offering a free month of HSPA+/LTE service to those who purchase the tablet. The Wi-Fi version of the Nexus 7 tablet from Google went on sale in July.
The free month of service (up to 2 GB) is a coup by T-Mobile. The tablet actually supports the LTE networks of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless (nope, not Sprint). T-Mobile was smart to convince Google to package the tablet with its service preinstalled. T-Mobile's LTE 4G network is smaller than those offered by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, but the company is pushing its "Un-carrier" challenger agenda hard.
Last month, T-Mobile claimed its LTE network reached more than 167 million people across the U.S. in 116 metropolitan areas. That's a bit more than half the reach of AT&T and Verizon's LTE networks. T-Mobile says its LTE network will cover 200 million people by the end of the year. In areas where T-Mobile's LTE is not available, it will fall back to the company's HSPA+ network, which is also speedy.
It is certainly worth taking T-Mobile up on its offer of free service. After the month is up, if you're not satisfied with the wireless performance on T-Mobile's network, simply pop out the SIM card and buy one from AT&T or Verizon Wireless. Each carrier will be happy to add the Nexus 7 to a mobile share or family share plan. As with T-Mobile, the LTE Nexus 7 will fall back to HSPA+ on AT&T's network in regions where AT&T's LTE network isn't available.
It's a bit different with Verizon, however. The LTE Nexus 7 does not support Verizon's CDMA-based 3G network. If there's no Verizon LTE available, the Nexus 7 will simply drop the network connection altogether. It is worth pointing out, though, that Verizon's LTE network covers nearly all of its CDMA 3G footprint. In other words, Verizon's LTE network is widely available.
The Nexus 7's defining feature is the screen, which was dramatically improved to 1920 x 1200 pixels, from the original Nexus 7's 1280 x 800-pixel display. The pixel density increased from 216 ppi to 323 ppi, a significant jump. The Nexus 7's processor was also improved from a dual-core chipset to a 1.5-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2 GB of RAM for apps. The new chip nearly doubles the processing power and boosts graphics performance by a factor of four.
The Nexus 7 includes stereo speakers and uses Fraunhofer's virtual surround sound technology to improve how movies and other video content sound. The Nexus 7 has two cameras. The user-facing camera rates 1.2 megapixels and the rear-facing camera rates 5 megapixels. It does not have a flash, but it can record 1080p HD video.
Beyond the HSPA+/LTE radios onboard the new version, existing connectivity options are solid. The Nexus 7 has dual-carrier 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, HDMI out, NFC and wireless charging via the Qi standard. The battery is good for nine hours of video playback or 10 hours of Web browsing, according to Google.
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