A Look at Google’s Tablet Strategy: Time for a Course Correction?

In Short
  • Pixel Tablet released last year didn't prove to be the success Google was hoping for due to its mediocre specs, software, and excess focus on its Nest Hub feature.
  • For their next tablet, Google should ditch the dock in favor of a keyboard or stylus and make it a standalone product with productivity and entertainment as highlights.
  • It should also include software features for better accessibility and improve upon the hardware aspect.

Google has been trying to break into the Android tablet market for over a decade without much success. Their most recent attempt was the Pixel tablet, which received lukewarm reviews from reviewers and consumers alike. Sure to say that it didn’t bear the results Google was hoping for. So, what went wrong with the Pixel tablet? What strategy should Google consider if they want the next Pixel tablet to be a success? Let’s talk about it.

What Went Wrong with the First Pixel Tablet?

Pixel tablet isn’t a bad product by any means. The issue is that it suffers a serious case of identity crisis. Google continues to market the Pixel tab as a Nest Hub alternative with its bundled speaker dock. Sure, it’s a neat trick and might come in use for some users but making it the highlight feature took the focus away from the tablet.

Pixel tablet
Image Courtesy: Google

Then, there was the issue of mediocre hardware. The tablet had a 60 Hz display which felt slow given we have all been spoiled by high refresh rate displays. The battery wasn’t too big for a tablet, and the software was, well, stock Android just stretched for the larger display. There were few if any tablet-specific features, making the whole experience lackluster.

The last issue was its pricing. Pixel Tablet costs $500 including the speaker dock. Honestly, the tablet did not justify the asking price given you could find better options at a lower price range such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 or the Xiaomi Pad 6. Plus, it is hard to convince people to pay for a $500 detachable Nest Hub. Maybe Google finally got the hint, which is why they plan to sell the tablet as a standalone device for $350, which is a much better price than before.

How Can Google Course Correct Its Tablet Strategy?

While there is no news of Google working on a sequel to the Pixel Tablet, I believe that the company needs to go back to the drawing board to rethink its tablet strategy. And I do have a few suggestions for them that should help avoid mistakes like they made the last time. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Ditch the Dock and Other Gimmicks

Google Pixel Tablet attached to the dock
Image Courtesy: The Verge

Google has had a history of lack of confidence in its products. It always feels the need to attach some sort of gimmick to sell it. This was the case with the Pixel Tablet and its dock. I will reiterate that the idea was not bad, but it should have not taken center stage.

Users would have been more receptive if Google had shipped only a tablet at a lower price like they are planning to do now, as per reports. So, for their next tablet, they should focus on the product itself instead of adding new gimmicks.

2. Be Better Inside and Out

Another issue was the hardware. It was pretty generic, to say the least. I mean, a 60 Hz refresh rate display has no place in today’s climate (Also, looking at you, Apple). Moreover, the IPS LCD panel didn’t get that bright either. Therefore, a high refresh rate display with increased brightness will be appreciated.

Google Pixel Tablet hands on
Image Courtesy: The Guardian

The Google Pixel Tablet had four speakers, which is typical for tablets, but they didn’t output that loud of a sound. The mic quality was also unsatisfying, so those are another couple of areas Google should improve upon. Not to forget that the company shouldn’t omit haptics, unlike last time.

For cameras, Google should go with an ultra-wide angle lens for a selfie camera, as it would be great for video calls and face unlock. Since Google will be sticking to their Tensor SoCs, there is nothing much that can be said in that department.

If there were to be a Pixel Tablet 2, it would surely come with a Tensor G3 chipset, which is at least better than the last generation.

3. A Tablet Has Its Specific Needs

Now let’s come to the important part, which is the software. Android has matured for smartphones, but it leaves a lot to be desired for tablets and larger-screen devices. Other brands understand this, which is why they add changes and essential features to make their UI more user-friendly for big screens.

The folks at Google should take note of these manufacturers and add features within Android that are exclusive to tablets. Two of the best examples of this are the Galaxy Tab S9 series and Xiaomi’s Pad 6. They not only have tablet-specific features but also bring companion accessories to aid the user experience.

Furthermore, there are a lot of features I desire. Features like free-form windows are still a work in progress in Vanilla Android. A sidebar that can be pulled out from any corner of the display to make apps or shortcuts more accessible. Include gesture shortcuts like swiping down with two fingers to enter split screen mode or take a screenshot to take advantage of the extra screen space.

Changing Aspect Ratio for third party apps in Android tablet
Image Courtesy: 9to5 Google

Google is making minor changes to improve its tablet experience instead of taking strides to lead the party and set the precedent. They only recently rolled out the feature that lets third-party apps take over the whole screen. The upcoming Android 15 update will include support for lock screen widgets in tablets. But there is a dire need for productivity features.

4. Focus on Making Pixel Tablet Useful

On release, the Pixel Tablet was also missing accessories like a stylus and a keyboard attachment. There are rumors that a keyboard attachment might be coming with the re-release of the tablet, which will be sold separately. I think it should have been there from the beginning. A stylus or a keyboard would have been more welcomed than a dock.

keyboard and stylus accessory for the Pixel tablet
Image Courtesy: The Verge

This would have been great for people who wish to churn out some productivity out of the Pixel tablet. So for its next iteration, bundling either one of those accessories would help to cement the tab as a productivity-oriented device.

As someone who has been following Google’s tablet journey since its Honeycomb days, I wish to see the tech giant make a successful product. Their Nexus 7, which our Editor owned and adored, still to this day is one of the best tablets they made if you ask me. Hopefully, Google manages to pack in the same magic in their next tablet if they are planning on making one.

I’m looking forward to some tablet-related announcements at the upcoming Google I/O 2024 event. What are your thoughts on the subject? What do think Google should change about their Pixel tablet strategy? Share with us in the comments.

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