As someone who primarily uses Apple tech, I was surprised to feel a bit of jealousy towards the Google Pixel Tablet. As I watched its full unveiling at Google I/O 2023, I saw plenty of little things that made sense.
A speaker base that it docks with, and a kickstand for the back, (courtesy of a neat case). While slick, neither of these two things felt like something that Apple should be ashamed it hasn't hit yet. And, then, Google dropped a feature that I felt revolutionary — at least to the Apple user in me.
In the passing moments, though, I've realized that my favorite Pixel Tablet feature isn't actually that new in the overall world of tablets. Amazon Fire tablets and Samsung Galaxy tablets have also offered this feature. So, yes, the best Android tablets have held something over Apple's head for quite some time, and I think it's time for a change.
The Google Pixel Tablet understands the family
That feature is simple: the Pixel Tablet will support multiple users. Profiles can be protected by a PIN code, and allow each user to have their own apps, theme and privacy. Which is ideal for families, as one Pixel Tablet could be enough for the household, or at least until Junior needs to have theirs every minute.
When Rose Yao, Google's vice president of Product Management, announced this feature in the middle of her presentation I heard a smattering of applause and a few yelps and woos. And that made me realize I wasn't alone in waiting for Apple to catch up.
For those who aren't in the Apple eco-system, this might be shocking to hear, but Apple has yet to roll out support for multiple users. For as much as I love the iPad, this still feels like a shortcoming.
I get that Apple probably wants each family member to buy their own iPad, but I have two reasons why that's not a great idea. First: iPads (especially the Air and above) are not cheap. As Apple continues to push the iPad Pro, one has to wonder why this device that has the power and apps to replace a laptop can't also have multiple users.
Secondly, buying multiple iPads when one could do the trick is simply wasteful. Apple constantly touts how green it is as a company. So while it can refine how it makes and packages its iPads, cutting down the amount of iPads a family has to buy could also reduce waste.
Of course, I'm sure Apple doesn't see multiple iPad households as wasteful.
Will Apple care about Google's upgrades?
The big question here, of course, is how much attention is Apple paying to Android tablets? Amazon Fire tablets and Samsung Galaxy tablets have long offered multi-user support.
Fortunately, it seems like Apple has been thinking about how the iPad can grow. For example, there's a rumored hybrid iPad/Homepod that sounds like the Pixel Tablet's Charging Speaker Dock. I don't know if Apple would ever include a kickstand, which would hurt its accessory-selling business, but that would be good too.
But, please, Apple: consider adding multi-user support. I'm sure you can find a way to make it clean and Apple-like. You may sell slightly fewer iPads at first, but those tablets will become more valuable to those who use them.