Competing tablets that I considered:
* Kindle Fire HD
* Mini iPad (expected)
I had a first-gen Fire and got sick of the walled garden. I hoped the new Fire (Fire HD) would have been more open, but it seems as closed off as ever. The device also didn't seem to have any exciting upgrades. Sure, the screen and speakers are better, but the screen was just catching up to the Nexus 7 and I use headphones for audio, so the hardware upgrades were irrelevant. I also didn't like the larger size (but same screen size) of the Fire HD... the bezel is huge on the new Fire. I also didn't like that I would have to pay to get rid of ads and also pay to get a wall charger. Basically, after the first-gen Fire, I was looking for a more grown-up tablet, and the new Fire didn't offer that, and I felt like Amazon was being deceptive in how they marketed the device... based on the backlash after the launch, I wasn't the only one.
The mini iPad is probably going to be amazing, but it will fail for me in two regards: (1) very expensive and (2) maps/navigation. I don't want to pay 50-100% more than a good competitor, and I don't want to pay for a 4G device and data plan if I want portable maps. I also want maps that actually give accurate locations... I want Google Maps, not Apple's #iLost apps.
I use a prepaid dumb phone and pay 100 USD each year for 1000 minutes (T-Mobile, if you're curious). I'm also fundamentally against paying a bunch of money to get a small amount of cellular data service. However, I've been running into substantial issues with not having maps on the go, and this is where Nexus 7 really shines for me. The Nexus 7 offers offline maps with GPS for navigation. So even when you're in the middle of nowhere (e.g. on a hike), provided you've planned ahead and downloaded the map, you can use highly detailed maps with the GPS on the Nexus 7. Even when your phone gives out in the middle of nowhere, the Nexus 7 would work perfectly since the maps are saved on the device and the GPS service is free (it's just an antenna that uses free satellite signals). I uploaded a few screenshots on my Nexus 7 in the customer images to show how this works.
Relative to the Fire's software, I also feel much more free on the Nexus 7. I can access Google Play (Google's large app / movie / music / magazine / etc store), something that cannot be done on the Fire HD... I couldn't even get access to Google Play on my first-gen Fire despite substantial efforts. Basically, when you buy the Fire, you buy in 100% to Amazon, so it's refreshing to breath freely with my new Nexus 7 where I can make media purchases independent of my tablet brand, e.g. I like being able to shop for books and music at any online store with ease on the Nexus 7 rather than be locked into one retailer.
Those are my primary reasons for going with the Nexus 7. So far, after about two weeks, I love it and have started shifting away from my laptop for basic tasks, something I never thought would happen (and never came close with the first-gen Fire).
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After 7 weeks, still happy with the N7, but downgraded to 4 stars. The battery lasts only about a 48 hours [see next update] with light usage (though it is constantly fetching email in the background... so perhaps my expectations are too high). But I've found that playing music with the screen off has almost no drain on the battery. I've also found the glass on the screen to not be as scratch-resistant as I had expected. I scratched the glass, thankfully just on the bezel, and I think this happened only when my N7 rubbed up against a button on a shirt I was wearing.
Having now seen the iPad Mini (both the specs, ads, and in person), I'd still go with a N7, and the N7 still appears to be the best option. The iPad mini doesn't have GPS for any of the devices without 4G. Also, there are even more competitive versions for the Nexus 7 that were recently released (base version now has 16GB, can get 32GB for 50 D more... whereas iPad Mini charges an extra 100 D, and a 32GB version with cellular data option for a further 50 D more).
Maps, email, and general usage of N7 are still going wonderfully!
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My tablet was updated to Android 4.2 several weeks ago (perhaps now over a month ago), and the improvements are appreciated: easy to manage multiple users, better drop-down options, and the battery seems to last longer when the N7 is in standby. Regarding the battery, I haven't charged my tablet in 72 hours (light use), and it still has half of the battery left -- this is about a 3-fold improvement on standby battery life!
Still very happy with my N7!