A week before the Google I/O, I wrote about how the Pixel Tablet could be the make-or-break point for the Android tablet category. Using a non-iPad tablet for anything more than content consumption is a bummer. I expected Google to work on it and emphasize collaborating with developers to optimize apps for Android tablets.
But as it turns out, the Pixel Tablet was my biggest disappointment from Google I/O 2023.
Google knows Android tablets are bad
Using the OnePlus Pad recently threw all the Android tablet issues to my face. They come at you overwhelmingly – blown-up mobile apps, no optimization for even Google’s own apps like Docs, and almost zero developer support.
I tuned into Google I/O 2023 with high hopes to see the changes Google is bringing to Android tablets with the launch of its Pixel Tablet. The company said something along the lines of, “Over the last year, we have redesigned Android for big screens.” That may be true, but nothing like that has shipped to users’ hands. I’ve yet to come across any Android tablet with a “redesigned” interface that works for big Android screens.
It seems like Google has accepted that Android tablets can’t be anything more than content-consumption devices. You can browse and watch videos on one, and that’s about it. Do you want to type words or do some office work on the go? Sorry, Android tablets aren’t made for that.
It’s a bummer for people like me who want their tablets to double as their second work machines. Instead of working to improve the app situation, Google has taken a backseat and is now working on doubling your tablet as a smart speaker – a smart move by all means.
Not making a keyboard case for its Pixel Tablet further solidifies my argument that Google is fine with pushing Android tablets as content consumption devices. Doubling your Pixel Tablet as your smart assistant at home is a neat feature, and bundling the speaker dock at $499 is a much-appreciated move. But Google not pushing Android on tablets forward is a disappointment.
The glaring problem remains
For years, Android on tablets has remained incompetent when compared to the iPad, and it seems like that will continue. If you want a tablet you can get some work on, iPads are the way to go. They let you watch videos, browse and shop online, have optimized apps for their size, and you can even create content with full-fledged Mac software on the higher-end iPad Air and iPad Pro.
By contrast, Android tablets let you watch videos and browse or shop online – that’s about it. There’s not one thing an Android tablet can do that an iPad can’t (except for a tablet-optimized Instagram app).
After Google I/O 2023, it’s clear that Android tablets are no competitors to iPads when it comes to demanding more than media consumption from your tablet. That may be fine for some people, but it’s not for me.