Over the past month or so, we've had a lot to say when it comes to the idea of Google creating an ecosystem of products that all work seamlessly together. Not to re-hash all of those thoughts and ideas, but the Pixel 6 with its Tensor chip is opening doors for Google that the company has been striving to reach for years.
The Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch are slated to expand that ecosystem even further, and then there's Google's first tablet since the Pixel Slate, which is set to debut in 2023. While there's still a lot of time to go between now and whenever the Pixel Tablet is fully unveiled, it's never too early to share what we want to see from Google's future hardware release.
I won't sit here and bemoan the fact that the interface on Android tablets is abysmal. Along with announcing Android 13 Beta 2, Google also took this time to share that it would be updating various applications to take better advantage of the screen real estate offered by large-screened devices. Really, all Google has to do is to look within and then ask Samsung for some help on the implementation. A desktop-like mode would do wonders for those of us who want a great Android tablet for the sake of portability, while still being able to get work done.
AOSP has had this functionality for years, in some capacity, as you used to be able to plug your Android phone into a display of some sort and could interact with windowed apps. But the functionality has either been abandoned or buried, as this isn't what you'll find when plugging in the best Android phones that aren't named Samsung. It's the same story on the tablet front, but Samsung DeX on the Galaxy Tab S8 lineup is an absolute dream. You have access to the best Android apps, without being limited to only using two or three apps in a forced split-screen mode.
Some of us wouldn't mind Google taking another shot at the premium tablet market, similar to what was attempted with the Pixel Slate and Pixel C. Despite the fact that there is only a handful of official renders available, it's pretty apparent that Google won't be releasing an iPad Pro or Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra competitor. Google has to play a bit of a balancing act here, as it doesn't want to instantly cannibalize another piece of hardware, but it needs to have enough features and power to keep up.
Little is known, even through leaks, about the Pixel Tablet at this point, but it definitely looks like we might be looking at a Pixel 6a-type situation. Google Tensor chip, accompanied by solid specs, all housed in a plastic and glass shell. If we had to guess, pricing would likely start around $500, and that's exactly where Google should keep it. Really, we would love to see a re-incarnation of the beloved Nexus 7, but if the Pixel Fold actually comes to fruition, Google likely wouldn't want to have two separate devices so close together in size.
This one goes back to the section above in regards to the software. It's great that Google is updating its most-used apps to look and work better on tablets (and foldable phones). However, for years, Google just ignored the tablet platform on the whole and only now is the company refocusing its efforts. There was a time when Google actually cared about tablets, but seemingly lost confidence following the unsuccessful release of the Pixel Slate and the Pixel C before that.
Releasing a new Android tablet is only one piece of the puzzle, and updating its apps is another piece. But if Google is really serious about tablets and getting app developers on board with the upcoming changes in Android 13, it needs to stick to it.
This whole initiative to improve the experience can't just be forgotten if Google's tablet doesn't sell as well as it hopes or plans. Of course, we can't really get too much of an idea as to what the Pixel Tablet will offer, and we still have quite a while to go until we can get our hands on it. But we're keeping our fingers crossed that the announcement was just the catalyst for a "new" vision for Google.
Better keyboard cases
This one is a bit of a personal gripe, as keyboard cases for most existing tablets are just not good. Samsung's Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra Book Cover Keyboard has all of the functionality you could want, but is far too overpriced for something that you can't actually use comfortably on your lap. The keyboard available with Lenovo's P12 Pro and Chromebook Duet 5 is better. Still, the connector flap is also a bit too flimsy for our liking, and lacks powerful magnets to keep the keyboard attached even if you shift around on the couch.
It's unlikely that Google would just rip off the Magic Keyboard that Apple released for its iPad Air and iPad Pro, but that's closer to what we would like to see. Something that's portable, sturdy, and makes it easy to attach or detach the Pixel Tablet from the keyboard. Or maybe, just maybe, Google could partner with Brydge to make its keyboard case for the Pixel Tablet instead of some off-the-wall solution that is released. Whatever Google does, we're just hoping that it's better than what's already available.
An included stylus
There have been a few leaks and rumors rolling around in regards to the Pixel Tablet, with the latest suggesting that Google is implementing USI stylus support. This comes as a little bit of a surprise, but it might point to Google aiming to push the USI stylus market to grow even further than it already has. USI stylus support comes by default on many of the best Chromebooks, and there are some pretty great options from the likes of Penoval, Lenovo, and HP. By adopting the USI standard, Google could create a one-size-fits-all stylus that could be used with your favorite Chromebook, along with your Pixel Tablet.
We're also really hoping that Google includes this in the box, as opposed to forcing you to pay for something else after-the-fact. Samsung gets a lot of brownie points for continuing to bundle its S Pen with its tablets, even as the company decided to ditch the included charging brick. It's safe to say that the inclusion of a stylus, USI or not, would likely help bolster interest in the Pixel Tablet overall.
It's been over three years since the Nest Hub Max made its debut at I/O 2019, meanwhile, the Nest Hub was refreshed in March of 2021. According to 9to5Google, the company has been working on a new Nest Hub with a detachable display, and it would make perfect sense for this to be the Pixel Tablet. When looking at the different renders shown off at I/O 2022, you might have noticed the pogo pins on the back of the Pixel Tablet's case. Some of the more boring takes are that this is just for a keyboard case that magnetically attaches, similar to how Apple's iPad Pro works with the Magic Keyboard.
But the more fun and exciting take is that those pogo pins will be for a base station to which the Pixel Tablet will attach. You could go around using the tablet like you normally would, but affixing it to a base could transform the interface into what we're used to seeing with the current iterations of the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. This is similar to what Lenovo has done with Smart Tab M10 and M8, as you can dock the tablet to keep it charged. However, it also shows off a Nest Hub-like experience to provide quick and easy access to your favorite smart home accessories.
Something else that lends credence to this idea is the design of the Pixel Tablet display. The various cutouts for the selfie camera and other sensors look extremely similar to that of the Nest Hub Max. This would really only make sense if there are bigger plans for a new Nest Hub / Home ecosystem centerpiece.
No matter how you look at the Pixel Tablet, it's really an exciting time for the Google ecosystem on the whole. A hybrid Nest Hub / Tablet would be truly intriguing, but we're just excited to see that Google is starting to care more about tablets and foldable phones again.
Of course, it all comes down to execution, but things are lining up for Google to enjoy a big year in 2023. Now, we just have to find something else to keep ourselves occupied until the Pixel Tablet finally makes its entrance into the ecosystem.
Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.
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