It has been revealed that Google's Nexus 7 tablet has a magnetic screen sensor similar to Apple's iPad Smart Cover.
The functionality was not revealed by google itself when it launched the budget tablet last month, but has instead been uncovered by someone who has got their hands on one of the tablets. Th hidden feature was unveiled in a YouTube video posted by user wwscoggin and first reported by Android Police. According to the YouTube video, when the user places a magnet on the lower left edge of the device, the screen wakes up. And when the user places the magnet back in the same spot, the device goes to sleep. Interestingly, it was asleep when the magnet glides along the edges of the Nexus 7.
The iPad's Smart Cover works by attaching magnetically to one edge of the iPad, and wakes the device when a user opens it, with the iPad going to sleep again when the Smart Cover is closed. "Apple does not have a patent for its Smart Cover magnetic system, but it's not a very broad one," claims Android Police.
A Google spokeswoman has confirmed to CNET that this "functionality exists" in the Nexus 7 but did not reveal more details. However it is unlikely that Asus and Google built this functionality into the tablet not to use it, so we would expect an official cover to be launched soon, along the lines of Apple's smartcover. Microsoft's Surface tablet will also make use of a magnetic cover which will incorporate a keyboatd and touchpad when it launches later this year.
Nexus 7 is the first tablet to run the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Google recently rolled out an Over-The-Air (OTA) software update for Nexus 7, even before the device hits the retail market. The update "improves performance and responsiveness system wide."
Apart from the software update, an Asus spokesman has revealed that the company will be launching a dedicated audio dock for the Nexus 7 later this year. The dock is expected to let users listen to music and charge the tablet as well at the same time. Until now Amazon's Kindle Fire has ruled the budget end of the tablet market, but as well as the Nexus 7, it could be facing more competition from Apple if it launches the much-rumoured iPad Mini later this year.