It wasn't exactly Google's best kept secret, but the company did in fact announce today a refreshed version to its popular seven-inch Nexus 7 tablet, which will ship on July 30. Starting at $229 -- $30 more than the previous version -- the tablet is now thinner, with a higher, 1920 x 1200-resolution display; it also has a faster Snapdragon processor, a rear 5-megapixel camera and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera.
"The first Nexus 7 was a big hit," Hugo Barra, VP of Android product development, said at the launch this morning in San Francisco. "We are going to try and follow up with another one."
While the 0.64-pound tablet measures just 8.65mm inches thick, the real focus is on the improved display. This is the highest-resolution seven-inch tablet on the market, with 323 pixels packed into every inch. The iPad Mini has a lower, 1024 x 768-resolution 7.9-inch screen.
Barra detailed on stage not only the new hardware specs, but also the fresh version of Android 4.3, which will ship first on this tablet. Android 4.3 is just a small update to Android 4.2, but it includes a much-requested user profile feature. Now, with its multiple account profiles and deeper parental controls -- parents can limit their childrens' access to apps and cut off access to the store -- the whole family can use the tablet more easily.
Google is also releasing Google Play Games today, a stand-alone app that works with the Google Plus social network to better allow people to play games with friends. The games app will be available for any Android device; Android 4.3 initially will be available only for Google's Nexus phones and tablets.
The biggest obstacle for Android tablets have been the apps. While there are more than a million apps in the store, only 200,000 or so are optimized for the screens bigger than the ones on smartphones. Google plans to make it easier to find those tablet apps in the store with the Nexus 7, but experts say that because the 7-inch Nexus 7 has a screen similar in size to a phone, the app selection might not be as big of a concern as it is with 10-inch tablets.
"For the Nexus 7 it leverages the smartphone ecosystem, but app selection is still an issue for the 10-inch form factor," Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told ABC News.
Still, even at $30 more than the original Nexus 7, Moorhead thinks that with the improved specifications the tablet stands a really good shot at competing with the other seven- to eight-inch tablets on the market, including the iPad Mini. He also believes Google will likely drop the price to $199 around the holidays.
"I think Google is sitting in a really good spot with the new tablet. Apple never wanted to get into this seven- or eight-inch tablet fight. They were dragged in with the Kindle Fire and Google's original Nexus," Moorhead said. "I think this puts significant pressure on Apple to raise the screen resolution of the iPad Mini to Retina level. Or they might see a significant hit in sales for the holiday."
The new Nexus 7 will be available through the Google Play Store, Walmart, Best Buy and other retailers on July 30.
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