Google introduced a lot of new Pixel technology at the I/O 2022 keynote, but for me one product stood out above the rest. The Pixel Tablet got about three seconds of screen time and won’t even be available until 2023 (if we’re lucky). Despite this, I found the idea of Google to add one more piece of hardware to its already expanding product range just incredibly exciting.
It’s not just any tablet
You could easily argue that despite the “Pixel” branding, this upcoming tablet is just one of many Android tablets, one person will get stuck in a drawer as the novelty wears off. And to be fair, it’s a valid argument. Even my ultra-powerful Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra isn’t used much, every once in a while I want to use it as an extra monitor for my desktop PC.
So why will Google’s tablet be different? The ecosystem. In our next Android Central podcast coming out this weekend, we’ll talk about Mountain View’s recent announcements. And as I continue to watch the various developer-focused sessions at I/O 2022 and have time to organize my thoughts, it’s clear that Google takes Android tablets more seriously.
There are dedicated sessions and tools for developers to create new apps or update older apps, with support for larger screens. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the growing number of foldable phones. And arguably, that was the catalyst to force Google to make these changes.
But right now, there are only a handful (and I mean just a few) foldable devices that can actually run Android 13 Beta 2. This latest beta aims to open the door for developers to actually implement those tools from Google so that foldable devices and tablets are better supported. In fact, Google takes the time and devotes the manpower to make the necessary changes to its own apps so that there are no large empty spaces in apps like the Play Store, YouTube Music and others.
Completing the Pixel Ecosystem
The biggest reason the Pixel Tablet is my favorite I/O announcement is that it will complete Google’s 2022 “Better Together” initiative. Yes, I understand that Google has confirmed that the Pixel tablet won’t be available until “sometime” in 2023. But looking at how the past year has gone for the company, the premise of a Google ecosystem is finally within reach.
Of course, we don’t know numbers or details, but during the Keynote address, Google stated that the Pixel 6 series has surpassed both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 together. Then we have the Pixel 6a and Pixel Buds Pro at the end of July. The Pixel 6a aims to bring a bit of a calming presence to Google’s mid-range and budget smartphone strategy.
Google’s low-end lineup has been a bit of a muddle lately, between the Pixel 4a, 4a with 5G and the oft-forgotten Pixel 5a. The Pixel 6a should fix this, as it has the the same Tensor chip found in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro along with the sleek new design complete with the cyberrobot camera bar on the back. It also includes features like Magic Eraser and Real Tone, originally launched with the Pixel 6. So essentially you’re getting a flagship Pixel with a few corners slashed to bring the price down to just $449.
The Pixel Buds Pro gives the Pixel stalwart some new and flashy earbuds with fun colors, and more importantly, active noise cancellation. On paper, these should finally give us Google’s competitor for the AirPods Pro, and that’s exciting enough in itself.
Further down the timeline come Google’s Pixel 7 and 7 Pro this fall, powered by the next-generation Tensor processor. With that announcement comes the arrival of the Pixel Watch, which has only been rumored for much of the past decade. We don’t know all the details yet, but by the end of the year, Google’s ecosystem should look like this:
- Budget phone: Pixel 6a
- Budget earbuds: Pixel Buds A-Series
- High-end earbuds: Pixel Buds Pro
- Smartwatch: Pixel Watch
- Flagship Phone: Pixel 7 and 7 Pro
- Computer: Chrome OS and Chromebooks
That leaves only one category to fill, and that’s tablets. The Pixel Tablet fulfills that need – or perhaps need, in my case – in the range of Google-developed products. If all goes according to plan, it should help revive a tablet market that has been largely stagnant with the exception of a few manufacturers like Samsung and Lenovo.
There’s even some mumbling in the crowd about Google taking a page from Lenovo’s book and introducing some sort of specialized dock. This would turn the Pixel Tablet into a Google Home/Nest Hub that you can take with you, giving you the benefits of Nest Hub without anchoring it to a wall outlet.
Fulfilling the prophecy
We were once close to this Better Together ideal, back in the days of the Nexus program with the Nexus phones and Nexus tablets. Well, at least with the Nexus 7, as the Nexus 9 and 10 just couldn’t capture what their smaller counterpart was doing.
If you go through the various press releases and blog posts, you’ll soon see that Google is plastering the idea that your devices are going to be “better together” everywhere. Seamless interactions between your phone, tablet, smartwatch, smart home, computer and pretty much anything else.
It’s an idea we’ve wanted to see from Google for a long time, and while Apple and Samsung have done just that, it’s finally Google’s turn.
Maybe the Pixel tablet will be a flop, no one cares about tablets and foldable tablets and this idea will eventually fall apart. But I believe 2022 will be the year when Google finally fulfills the promise of a cohesive ecosystem built by Android and Google, before its tablet enters the fray next year.
All the puzzle pieces are revealed; now we have to wait and see if Google can successfully match them.