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Google Pixel Tablet could challenge Apple's iPad with a universal stylus

Google Pixel Tablet
(Image credit: Google)

The Google Pixel Tablet got the briefest of first looks at the recent Google I/O developers conference, but in terms of specs and capabilities, we’re basically in the dark until 2023 when it’s due to be launched.

Unofficially, however, we may have just got our first interesting specification. It looks like the Pixel Tablet could offer stylus input, drawing parallels to the iPad’s Apple Pencil and the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s use of the S Pen.

Tech blog NuGiz (opens in new tab) spotted a Google tablet codenamed “Tangor” on the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) website under the certified products section (opens in new tab). Given the Pixel Tablet is the only tablet we officially know that Google is working on at the moment (though there’s also the persistent rumor of a Nest Hub with a detachable screen), it seems likely that the device will allow stylus input.

And not just an official stylus, either. The whole raison d'etre of Universal Stylus Initiative is, as the name suggests, to create a standard for active pen input, meaning any supported stylus works with every certified device.

Integral or optional?

That’s actually something of a double-edged sword. On one hand universality can be a great thing — nobody seriously really wants to go back to the bad old days of when each device had their own bespoke charger, after all. 

But on the other hand, just supporting USI could mean that stylus input is an afterthought: just an alternative way of poking the screen when you want to give your index finger a rest. 

If it supports any USI approved stylus, then there’s no reason to think that Google will even bundle one with it. That suggests a far less integral experience than you get with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 where the S-Pen is right there in the box.

The Apple Pencil, of course, is entirely optional and only sold separately. But that’s designed by Apple and only works with iPads, meaning the functionality is set and the advantages are plain to see.

Of course, there’s a less pessimistic view. Google likes to make its first-party phones, tablets and laptops showcases of what Android and Chrome OS can do. That could mean that Google has all kinds of tricks planned for a stylus, and by working with USI it’s hoping to encourage other Android tablet makers to do the same.

We’ll just have to see what Google has in mind when the Pixel Tablet launches next year. 

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.