Google’s Pixel staff is engaged on an Android pill for 2023

Google is getting again within the pill recreation. The corporate’s inside {hardware} division plans to launch an Android-powered pill in 2023, senior vp of gadgets and companies Rick Osterloh introduced on Wednesday at its I/O developer convention. Osterloh was mild on particulars, besides to say it’ll run on the identical Tensor processor inside Google’s newest Pixel telephones and that he imagines it as a consumer-focused gadget targeted on leisure and consumption slightly than work. (The Verge’s Dan Seifert, who briefly noticed an image throughout a product briefing forward of I/O, instantly mentioned “it appears like an outdated Samsung pill.”) However Osterloh’s general message is obvious: Google cares about Android tablets. For actual this time.

The announcement is a big about-face from Google’s latest historical past. In 2019, when Osterloh himself mentioned Google was getting out of the pill enterprise. “Hey, it’s true,” he tweeted in response to rumors that Google was shutting down its current pill merchandise, “Google’s HARDWARE staff shall be solely targeted on constructing laptops transferring ahead,” although he once more mentioned the software program groups nonetheless care about supporting tablets. That announcement appeared to relax the market, as if signaling that Google was by no means going to get severe about tablets. Since then, few corporations outdoors of Samsung have continued to make Android slates.

So why the change of coronary heart? “We see it as a crucial a part of how individuals are interacting with media and computer systems at dwelling, particularly,” Osterloh mentioned in an interview forward of I/O. Google appears to think about Chrome OS as principally a device for work and college, whereas Android is the buyer product. (Osterloh did say Google plans to make extra Pixelbooks, by the way in which, however he wouldn’t say when.) And the pandemic made it clearer than ever to Google that tablets have a novel place in customers’ lives as leisure, gaming, and normal consumption gadgets. (You’d suppose a decade-plus of Apple’s iPad success would have made that clear already, however alas.) “And positively, we predict we need to design one thing that’s an ideal companion for Pixel with a bigger type issue,” he mentioned.

Google’s constructing a pill to point out the world it cares about Android tablets

One method to perceive the Pixel lineup generally is much less as a product group designed to promote a number of gadgets and extra as a showpiece of Google’s intentions. Google isn’t simply constructing a flagship pill it hopes a number of folks will purchase; it’s constructing a flagship pill in order that Android builders out and in of Google will imagine Google truly cares about these gadgets and could have a motive to care about how their apps look on a bigger display screen. Google can’t construct a fantastic pill if it could possibly’t begin that flywheel. Fixing its pill drawback will take greater than nice {hardware} and much more than devoted focus from the complete staff at Google. It requires the entire ecosystem to determine it’s price giving a crap when Google has given them a decade of causes to not.

Fortunately, Google is aware of that higher than anybody. Within the early days of Android, again when Google’s in-house {hardware} initiatives had been known as Nexus slightly than Pixel, the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 had been a few of the finest pill {hardware} in the marketplace. However Android tablets by no means caught on, largely as a result of Android was by no means well-suited to tablets and Google by no means appeared to care. Apps principally handled tablets like “telephones with humongous screens” slightly than a tool class unto themselves, in order that they confirmed up huge and misfit and customarily didn’t work proper. 

Google’s tablet will fit into the broader Tensor-powered Pixel lineup.

Google’s pill will match into the broader Tensor-powered Pixel lineup.
Picture: Google

Internally, at the least, that seems to be altering. “The Android staff has been investing a ton within the house,” Osterloh mentioned. Beginning with Android 12L and persevering with with some new options in Android 13, like an up to date taskbar with an app drawer that makes it simpler to make use of two apps aspect by aspect, the OS is in the end beginning to look optimized for bigger screens. The Pixel Pill (or no matter it’s known as) shall be a showcase for that work. “We needed to ensure folks knew about it in order that they knew not solely is that this an enormous factor for the Android staff, however it’s an enormous factor for our staff, too. And we intend to be on this class, beginning then and going ahead without end.”

Trystan Upstill, a VP of engineering on the Android staff, mentioned that his staff has additionally been working with third-party builders on adapting their apps to the bigger shows. “Now we have TikTok, Zoom, and Fb constructing out new apps this 12 months for pill,” he mentioned in an interview, “and plenty of extra coming as nicely.” Google’s additionally updating 20 of its personal apps — Google Maps, Google Messages, YouTube Music, and extra — for tablets over the subsequent few weeks. That’s a robust signal of progress, however the truth that these updates are solely coming now says quite a bit about Google’s historical past within the house.

Android 13 makes multitasking much easier on larger screens.

Android 13 makes multitasking a lot simpler on bigger screens.
Picture: Google

Google’s deal with tablets may have one thing to do with the state of smartphones. As foldable telephones grow to be extra in style, they’re additionally changing into one of the crucial compelling causes to select an Android machine over an iPhone. Besides, all too typically, Android doesn’t work nice on the bigger foldable screens, both. “The excellence, after all, is that they have two screens,” Upstill mentioned. “And the structure modifications make an enormous distinction. However what we’re doing for tablets is translating on to enhancements for foldables as nicely.”

And in case you’re rooting for Android tablets to be nice, you have to be rooting for foldables to achieve success. As a result of it’s not onerous to think about a world through which Google actually tries to make Android tablets work once more solely to find that Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Floor are to this point forward that it’s going to be not possible to catch up and determine to only transfer on to one thing newer and shinier. Foldables may preserve Google’s deal with huge screens for much longer, although, if they’re certainly the subsequent huge factor in smartphones.

Osterloh appears to be severe about bringing the Pixel shine to the Android pill world. But when Google’s going to tug off a profitable launch subsequent 12 months, it’s going to wish assist. And quick.


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