Physician review of the Nexus 7 Google tablet, fits comfortably in your white coat

Even though iMedicalApps was founded on exclusively doing iOS reviews, we have been device agnostic for the last few years. We do reviews of Android and even Blackberry medical apps.

Although the majority of medical professionals use iOS devices, we’ve always kept an open mind to other platforms, even penning an editorial last year with the provoking title: “Why locked Android tablets will beat the iPad for Hospital use”.

When the Nexus 7 tablet was launched recently to much fanfare, we thought the Google tablet deserved a close look from a medical perspective.

My review of the Nexus 7 started with low expectations. Other than the great price point ($200 – $250), I didn’t know what the big fuss was about. A tablet smaller than the iPad, with a lower pixel display (albeit barely), and with a significant smaller app ecosystem.

So obviously, I’m not going to recommend this tablet to medical professionals right?

After almost a month with the Nexus 7, my assumptions were completely wrong. Much of this review compares the Nexus 7 to the benchmark tablet for medical professionals, the iPad.  At the end I’ll discuss two game changers that might sway some medical professionals to opt for the Nexus 7 instead of the iPad.

This review will be Physician centric, focusing on the hardware, form factor, price, and medical app ecosystem.

Hardware

Last year I penned a piece on why Physicians love Apple Hardware. It has a “medical grade” feel to it, something other hardware manufactures have rarely been able to emulate. Although the Nexus 7 doesn’t feel “medical grade”, like the iPad — it does feel significantly better than the any other Android Tablet I’ve tried. It doesn’t feel cheap or plasticy in your hands.

Notably absent is a rear facing camera.  For those that take pictures of patient’s wounds or use their portable device to take pictures of interesting pathology, you will be missing out.

Although it doesn’t have the same pixel density as the iPad, the Nexus display is more than sufficient for reading medical literature and textbooks. The display is surprisingly beautiful compared to other Android tablets.

Apps

Most medical professionals know that Android’s app ecosystem is not on par with iOS. That said, most of the essential medical apps are there. For medical reference and prescription drug reference — Medscape, Epocrates and Micromedex. For cloud storage, Evernote and Dropbox. For PDF management — ezPDF Reader — although there is definitely a dearth of PDF management apps, unlike the iOS  ecosystem.

Unfortunately, groundbreaking apps such as the DrawMD series we covered in our Top 10 free iPad medical apps list are not available. In fact, most of the apps mentioned in our top 10 free iPad medical apps list are not available for the Nexus 7.

Initially, one of the most disheartening and lacking apps for the Nexus 7 was Citrix. I use Citrix on my iPad to access patient medical records, and although you can download the app on the Nexus 7, it had not been optimized for tablet form.  This resulted in a sloppy user experience, and the inability to properly look up patient records, even when trying to use a stylus pen.  Luckily, Citrix just updated their app for the tablet form factor — although for many EMRs the smaller screen of the Nexus 7 still isn’t workable.

Apps that are merely “scaled up” is a trend you see with many of the apps you download for the Nexus 7. Most of them have been scaled up to fit on the Nexus screen, but not optimized for the form factor.

OS

Simply put, Jelly Bean is fun. The OS runs smoothly on the Nexus 7 without hiccups.  From the initial screen shot of this review you can see that Jelly Bean allows you to customize your home screen a significant amount. Much of this is in the form of extremely useful widgets you can place on your home screen — a feature I’m shocked iOS hasn’t incorporated.

Also useful is Google Now, a feature that isn’t Siri-esque, but just as interesting and definitely more useful. I rarely use Siri on my iPhone 4s, and Google’s Now ability to have customizable cards is innovative. It can get kind of creepy though. For example, when you wake up in the morning, it can find out when you’re going to work and will tell you the best way to get to work — without any prompting on your end.  The best way to see it in action is by looking at Google’s explanation: Google.com/landing/now

Overall, it’s clear Android has matured significantly from it’s v2.0 days, and is definitely on par with iOS in its current iteration.

Form factor and Price

So far in this review I’ve mentioned how the Nexus 7 has good hardware, a subpar app ecosystem, and great OS. Nothing spectacular, until you consider form factor and price. These two are the game changers for medical professionals.

The iPad’s form factor leaves much to be desired when using the tablet in the medical setting. First, you have to get a custom white coat that fits the iPad. Once you’re finally able to fit your iPad in your white coat, you feel like someone took a brick and put it in your white coat. I have physician peers who have gone as far as weighing down the other side of their white coat so they can balance themselves.

The iPad weights 1.4 pounds, while the Nexus weights almost half — .74 pounds.  You would think 1.4 pounds verse .74 wouldn’t be much of a difference, but ask a resident or a Hospitalist that uses their iPad for a full day of rounds and you’ll get a similar response.

The Nexus 7 fits a white coat without any issues as the below picture shows:

I can even fit the Nexus 7 in my Emergency Room scrub pant pockets when I’m not wearing my white coat.

Price

For medical students and residents, making a tablet investment is difficult. Medical students are already looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and making an iPad purchase on loan funds will probably equate to a real value purchase of twice the price by the time their loan is paid off. Resident Physicians are finally getting paid, but just above minimum wage, and in some cases, less than minimum wage.  For many residents, an iPad purchase is almost a week’s pay.

All this is to say that a $200 investment is much more palatable than a $500 one, or even a $400 iPad 2 investment.

Conclusion

After having the Nexus 7 for the past month, I am shocked to say I use it more than my iPad in the hospital. This is mainly because I use my iPad for looking up reference data and use the Evernote app on a daily basis to organize and learn medical literature while at the hospital.

But if I had the choice, would I get an iPad or Nexus 7?

I would definitely get the iPad. I still use my iPad more than the Nexus 7 outside of the hospital for medical purposes. The iPad has great medical reference apps such as Radiology 2.0 and robust PDF management apps that are not rivaled by the Nexus or Google’s app ecosystem.

But when I’m at the hospital, the portability of the Nexus 7 can’t be beat. This doesn’t mean the iPad can’t be used in the hospital setting or most physicians would rather use the Nexus 7 — your workflow will determine this. If you use patient education apps or medical reference apps not available for the Nexus 7, then obviously you would still choose the iPad.

One of the biggest conclusions of this review is the need for a smaller tablet form factor for physicians.

Hint, iPad mini.

 

Author:

Iltifat Husain, MD

Founder, Editor-in-Chief of iMedicalApps.com. Emergency Medicine Faculty and Director of Mobile App curriculum at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

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27 Responses to Physician review of the Nexus 7 Google tablet, fits comfortably in your white coat

  1. GV August 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Be patient… The iPad Mini is coming this fall.

    • Rafi August 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

      I’d say the iPad mini is probably going to be more expensive than the nexus. The only reason to get an iPad mini would be for more apps and if for some reason you prefer iOS over Android 4.1.

    • Nick August 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

      iPad Mini will be priced at ~ $300-350, best guess. Estimated mfg costs just came out at around $200, so $300 is a rough split from the $500 new iPad.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD August 30, 2012 at 8:45 am #

      True, will be interesting to see if it will be the same price.

  2. MW August 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    how do text books look on the Nexus 7? is it too small to read?

    • Iltifat Husain, MD August 29, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

      Nope, the display is pretty crisp. Again, not retina display, but pretty close. The form factor makes it more ideal to reading than the iPad. You can actually use one hand for reading — you need two hands for the iPad.

  3. vinay August 29, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Been using the nexus 7 from launch. For reference there are loads of medical books from Amazon Kindle app, other book apps, google books. Toy can have your own books in any format. Loads of useful medical and surgical apps including patient education apps Like the ones from patient.co.UK and plastic anaesthetists association called pain. BNF app for drug reference for free if you user your NHS Athens account or paid if you don’t have one. Other drug reference apps too. Loads of useful apps like sign, nice guidelines, nervewhiz, many excellent anatomy apps by Whitaker, qxcalculate, pedistat, AO foundation apps, too many others to Mention. Its just that people haven’t properly looked on Android or used it for a while compared to other OSs. Paint apps Like Kaiser Permenente are available too. Loads of free great echocardiograhy video tutorials for free and paid ours too . Try having 470 apps of 11gb and device works fine.
    Also typing is a breeze using apps like Swype, TouchPal , etc too many options to mention. Can’t imagine using regular typing anymore. See YouTube videos for what I mean.
    It definitely is more portable, easily fits my scrubs pockets along with my galaxy note of which it can do Wi-Fi tethering. Browsing is a breeze and one hand use it easy unlike other tablets.
    The camera and video camera are very useful for taking photos and videos using apps like by modaco for free. I don’t find the need for using the clip on prisms for having back camera for now. If I need a back camera I have my phone anyway. It feels stupid holding a ten inch tablet to take photos anyway. I prefer my phone and have the nexus 7 as back up.
    The nexus 7 Battery life is great.
    Plus you can use USB flash and hard drive via USB OTG cable without rooting! :) in case you didn’t know. Use mouse keyboard, flash drive, hard drive, game pads, all without rooting. Remote desk top works too if you need it.
    DVD r /w routers for streaming our viewing our copying or back up work too. Great podcast apps Like doggcatcher where you don’t need a computer.
    Evernote, dropbox, skydrive, google Drive, Adobe pdf create , file converter, skitch, docs2go, quick office, etc etc for document management.
    People just don’t know what they are missing! Especially since using codes toy can get it up to thirty pounds cheaper than from google from elsewhere on the net delivered to you!
    It makes a great in car infotainment system too as doctors like to have fun too. Especially if you set up a cheap car NAS DVD set up which is portable and can take home or while going on holidays too.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD August 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      Vinay, what PDF annotation / organization apps are you using? I found this part lacking

      • vinay August 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        Check out the free Adobe pdf reader that can annotate too.

        Or try EzPDF reader PDF Annotate form they have a cloud plug in to. , evernote with their other app called skitch works well with digitiser pens like on the Samsung galaxy note.

        Or try quick office pro.

        There are many others too available on play store or samsung site for apps.

        I don’t annotate much. But have tried it out. If you need to convert to pdf then again there are many options. Try file converter or pdf create by Adobe.

        Both docs2go pro And quick office pro are OK. There is a separate tablet version of quick office pro. Loads more similar apps. Too many to mention.

        With my galaxy note I don’t need any of those apps anyway as I can annotate anything with the digitiser pen which is a wacom digitizer pen and not just the capacitative pens which are rubbish that you get for other devices.

        For file managers try estrongs file explorer, astro, etc etc

        Video player.. .. try dice player our mxplayer pro.
        Music player. .. try poweramp pro

        If you need tips on how to use your nexus 7 better or other Android tips then see the various uploaded videos and also numerous other videos on the various play lists on this link which are frequently updated http://m.youtube.com/#/user/veryannoyingname?client=mv-google hope this helps. The numerous videos should keep you going for a while and they are updated often so keep checking them later too. The is a play list that may be useful for those moving from iOS devices. Plus two Android vs iOS play lists to view for those wondering if switching might be for them!

  4. vinay August 29, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    Oops the auto correct seems to have a mind of its own today using TouchPal keyboard on my nexus 7 and posting from it. Meant to say Obstetric anaesthetists association and not plastics.

  5. Joe Borelli August 30, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    iPad is definitely too cumbersome for continuous handheld use. That was not what Apple had in mind. iPad Mini will address the handheld tablet market aggressively. Android will lose pinch to zoom and other key UI elements for which Apple has rightly won the right to exclusivity.

    • Mitch August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      iPad mini is clearly 2nd here after the nexus 7. Android will not lose pinch to zoom because android is not from samsung, it’s from google… Apple has gain the right to license its use. But as you may know it, the patent circus is coming to an end because it is just plainly stupid.

      Apple have been alone in the tablet, it is not anymore.

    • vinay August 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      I doubt android would lose pinch to zoom or any of its core features . Just one case has been lost in the USA. There will long time consuming appeals. Apple lost the case to Samsung in the UK and Korea. Loads of other places its just see sawing ultimately they will cross license. Or at worst some devices sold in the USA will get dumbed down versions till work around done. The rest of the world won’t be held back by courts in the USA. Otherwise if the same nonsense was followed for other gadgets then there would be only one company allowed to make a rectangular television, dvd player etc. Anyway it’s android you will always get apks off the net or xda developers etc and side load them to get all features back.

      For eg amazon app store launched later in the UK but you could just visit amazon and download the apk or from elsewhere too and just side load the apk to get it to work. Same for flash in jelly bean in Android and loads of other things. You can install older versions no longer issued by manufacturers or just modify it yourself or just get it off places like xda developers. Features wont go away as you yourself can put it back. Custom and factory Roms are freely available on the net to flash yourself with video guides how to do it for free. Even if USA Roms are dumbed down then you just flash a worldwide or regional rom for free as most android Roms are released online by manufacturers themselves or with leaks.

      Anyway… Just one more suggestion to the author. If you need database management then try handbase or memento free / paid version. Since usb otg support is there check out the accessories that you can use via usb otg. Check out aircalc, stickit and Overskreen apps among similar others to see what actual multi tasking is actually about! Try the free app notification toggles, ultimate rotation control, volume in notification and paid apps beautiful widgets or hd widgets etc. If truly want to automate tasks then check out tasker app videos on YouTube and also various NFC apps to automatically do tasks. See YouTube videos for the same on the link given earlier.

  6. Tom Lewis September 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    One of the things that I want to know about the Nexus 7 is how much of a difference it makes not having access to a large app library. I have a Galaxy Nexus android phone and think it is a fantastic device but I get so frustrated whenever I try and use it for things like PDF management etc. I can’t see how this can be such a success until it gets a stronger (medical) app base.

    Is it frustrating not having a range of PDF apps available?
    What about syncing to your PC/Mac. What do you use?
    What is browsing like on the Nexus compared to the iPad? If different, why? Better/Worse?

    I am all in favor of adopting new technology however to be honest I am not 100% convinced by Android tablets (yet).

    I see the iOS/Android thing as similar to Dyson hoovers. They (Dyson) invented a fantastic new type of cyclone hoover that everyone tried to copy. However (several) years later, no one has really matched the quality of Dyson because of the huge headstart they had in R&D (and Dyson haven’t been suing their competitors as far as I’m aware!)

    • vinay September 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

      I am not sure what you mean by pdf management. There are loads of apps for reading Pdfs, creating Pdfs, fill in pdf forms , converting to pdf, pdf annotation, file management, encrypting files, remote access, database management etc.

      Again syncing has loads of apps or just drag and drop or various file managers. For music etc there’s loads of wired and wireless options too. Same for podcasts. Same for videos.

      Browsing is great. Just see the play lists on the link I have given previously. see various comparison videos on the play lists.

      I agree some specific medical apps may be missing. But there are good ones available too. plus great potential like with NFC, again see demo videos on play lists.

      • vinay September 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        Ps: forgot to mention. I have a Dyson too. But you are wrong about there being no better ones. The Miele ones are better. .. Same reason why they beat Dyson in recent years in the which magazine consumer reports in many categories in recent years. See their website for the consumer reports.

  7. Stuart Ray September 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Great review. As Android software improves, the market will continue to drive innovations in Android hardware – a much healthier pattern that Apple’s closed approach.

  8. Dr. Ross September 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    To add to the discussion, not only is the iPad mini coming out, but the new iPhone is also coming out. So, we’ll see if the bigger screen will make a difference or not.

  9. Jesse October 15, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    I’m a pharmacy student, so I realize my perspective is different than most of you, but I’ve been using a Nexus 7 while on rotation with an internal medicine team for two months and thought I would share my experience so far.
    Let’s get weaknesses out of the way up front: not much storage, wi-fi only, only one camera, and a few apps I would like are missing. Oh, and there are no cases with truly usable built-in keyboards, and so it’s not a feasible option for taking notes in meetings like the iPad is. That’s about it, and I was expecting all of them. I really haven’t had any nasty surprises, and none of them have been much of a problem for me. I wasn’t looking for a device to keep all my music and movies on, so space hasn’t been an issue. All my favorite drug reference apps are accessible offline, and my hospital has decent wi-fi anyway. For what I do, the missing camera hasn’t been a problem at all. Some more specialized apps are missing, but my favorite drug reference apps are all available for Android these days. It would be nice to be able to take notes in meetings, but I don’t need to do that very often, and I can bring my laptop and few days a month.
    The Nexus really does have a lot going for it for pharmacists and pharmacy students (and I presume for physicians/medical students, although obviously I can’t be sure). The 7–inch form factor is perfect for hospital use, in my opinion, the and the battery life is unbelievable. It’s also the only smaller tablet I’ve ever used that has felt as fast and high quality as the iPad. Plus, Android really is a much more flexible and customizable than iOS, although for medical use I’ve only found that impacts how much I like the device, not it’s actual functionality.
    Overall, as a dedicated medical reference device, I think the Nexus 7 is hard to beat, and it’s priced reasonably enough that I could purchase with that in mind. If there was a 32 gig version with two cameras and 4G, I think it could be a legitimate competitor to the iPad in every market. For medical users, I think it already is. I really cannot stress enough how great it is to have a fast, powerful tablet that fits in a white coat pocket, or how high quality it is given the price.

  10. flogisto December 9, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Anyone has tried the Android smartphones-tablet hybrids like Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 with 5.3″ screen and stylus? Or the expected Huawei 6″ hybrid phone-tablet?
    Another issue is the availability of better PalmOS emulation inside Android (StyleTap) versus iOS, which give access to many free medical PalmOS apps not ported to Android nor iOS.

  11. SK March 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Can you multitask with Citrix Receiver?

    This is my biggest issue the IPad, you cannot run Citrix Receiver in the background, once you close your active window with Citrix Receiver running, you have to restart.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD March 8, 2013 at 3:09 am #

      This is a GREAT question. You actually can multitask with Citrix, but it does log you out if you haven’t gotten back into the program within a few minutes. Which is understandable because you don’t want it to be perpetually open in case someone got a hold of your device. Although — I’m not sure if this is the case for Android Based Citrix. My experience is from an iOS standpoint.

  12. julius August 3, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Hello, I am a medicine student. About to start my course this September. I was in a confusion about the screen size of tablets. I need a tablet to store my books in pdf format and also chm format. so would a 7″ tablet be enough to read the books without any problem or need of zooming in or a 8″ or 10″ tablet is necessary ?

    • Iltifat Husain, MD August 4, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

      Hey Julius, can you post this in the forum section of iMedicalApps? That way others will be able to benefit from the answer. I’ll be sure to answer your question there. Thanks!

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