Google may finally provide a half-decent iPad alternative

Google may finally provide a half-decent iPad alternative

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For years now, Google hasn’t seemed particularly interested in the tablet market, but yesterday the company announced that it’s working on what might be the company’s first real iPad alternative – a new Pixel tablet due for launch sometime next year.

Apple getting some serious iPad competition could be just the thing we need to finally spur the company into taking iPadOS more seriously, and having the software catch up with the hardware …

Google’s lack of interest in tablets of late

The last Google-branded Android tablet was the Pixel C, launched way back in 2015. This had a lot in common with iPads: great hardware, with the operating system failing to really do it justice.

The problem was that Android on tablets just wasn’t very good. At launch, with Android Marshmallow, the Pixel C didn’t even have split screen capabilities. It didn’t have a high-quality first-party stylus accessory. Generally, the OS just didn’t feel very optimized, and switching between apps felt slow. Practically none of the apps in the Play Store were optimized to properly take advantage of the greater screen real estate — something that the iPad has had in the “advantages” column since day one.

It was discontinued in 2017, and the only tablet Google has launched since then was the 2018 Pixel Slate, which was a ChromeOS device, not an Android one. A year later, the company reportedly ceased work on new tablets.

2023 Pixel tablet plan

During yesterday’s I/O event, Google revealed that it is now coming back into the tablet business, and plans to release a Pixel tablet sometime in 2023.

The company revealed very little about the hardware, but did provide a sneak peek at the form factor – and the unsurprising news that it would be powered by the same Tensor chip it uses for Pixel phones.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; based on these renders, Google still has a lot to learn from Apple on the design front. The device has the rounded back of the older iPads, making it look rather old-fashioned, and the bezels don’t look as slim as those on the iPad Pro. But it’s still a big step in the right direction.

One thing the company has got right, and I really wish Apple would learn from, is that the front-facing camera is on the long edge, putting it at the top of the device in landscape mode. It’s even more ridiculous that Apple insists iPads are vertical devices when it makes keyboards that work in landscape mode.

Some tablet-focused software news, too

There are decent third-party Android tablets out there – like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 series. But these are again let down by poor Android software support for larger screens.

However, Google does finally seem to be making some headway there, too, updating and optimizing 20 of its own Android apps for use on a tablet.

Starting today, we’ll be updating more than 20 Google apps to look amazing on large screens and take full arrange of the extra functionality with a lot more to come.

The company has also been very slowly working on improving the multitasking experience on Android tablets.

A decent iPad alternative is good news for iPad owners

For too long, Apple has been able to rest on its laurels as the Default Tablet. Sure, it’s continued to develop the hardware, but as we’ve often said, the software capabilities remain way behind, both before and after iPadOS.

Google making its own tablet is likely to lead to further developments on the software side, to take full advantage of a larger screen – and that will hopefully prod Apple into doing the same.

A great Google tablet with a great Android experience for a larger screen is exactly what iPad fans need: serious competition to force Apple into giving us a user experience that takes full advantage of the hardware. Even a halfway decent Google tablet, with third-party ones made more capable by a better Android tablet experience, would achieve the same thing.

As an iPad fan, I look forward to the launch of the Pixel tablet.

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