Large white bezels. Matte, looks like plastic backing. thick profile. 2023. Android.
That’s about all we know about Google’s upcoming Pixel Tablet, which the company teased during its keynote presentation for the I/O 2022 developer conference this week. Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services and head of the Pixel program, confirmed to my colleague David Pierce that the tablet will complement the lineup of Pixel devices and provide a full ecosystem in Google’s lineup.
But when I saw the Pixel tablet image pop up on the live stream during the keynote, I couldn’t help but react, “That? Is this Google’s big return to tablet hardware?” The device that Google was showing off resembles the front of a circa 2013 or 2014 Samsung tablet with the back of an Amazon Fire HD 10, not something that will look like 2023 when it releases should feel futuristic or even up-to-date.
While it’s been a few years since Google made its own tablet, the rest of the tablet market (namely Apple and Samsung) have refined their products with sleek aluminum frames; loud, expansive speaker systems; and trim bezels that make everything practically eye-popping on their bright, high-refresh rate screens. Heck, even relatively cheap Chrome OS tablets look more modern than what Google has shown so far.
The other weird part about this design is that it bears no resemblance at all to the Pixel line of phones. If you see an iPad Air or iPad Pro, you’ll immediately see the connection to the latest iPhones. I’m not asking Google to put a camera bar on the back of the tablet (or should it?), but this tablet looks like it could have been made by any company and doesn’t exactly match Google’s Pixel 6, 6A, 7 or even the pixel watch. It almost looks like a reference design that a factory could whip up for a customer. That’s despite Osterloh calling it “a perfect companion for Pixel” and a “next-gen Android tablet.”
Much of that could be excused if Google decides to keep the Pixel tablet extremely low to compete with Amazon’s budget Fire tablets (and listen to the only Google tablet anyone liked, the Nexus 7). But in a separate conversation, Osterloh said the tablet is “more of a premium product in the larger size,” suggesting to me that it won’t be A) particularly cheap and B) not particularly small.
2023 is still a long way off and Google has plenty of time to make adjustments here. We also know very little about the hardware itself – what Tensor processor is in it? How much RAM and storage space will there be? Does it support pen input? Will there be a version with less distracting black bezels? Are there detachable keyboard accessories? (As for the last point, it’s likely since there appeared to be pogo connection pins on the back of the tablet.) I’m also judging the design based on what we know these years Pixel line of products. Perhaps by 2023 Google will have switched everything back to a matte plastic aesthetic, and the Pixel tablet fits right in there. It would be an odd twist, having embraced premium metal and glass finishes on the Pixel phones, but it wouldn’t be the oddest thing I’ve seen on Google.
And of course, it won’t be the hardware that will make the Pixel tablet sink or float. It’ll all come down to software, which Google still has a lot of work to do to prove it cares about Android tablets. The company has committed to updating more than 20 of its first-party apps to better support tablet displays in the coming weeks, and says it’s gained support from major third-party apps to actually support tablet versions of theirs too Build Android apps. But that’s a story we’ve heard many times, and I hesitate to believe it until I see it.
Despite all that and the long lead time before the Pixel tablet launches, first impressions matter and based on what we’ve seen so far it’s hard to get excited about and hard to discern what Google different than what we already have with tablets from other companies. It’s odd that it chose this hardware design to generate interest.
And oh, those white borders.
https://www.theverge.com/2022/5/11/23067679/google-pixel-tablet-tease-reaction-premium-ugly This “premium” Pixel tablet sure doesn’t look very premium