Can I really have the house of the future?
July 29, 2012 1:31 PM   Subscribe

If I were to purchase a Nexus 7 to use as a kind of hub for my apartment, communicating between roommates and keeping track of bills and things electronically, what all would I actually be able to do with it?

I'm considering getting a Nexus 7, but I don't know if this is me equating too much possibility to what is basically a cellphone, or if it would actually be a worthwhile purchase. I've already thought about email, texting each other, keeping track of groceries/recipes and syncing them, and keeping track of billls and things.

In itself, those things probably aren't enough to justify the purchase. I'm terribly lazy, after I buy it I'll probably end up slacking on anything I can't set to repeat automatically, or sync with from my browser.

So I'm hoping there are more things I can do with this that I haven't thought of. I really like this idea, and I would love to do it and make my apartment all smart house-y. But are there more things that I can do with a tablet that would make it worth the purchase? Any other apps or tools that I haven't considered? Things that would make what I have considered easier? I'm open to all suggestions, or opinions if this is a bad idea or worth doing anyway.
posted by trogdole to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have another computer and phone? I say this because email, texting, grocery lists and recipes and bills are all really easily managed on a basic device you probably have now. I mean, you're even talking about not using it for anything that won't sync with existing devices, which to me says it would get used just for the sake of being used. I mean, the things you're talking about using it for a basic netbook could do for a lot cheaper.

The one thing I like having a tablet around for is watching or controlling media in rooms that are not media-ready (like the kitchen, where I'd clip a recipe) that are served using Plex from my main machine. Anything more than that (media servers and media in multiple rooms, using it to control the temperature/climate of your house, the security system/surveillance camera, etc.) would require other infrastructure to accomplish.

I guess the point is that a cool-ass phone is usually a lot cooler out of the house, where you don't have access to more powerful devices that can do the job easier and faster.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 4:39 PM on July 29, 2012

What you're describing is less dependent on the hardware and more dependent on the software, so this may be stuff you can already do, depending on what device(s) you already have. It's also unclear as to whether you'd be using the tablet as a shared device or as your personal device for interaction with your roommates, so let me know if this doesn't address your points.

First of all, in terms of communication, keep in mind that the N7 is a wifi-only device, and therefore doesn't have built-in telephony and text messaging. However, it does have a built-in camera and mic (IIRC the latter is a big difference between other tablets), so this is the kind of thing that can be addressed very easily. Just within the Google family of apps, you can use Voice as a kind of internet phone, including making calls and having your phone's voicemail accessible from any device with a connection; there's Talk for real-time chats and messages, including GChat; and GMail for, well, mail. I think the app versions of both Talk and Voice do videoconferencing, but I'm not sure.

For productivity, there's a ton of apps that can help out. I personally like Evernote for notes and recipes, and Lifehacker users liked Astrid for to-do and collaboration. For personal finances and basic budgeting, Mint is a common recommendation, although I'm not sure of any version or similar software that does collaborative budgeting. To automate tasks on the device, there's Tasker (which is insanely powerful but also pretty complex) or On{X}. Those are for automating on-device tasks, so you'd probably have to combine that with the above to-do app for keeping your life organized.

Again, all of this can be done from a smartphone, especially an Android phone, so if that's all you're looking for, you may already be set. However, if you're also looking for a device that can do all that and is useful for media, the N7 is a pretty good deal. It's way more open than the existing versions of the Kindle and Nook tablets, Android supports most if not all non-Apple audio and video streaming, it'll be updated more frequently because it's a Google-branded device (by comparison the Kindles and Nooks are all at least three generations behind on Android versions), and for now offers the most bang for the buck IMO. I'm loving my N7, especially since I've hacked it, but even the stock version of the tablet is very nice.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:29 AM on July 30, 2012

Much of what you describe wanting to do have only a little to do with software and hardware, and a lot to do with the behavior of you and your roommates. Technology can make that easier, but that is the hard problem.
posted by Good Brain at 9:08 AM on July 30, 2012

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