It's not the fights we lose, it's the fights Google won't suit up for that infuriate me

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

When we shell out hundreds for the best phones, tablets and laptops, to say nothing of all the services we spend our time in and our money on — we expect the manufacturers and tech giants responsible for these devices and services to give it their all, to battle for supremacy and build off each other in order to give us the best experience. It's what we deserve. Instead, at least when it comes to one section of the market, what we have instead is a battle where the outcome is all but certain and one side's efforts are almost comically lackluster, to the detriment of all: the way Android tablets — and especially tablet apps — continue to be a complete laughingstock compared to iPad.

iPad Air 2020

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Apple's iPad and especially the iPad Air have ruled the tablet space from day one, while Android tablets have largely failed in both software and hardware for years and years. Sure Amazon's Fire HD Tablets are so cheap you don't care about their shortcomings, but the only worthwhile Android tablet today is the ridiculously expensive Tab S7, and even then, system updates on Android tablets are slow to arrive and still can't hold a candle to Android phones, much less iPads and Chrome OS tablets like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.

If Google wanted to really give iPads a run for their money, Chromebooks and Chrome OS tablets are the best tool for the job once Google gets off its ass and finally decides to give a damn about tablet and big-screen optimized apps. Apple did things right by setting forth strict rules for how tablet apps need to be optimized in layout and function, while Google allowed Android developers to push out phone-optimized apps that are either hilariously blown-up or have enough wasted space to hide a dead body.

Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

And when these apps were only available on Android tablets, that laissez-faire approach would've been excusable. But Android apps have been on Chromebooks for almost five years now, and Google still seems utterly uninteresting in improving the app experience on larger-screen devices. Even partnering with Samsung for apps on the Galaxy Fold and the Galaxy Tab series hasn't roused their interest in tightening restrictions or guiding developers to better ways to dynamically lay out an app in a multi-screen world.

This is far from the only area where Google has just refused to suit up and put up the fight we expect from the biggest tech company in the world. YouTube is the biggest music platform in the world, and yet YouTube Music cannot get its shit together even with three years and a multi-million-dollar investment. Google closed Stadia Games and Entertainment before they released A SINGLE GAME, which is not making people wonder Is Stadia itself shutting down?.

Youtube Music Playback Queue

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central Google Play Music died... for this? (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Don't even get me started on Google shutting down apps and services that are older but work for newer, buggier and less feature-packed alternatives. The rant on Inbox alone would probably get me thrown out of Disney's Animal Kingdom where I'm writing this while enjoying a break in the rain.

Google may boast record profits for multiple quarters, but innovation and a willingness to fight for its services and its customers got Google to this point. And unless they regain that will to fight something other than antitrust lawsuits and the continent of Australia, it's going to be pretty hard to excuse the company's spinelessness in a few years.

In other news this week:

Caseology Nano Pop Galaxy S21 With Popsocket

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)
  • I got my Galaxy S21 in this week and after six months on the Pixel 4a, it feels huge. Look forward to lots of case reviews in the coming months, but so far I've been using the Caseology Parallax — which was my favorite for the S20 and the Pixel 4 — and the Caseology Nano Pop, which I've actually been liking a little more than the Parallax. It's not the mesmerizing texture across the back, but it has a coating that feels very, very nice in the hand. And yes, I'm using a PopSocket, because I want my hands to not hate me.
  • Also, I have a serious bone to pick with Samsung's One UI team. Why would you take away the toggle to not have Dark mode dim your wallpaper? WHY?! I just wanna live in the dark, but I want my wallpapers to still pop, dammit!
  • Jerry Hildenbrand is right to still love the Pixelbook Go for its keyboard and trackpad, but why in Google's name haven't they discounted it in 2021? Just knock it down from $650 to $500 or $450 and watch it fly off the shelves.
  • I've already said my piece on that leaked Android 12 theming system, but whatever comes this summer, I'm not falling for this charade again. I've done enough of this Lucy/Charlie Brown football gag when it came to dark theming a few year ago. Fool me once, shame on you, Google, you insufferable tease.
  • Xiaomi, why? I mean, just ... why??? It's too small to use as a viewfinder, or anything else for that matter, so why would you put that there and make the camera module so big?
  • Android Auto is still getting improvements, but what we all really want to know is this: what is it going to take to get widespread wireless Android Auto? Because while I'm okay plugging in for longer drives, I'd prefer not to plug in for that ten-minute drive from my house to the pizza joint.
  • Lawnchair is alive and I'm not the only one very, very happy to see that. I might not go in for the totally Pixel look, but for those that do, Lawnchair is the best around. And more competition for the Best Android Launchers is always a good thing).

To everyone staring down the barrel of a massive winter storm, stay safe and stay warm. Severe weather sucks, but remember to keep your gear charged, have your emergency info and your insurance policies downloaded just in case, and download a few books or movies to entertain yourself if/when the power goes out.

Happy candy sale eve, everybody!

—Ara

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

24 Comments
  • Google were clear a few years ago, they pulled out of the tablet space. So why are tech writers still writing about Google not making any effort? It's left to the likes of Samsung, Lenovo and others to build Android and ChromeOS tablets now. Google are uninterested. It is what it is. You use them as they are or go elsewhere.
  • Google stopping tablet hardware has nothing to do with Google not even trying to both make developers do better and do better themselves in terms of tablet software. It's pathetic for a company that is supposedly in their element in the software world.
  • They are. Google hasn't stopped developing ChromeOS as a tablet operating system. Likely because ChromeOS is more powerful. It works well on tablets but attach a keyboard and you have proper desktop grade web browsing. You may not like it, but Google's tablet focus has been ChromOS for some time now. Lack of Android tablet developer support is a shame but the rest of the world's just moved on.
  • Read my comment again. Google has never made an Android Tablet.
    I was talking about the Pixel Slate. And I don't care at all about Android tablets, I'm saying that while their focus is on Chrome OS in terms of the OS itself, but then still completely drops the ball in terms of apps and setting criteria for developers to make optimised apps. That is what's pathetic. The biggest software-native company can't even optimise their own apps for big-screen use. Pathetic.
  • Google has made an Android tablet - the Pixel C. Although it really wasn't that good - software again let it down. To their credit, they also "made" the various nexus tablets... Of which the Nexus 7 (2013) was by far the best Android tablet released when compared to others released at same time - even compared favourably to iPads of the time when talking about the tablet itself.
  • No, Chrome OS tablets are EXACTLY why Google needs a fire lit under its ass about tablet apps and large-screen app design. Because tablet or dynamic-resized apps are what Chrome OS need is Android app support is going to be a feature and not just a stopgap.
  • With my S9 Plus and Asus Flip chromebook, to me, a tablet is useless. I never paid to use Play Music, but now I am paying for Youtube Music now since I like it much better - UI, creating playlists, finding new music- so much better. I don't have an SMS plan with my grandfathered VZW unltd data, so I've always google voice, and never had to use an SMS messaging app. Everyone uses Facebook Messenger anyway. What's Inbox?
    Feedly replaced Reader just fine.
  • Agreed, most people outside of the core Apple base, think a phone + laptop makes more sense these days. And even iPad owners often still own a laptop too. Because the glorious iPad is still ultimately to limiting.
  • My only complaint with Google's messaging approach now is they still haven't just killed Hangouts already. I get it has a core fan base but they've been slowly killing it for years. It's embarrassing to have basically a dead product still be available to use for a base that isn't growing. Messages + Duo on phones and Meet + Chat in enterprise are solid offerings. Google aren't the only company to separate their consumer from enterprise messaging options. Microsoft has Skype + Teams/365. People are actually using RCS Chat in Messages in way they never have any of Google's closed platforms to any worthwhile degree. Getting Samsung to make Messages + Duo front and centre even on their phones (at least outside of North America) was a major win.
  • Do you ever use any Android apps on your ASUS Chromebook Flip? Then you should care about large-screen optimized (aka tablet) apps.
  • It's been clear for a while now Google sees ChromeOS as their tablet OS. Google stopped Android tablet improvements years ago and it can be said outside of Icecream Sandwich never started then. ChromeOS has seen successive updates for tablets however. Which already do compete with iPads. Your vision is narrow if you think it's a one horse race. Lenovo successfully made the case for ChromeOS tablets last year, with their popular low end Duet and Asus is following suit with a higher end model (Flip CM3000). No one thought the Pixel Slate idea was a bad one, the execution was wrong. So why are Android journos still banging the drum? You'll just have to accept them for what they are and just enjoy them for this.
  • You do know that ChromeOS tablets and Android tablets use the exact same apps right?
    Optimising for one automatically means optimising for the other. When you're advocating for Google to put in even the slightest bit of effort, pulling up Tablets as an example isn't wrong since Google puts in equally little effort on Chrome OS.
  • Not exactly. ChromeOS' primary apps have always been Web Apps. PWAs work great on tablets/laptops. Google's own Android apps are optimised for tablets though. They work great on the Lenovo Duet. Regarding developers. True but also time to move on. Icecream Sandwich was released nearly a decade ago and Google has never really been all that interested in tablets has it. Keep trotting out the same articles does what? Google just aren't interested. Give it up.
  • Its simple. Apple has better marketing run and has control.
  • Not exactly. They're very different companies. Apple's entire business is around getting you to buy hardware. Whereas Google is run more similar to Microsoft than Apple. Both are involved in a lot more areas than Apple plays in. Google's doing well in all the platforms it's interested in. Web, Web services, Phones, Enterprise etc... Apple either sucks or has no presence in these areas (e.g. Enterprise). Even the biggest Apple fan uses Gmail. You reckon Google's not in control of Android on tablets? For Google Android has been seen as a phone platform for some time now.
  • Coming from someone who has never owned an Apple product, I admire that from afar it seems when Apple sets out to do something, they do it once and do it well from the start, look for customer feedback, then add improvements constantly along the journey. They start with good products, but continue to refine untill they are great products. It seems Microsoft and Google send out half baked beta products, then are somehow shocked when there is low adoption, and cancel due to "low interest" instead of refine and improve.
    I'm about done with both of them because if I want to build an ecosystem of products I can no longer trust Microsoft and Google will stay the course.
  • That's not really necessarily true. They just do a better job burying and getting people to forget their mistakes.
  • How do you REALLY feel about all this? 😂 I agree though, and like your candor.
  • Oh, candor would be me leaving in all the expletives that my first draft had, lol. But thank you.
  • As my grandfather said “if you are gonna swear then swear don’t half ass it” lol
  • I have a fold 2, a nexdock touch for dex, and now a tab S7, all of them work fine with the apps I use. I have no need for a chromebook. I do have a dell gaming laptop as well but I hardly ever even turn it on anymore. My Android devices along with Dex serve 99% of my needs.
  • Alternatively, maybe it would bee good for Google to scale back their ambitions. Why do they need their own streaming game ecosystem? Why do they need to force Android apps on Chromebooks? Maybe Google should do the opposite. Kill, once and for all, the projects that aren't working for them, and focus their efforts on building out and improving on their platforms that are working.
  • Uh, Chromebooks need Android apps to offer up all the things that a browser alone can't. Android apps work, but the experience is substandard.
  • Just a few days ago I was wondering if it would be possible to replace my Surface Go 2 with a Tab S7. Not due to any fault of the Surface itself. I've been happily using Surface devices for several years now and I have an urge for something fresh. iPads are a no go because I find it to be a boring OS with too many limitations. However, the S7 seemed like a good option. So I'm glad to see articles like this that highlight Google's laissez-faire approach to app development on their platform.