Why the Pixel C isn't yet a 'productivity' device

Pixel C
Pixel C

We've chatted a bit of late over whether "productivity" is a thing — and especially whether it's a thing companies should be using to market their products. And I'm inclined to agree with Russell — whether I'm productive with a thing depends more on me than it does the thing I'm using.

But this much is clear when it comes to the new Pixel C: It's not any more of a productive device than the Nexus 9 is. Never mind the 3 billion (plus or minus) extra processing cores. Never mind magnets. Never mind keyboards. And never mind the awesome Googley LED on the back, which might be solely responsible for 50 percent of my lost work-hours the past several weeks.

I'm not any more productive with the Pixel C for a single reason, and it's one that has absolutely nothing to with any of the hardware.

It has to do with multitasking.

Multitasking long has been a bogeyman of mobile operating systems. Hell, it took iOS years before non-Apple apps were allowed to run in the background in any way shape or form. Now on Android it's something we don't even think about. Even individual Chrome tabs appear separately in the recent apps view, the easier to flip back and forth between them.

Current multitasking just isn't fast enough to truly be productive.

But it's simply not good enough for me to truly be productive on an Android tablet in the same sense that I am on a desktop or laptop computer. Not by a long shot.

To be truly "productive" you've got to be able to instantaneously flip from one screen to another. From Gmail back to Chrome to your password manager to Twitter to ... you get the idea. How quickly do your apps reappear in the foreground, ready for you to get to work? A half-second? One second? Two seconds? Now how many times a day do you think you flip between them? How long are you willing to stand there, waiting? The Nexus 9 can't do it fast enough. The Pixel C can't do it fast enough. Maybe they're powerful enough in the strictest sense, but the software simply can't let it happen in the same was as Windows or OSX or Linux.

Same goes the old stick and throttles. I'm at my best with one hand on the keyboard, and the other on the mouse. Next best is a good trackpad. What I'm not going to do (and full disclosure: I tried this for a while in my early laptop days) is carry around a Bluetooth mouse. Space and weight are at a premium in my gear bag. While the inclusion of a touchscreen in a laptop-style device is an excellent addition, it in no way replaces a good trackpad. Or maybe even a bad trackpad. So that's another "productivity" area in which Android tablets are lacking.

Pixel C and a Retina Macbook Pro

But mostly it comes down to the operating system. There's nothing more "productive" about Android on the Pixel C than there is on the Nexus 9. Maybe that'll change at some point. (It almost certainly will change at some point.) Maybe split screen solutions like what's on the iPad Pro and Samsung's tablets will change my mind. But for now, as we said in our Pixel C review, right now it's more about potential than progress — or productivity.

Phil Nickinson