Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets are two of our favorite Android devices for their solid design, great displays, speedy performance. One of their biggest drawbacks? Lack of access to all the apps in the Google Play Store. That limitation ends today. The bookseller just announced that Google Play is coming to the Nook HD and HD+. Over-the-air updates to the software starts rolling out on May 3. If you don’t want to wait for it, the update will be available as a download on Nook.com.
Owners of the Nook Color and Nook Tablet don’t get to benefit from this upgrade, unfortunately.
The software update will not only push Google Play to devices, but add some coding to the background to make using all these new apps on the Nooks possible. Before today, developers had to tweak their apps a bit to work with the completely overhauled interface B&N created for the Nook. That is no longer a barrier. The interface’s look remains the same, so all the elements we like (including profiles and customizable Home screens) won’t go away and functionality should remain unchanged.
Today’s news is sure to excite current owners of the newest Nooks as well as people who might be on the fence about buying one. Access to the Google Play Store means your choice of over 700,000 apps plus movies, TV shows, and Google Music. The core Android apps that come with Google certified devices will also be along for the ride: Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, and more. Barnes & Noble will still offer video through its own service and the Nook App store will remain open, so any apps bought there won’t disappear from the tablets.
This move will raise the stakes in Barnes & Noble’s ongoing battle with Amazon in the low-cost tablet space. Amazon’s Android Appstore is much larger than the one for Nook, but nowhere near as huge as Google Play. This will also make the $200 Nook HD more competitive with the Nexus 7 and the Kobo Arc, both of which have unfettered access to all Android apps. It also leaves the Kindle Fire HD as the only major Android tablet still restricted to a low-volume app store. The $270 Nook HD+ is now ready to take on the growing number of 8 – 9.7-inch tablets coming to the market over the next few months.
Barnes & Noble didn’t give an exact time for when the update would go live on Nook.com. When it does, we’ll go hands-on to judge for ourselves how smooth the experience is with some of our favorite apps we couldn’t access on a Nook before.
Does this update make you more willing to give the Nook HD or HD+ a second look?