At its October event last year, Google gave us the briefest of glimpses at its Pixel Tablet, confirming a long-standing rumor that the company would allow its upcoming tablet to moonlight as a Nest Hub. It's essentially aiming to be both a portable tablet and Nest Hub-like smart display in one.
Now SnoopyTech — a leaker with a decent track record — has provided product shots of the Pixel Tablet dock which the tipster calls the “Google Pixel Tablet Stand”. Whether or not that’s the official name isn’t made clear, but as utilitarian a brand name as it sounds, it sounds plausible given Google already makes a product simply called ‘Pixel Stand’.
Google Pixel Tablet Stand pic.twitter.com/YFH6tf9ooBMarch 23, 2023
As you can see from the pictures embedded in the tweet above, it really does look like somebody took a Nest Hub and cut off the screen.
For comparison, here’s what the Nest Hub Max looks like:
The fabric-covered stand/speaker combination has a flat pill-shaped surface at an angle which the tablet magnetically clips to while it charges on the four exposed pogo pins. A single port on the rear ensures the accessory is minimalist in the extreme.
Notably, it looks a lot like the pre-release Pixel Tablet and dock that popped up on Facebook Marketplace last year.
Meet Hub Mode
Thanks to the latest APK dive from 9to5Google, we also have an idea of how the Pixel Tablet will function when attached to the dock. Digging into the Google Home app, the site found that the Pixel Tablet enters “Hub Mode” when docked, which enables features like the ability to cast content.
The site also found a string called “people_devices_hubmode_answer,” which appears to voice match to the owner of the tablet for voice commands. “Everyone else will be treated as a guest,” it adds.
It looks like the dock itself is treated as a speaker within Google Home, with the ability to assign it to a room as you would any other smart home device in the app. Hopefully, that means you’ll be able to buy more than one to dock the tablet as you move from around the house.
Ahead of the iPad and HomePod
The only thing we know about the Pixel Tablet’s release date is that it’s pegged for this year. But with Google I/O 2023 confirmed for May 10, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if it arrived sooner rather than later.
While Google won’t be the first company to create a dock that turns a tablet into a smart speaker — Amazon has experimented with ‘Show Mode charging dock’ which turns Fire Tablets into portable Echo Shows — adding a chunky speaker to the equation could be a game changer.
But it could have competition to come. Last year, it emerged that Apple is also experimenting with ways of turning iPads into smart displays for the home.
That could be a big deal: While Apple really only has the HomePod and HomePod mini in the smart home space at the moment, there are an awful lot of iPads in the world — it’s the, after all.
If the Pixel Tablet’s release is imminent, then Google has a significant head start here, given the HomePod with screen has reportedly slipped to 2024. Hopefully Google's implementation with the Pixel Tablet will be strong enough to ensure Apple has to pull out all the stops with its own offering.