It’s been a while since we had a good Google-designed tablet or a really compelling Android tablet. But that’s set to change with the Google Pixel Tablet.
Set to be revealed in full at Google I/O 2023 on May 10, images of the tablet keep popping up with the latest coming from footage captured at the Milan Design Week event in Italy. And while the latest images show off a coral color (and not much else), my excitement for the Pixel Tablet is building.
A tablet with Pixel-esque sensibilities, such as some custom features and a really clean user interface, is compelling enough on its own, but there's more. Google seems to have a plan to make the Pixel Tablet stand apart from the likes of the iPad Air.
At the Google "Shaped by Water" installation in Milan, we got a good (and brief) look at the Pixel Tablet, which looks rather similar to the iPad Air. But while the Pixel Tablet has iPad-like Smart Connectors, these will work with the Pixel Tablet dock, which can convert the tablet into a smart device that's akin to the Google Nest Home Hub.
Even in this hands-off preview alone, the Google Pixel Tablet looks to offer a fresh approach to Android tablets.
The Pixel Tablet should offer a twist for the home
You can use iPads (and other tablets) as a form of smart home control device. But unless you’re willing to go down the third-party or DIY route, or make do with an Amazon Fire Tablet, it’s difficult to find a really neat way to incorporate a tablet into your smart home. This is particularly pertinent given that iPads can no longer be made into HomeKit hubs since the rollout of iPadOS 16.
So, Google has me intrigued with this tablet that looks to be focused on the smart home, with functions similar to smart hubs. It's a compelling concept.
I’m a huge fan of the Nest Hub. But it’s not exactly a portable device; it just hands out on my bedside table. As I spend most of my day at my desk, a lot of the functions of the Nest Hub get neglected. The closest I get to flexibility is using the Google Pixel 7 Pro with the Pixel Stand, but I find this to be tricky with the Pixel phone seemingly not always shifting into its home mode.
But the Pixel Tablet looks set to be the antidote to this situation by offering two modes in one. Sure, I can perform smart home controls on my iPhone 13 Pro with the Google Home app, but it’s hardly an elegant solution. This tablet's larger panel would allow for a better view of what I’ve got connected and where.
Outlook: Android should enable a better smart home situation
I’m also hoping that the relative openness of Android and Google’s smart approach to software will allow for better integration with a variety of smart apps and ecosystems. I’m not as au fait with smart home setups as my colleague Kate Kozuch, but I still feel there are too many siloed smart home systems that require switching between interfaces and apps to control it all. Instead, Google with all its AI and Assistant tech could make one platform to rule them all.
The other big potential at hand is for Google to create an Android tablet that actually feels like a joy to use, with apps that are optimized for slate-like screens. Even the best Android tablets have failed to do this. Google, with all of its experience, should be able to make Android apps running on the Pixel Tablet just work, even if on the developer side there’s been no optimization for bigger screens.
Ideally, a Chrome OS-like interface when the Pixel Tablet is docked with, say, potential keyboard accessories, would be icing on the cake. This would further enhance the flexibility and scope of the Pixel Tablet to transform from a standard tablet, into a smart home hub, and into a productivity machine. Of course, this could all be wishful thinking on my part.
So in the face of building Pixel Fold rumors, as well as the likely launch of the Pixel 7a, the device I’ll really be looking out for at Google I/O will be the Pixel Tablet. I think it could low-key be one of the more interesting devices of the year. Even more interesting: a fantastic Pixel Tablet could push Apple to do more with its iPads. And the team at Cupertino truly needs to innovate with the iPad again.