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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.

49 Comments
  • What Android tablet is?
  • The upcoming blackberry playbook 2, obviously. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Yeah I gotta say as far as productivity, my windows tablet rocks and my androids are remote controls... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Pretty much
  • I think it depends on the Windows tablet. I have a small Windows tablet that is in a drawer since I can't type on it. Since it lacks WordFlow found on Windows Mobile or any alternative keyboard that uses swipe gestures, it is practically unusable for anything other than content consumption, such as streaming Netflix. I create more content on my Nexus 7 tablet using SwiftKey. Posted from my Moto X Pure Edition via the Android Central App
  • I have an ancient 626, what are you running? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Jide Remix Ultra Tablet...
  • Android desperately needs an always visible taskbar, like desktop OS's have, if it even THINKS it wants to be productive.
  • Also DESKTOP CLASS APPS. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Not to mention apps :)) But that's a looong way to go.
  • Why do we need Android to be so productive? Windows and OSX exist and they both work great. No need to reinvent the wheel. Android is a great mobile OS and should stay that way. Program/Application developers need to figure out how to manage both Posted via Nexus 5
  • Because wings are better than wheels ;)
  • I agree with this. Android does mobile very well. Maybe what we're looking for is a ChromeOS tablet. Or better yet, a chromeOS tablet that can also run android APKs since they have been toying with Android apps in Chrome for a while now.
  • YES! I would LOVE to be able to run Android apps in ChromeOS!
  • The future is obviously 1 operating system that works across form factors. Sooner or later OSX and iOS are going to merge, or one will kill the other. Windows is currently trying to do just that (albeit with some big teething problems to get over) Sooner or later Android either has to absorb Chrome OS, or kill it. That's not going to happen soon, Android isn't ready for that yet, clearly, but it's surely a matter of time. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Windows continuum is what you want then. And app developers making desktop versions of their apps Posted via Nexus 5
  • I very much want that. Or at least a version of that which works better than it does currently. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Think you're right on this one. I can see continuum being the future of mobile phones, in a few years it will be awesome. I hope so anyway, I have been wanting this for a few years. It was mouse and keyboard support with slim port that made me get my first android phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Give me Android Studio for the Pixel C and I will buy it now lol. Deal? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Is Android's purpose to be a productivity environment/operating system? Android does mobile very very well. Rather than turn Android into Windows, Google should create a more robust o/s for productivity.
  • ChromeOS? Posted via the Android Central App
  • If ChromeOS hopes to be a real productivity device it needs some work. The Google productivity apps are decent until they stop working properly, which for me is whenever I use them. It needs to be more than just the chrome browser. A lot of tech websites like them, but I have yet to meet a single person in real life who likes them. Sure for the price point it isn't bad, but I'd rather throw a full Linux distribution on there to get full use from it. Maybe that's what Google needs to do for tablets. Use ChromeOS but put something like Gnome on it. Gnome sucks for desktop use but for a tablet it should be perfect. Definitely more productive regarding multitasking than android right now. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Where can I download more productivities? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Pirate bay has a few apk's Lam I Am
  • and grab fallout 4 during your visit :p Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Fallout 4 isn't even worth pirating. Also, if you pirate games you're scum. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Don't worry I only pirate EA games I actually bought fallout 4 lol. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Hope you ignorant immature low life impoverished self justified theives don't spread viruses.
  • Lol I hit a nerve, I don't post stuff to pirate. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • It is always a nerve with ****** Posted via the Android Central App
  • I love pirating games. :) Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • Cool, I'll download some more Rams while I'm there, I'm running low. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I downloaded a new quad core for my pc Lam I Am
  • Oh yeah I downloaded a Titan x Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Really seems like a device meant for a new software paradigm but the hardware came together and the software hasn't. Hopefully next year!
  • Just as true now as when I tried the Asus Transformer tablet a couple years ago. Thank goodness work paid for it else I'd have been even more disappointed.
  • another half-baked product from Google
  • I got my Pixel C today (didn't need the keyboard) and this thing is awesome.
    For my needs it is perfect. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Hall...e...lujah" Well said man! C'mon AI !!! Posted via the Android Central App from my Nexus 6 or Pixel C.
  • I'll wait for 2 gen if they go that way. Maybe we can see something a little different for android os for tablets. Just some little tweaks. but really like look of the hardware. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I still miss the app switching gestures from WebOS. Obviously the devices didn't have the ram / cpu horsepower to really multitask back then, but somehow the gestures & cards always felt more natural than the task switcher button. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I never used it personally, but I can really see why you say that. I've tried to recreate some elements of it using gestures for navigation, which works, but not nearly as well as it could if Android were actually designed to work that way. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Android, especially TouchWiz, has gotten closest to being a PC replacement for productivity with apps now such as C++/C compiler, Wireshark like network sniffer, etc. but the hardware needs to evolve more. Hoping for something like a 13" Surface Pro with proper keyboard/trackpad running Android/TouchWiz.
  • Know WiFi connection issue . sent mine back
  • "The inclusion of a keyboard doesn't automatically make an Android tablet more productive." But... The iPad Pro, bro. Most productive device is human history. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's the issue I have with the Pixel C, and nearly every Android tablet, and even the iPad Pro. Android on a tablet just doesn't reach its full potential. The UX feels more like an overblown phone UI and there's very little apps that are specially optimized for tablets. In terms of the UX, Honeycomb was the standard to me. It took advantage of all that screen real-estate and all the buttons plus system status icons are where they should be. Unfortunately, Honeycomb tablets were mostly terrible, so we shall not speak of this. If Google can get Android to multitask better (like split-screen on stock Android, not just TouchWiz) and gives devs incentives to develop tablet-optimized apps, then we will see tablets getting closer and closer to the productivity potential of a laptop. The iPad Pro has its own set of issues. The OS, in nature, is more at home in a phone than a productivity-focused tablets (like the Pixel C) and everything that makes the Pro a productivity device rather than just a tablet is insanely overpriced. Like $99 for the Pencil. $949 for my 128GB Pro is bad enough, but an extra $99 for the Pencil?
  • Multitasking is atrocious on Android in its current state. There's no excuse for how poor it is, especially when iOS beat Android to the punch with native split screen. Even though Android was obviously designed with smartphones in mind, there's no reason the inclusion of better multitasking functionality would somehow hinder everything that's been built so far. Hell, with the huge popularity of the phablet in the Android space even folks solely using Android phones would greatly benefit. I love my Note 5, but dual window is super disappointing given the lack of app support. If it were native to the OS I would use it literally every day. Apple's design philosophy is "don't give users options, they're too stupid to handle them." Thus Google's philosophy should be "give users all the options, just don't enable them all by default." This allows for an OS that can scale to meet each individual's needs. Simple for folks who need it that way, powerful for those who can handle it. I honestly hope Google sees how inadequate the Pixel C is and decides to engineer Android N as though they give two or more ***** about tablets. It's starting to get embarrassing. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They need to fix the WiFi and touchscreen issues before you can even start to worry about it being productive.
  • Tablets and phones are now really powerful but the best you can do is playing candy crash. maybe some development in the "convergence" direction will be helpful i the future. the idea of Ubuntu is great but Touch is still far away to become a valid alternative of Android or IOS.