Google wants to revive the Android tablet segment, but despite recent efforts at software refinements, its attempts are a tad too late.
At its packed I / O 2022 event, Google revealed some promising changes coming to Android tablets later this year, but its attempts might just be too little, too late. It is pretty obvious that Google is once again trying to inject some vigor into the Android tablet segment. One of the biggest challenges that Google faces right now is convincing people to take Android tablets seriously again. Google’s own attempts at making Android tablets have not been particularly successful. The Nexus tablets were off to a good start, but software development for tablets remained stagnant, despite new hardware making its way to the market year after year.
But it’s not just about making tablets. Instead, it was the software that failed to deliver anything standout for larger screens. Android for tablets continued to be nothing more than a stretched version of the core experience that was predominantly created with smartphones in mind. Google is finally trying to change things around with the debut of Android 12L, the tablet-focused update that started rolling out a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, there is no tablet from Google’s OEM partners that currently runs this tablet-optimized version of Android. Not even Samsung, which has remained loyal to the Android tablet cause for a while now.
With Android 13, Google is introducing conveniences such as drag-and-drop for opening apps in a split-screen view, but this feature has already been introduced by brands like Oppo on the Find N foldable. The most notable move is that Google is optimizing more than 20 of its in-house apps including Gmail, YouTube Music, Google Maps, and Messages to offer a more tablet-friendly experience and make the best use of the larger screen real estate instead of just super-scaling the UI. Google is also working with big names like TikTok, Zoom, and Facebook, all of which will also deliver tablet-optimized apps. And to make the app discovery aspect easier, Google is adding a dedicated tablet section to the Play Store that will feature apps that are suited to the larger screens of tablets and come with all the optimizations in tow.
An Uphill Battle For Android Tablet Rebirth
Taking a leaf out of Apple’s Universal Control playbook, Google is also adding support for drag and drop gestures to move content across screens. For now, cross-screen copy-pasting is limited to URLs and pictures. Google already offers a feature that allows users to copy and paste across devices with the same Google account signed in, but it is nowhere near as versatile as Apple’s solution. Yet again, the actual availability of Android tablets with this new software is a problem. Just like Android 12L, which is yet to make an appearance on tablets that are available in the market, the picture with Android 13 is likely going to be no different. Not unless Google works closely with OEM partners and somehow helps them expedite the release of Android 13 on their existing portfolio of devices.
However, the easier route will be roping in partners to launch new tablets that boot Android 13 out of the box. This can be done by releasing a set of specifications that cover hardware requirements for Android 13-running tablets across all price brackets. However, saying that is easier than actual implementation. At the end of the day, this game is all about making money and assuring OEM partners that they will actually find buyers for their Android 13-running tablets. More than that, Google will have to convince tablet shoppers that it won’t abandon the Android tablet cause, as it has done in the past.
Google gave Apple a little too much time and space to keep polishing its iPad ecosystem, and to such an extent that iPads have become a default choice for most tablet buyers. It’s almost baffling that despite iPadOS being exclusive to Apple’s own hardware, Apple actually offers tablets at more price points than Android, which is open virtually to every brand that wants to make a tablet. At this point, Google will need more than new tricks – faith from buyers and immense trust from OEM partners will be essential to reviving the Android tablet industry.
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