Google does all the right steps with the Pixel Tablet

Google’s ambitions for tablets were no secret. The recently introduced Pixel Tablet is the latest in Google’s long line of attempts to break into the elusive smart tablet market. However, instead of following the same tablet-based approach, Google appears to be building something completely different.

By positioning the Pixel Tablet as an efficient tablet that also doubles as the center of your smart home, Google offers a unique proposition. Here’s why I’m convinced this is Google’s best chance of making its tablet a mainstream success.

Will the smart screen docking option (add a speaker and power) make your Pixel tablet more attractive to you?

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Tablets are a luxury, and smart home integration can make them even more useful

Amazon Fire 7 2022 on hand

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

I have tried many tablets over the years. While I loved the Nexus 7’s small profile, the bite-sized tablet rarely left my desk. I would sometimes use it to check RSS feeds or follow social media. Occasionally I would use it to stream video content, but it mostly just kept sitting there until it ran out of charge. When it finally came time to put it aside, I struggled to find a use case to justify picking up another tablet.

Years later, my iPad Air was mostly doing the same thing. I use it as a secondary screen to peek through to-do lists or browse RSS feeds. If I’m feeling a little adventurous, I’ll slap it into a can of Magic Keyboard that I spent a lot of money on and work out of a coffee shop. However, for the most part, he never gets out of my house. I’m not alone in this.

Surveys indicate that most users rarely take their tablets outdoors.

A recent report indicates that only 12% of users take their tablets outside their homes. Google repeats a lot of the same on the Pixel Tablet page. Tablets are, understandably, significantly less used than smartphones, and with phone screens reaching small tablet dimensions, it doesn’t make much sense for most people to carry two. Meanwhile, the advent of foldable smartphones is expected to further reduce the use of dedicated tablets.

Furthermore, tablets are often shared accessories, and it is not unusual to see a tablet being shared by multiple family members in the home. By positioning the Pixel Tablet as a central accessory to the smart home rather than a personal tablet, it’s clear that Google is aiming for a much broader audience. More so at a time when demand for tablets is slowing globally.

Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD with Smart Dock

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Placing a tablet as a smart home hub isn’t an entirely new approach. Amazon has been marketing its Fire tablets as pseudo-echo projectors for a while now. It’s a functional approach, but the whole experience can make you want it. Likewise, the Smart Tab M10 from Lenovo powered by Google Assistant does double duty as a smart display. However, a budget tablet rarely enables high-quality ambient computing experiences.

A tablet as a smart home hub isn’t a new idea, but a Pixel tablet will likely do better.

Doubling the tablet as a central smart hub gives the Pixel Tablet a unique dual purpose, and a lot of that is due to Google’s implementation. Unlike Lenovo and Amazon, Google is apparently building the Pixel Tablet to be a top-notch smart display, which could be the key to distinguishing.

First, the amplifier and charging base are bound to offer significantly better audio capabilities. While most tablets sit tucked away in a corner or on a table, the Pixel Tablet on its dock will use a high-quality screen to display photos from your Google Photos library — while charging. And this is just the beginning. The combination of powerful internal components and a complete operating system should give it plenty of room to enable many more interesting experiences.

The combination of high-powered internal components and a complete operating system should enable cutting-edge ambient computing experiences.

If you’re anything like me, your tablet probably sits on a coffee table or bookshelf. I often find it runs out when I really need it. Giving the Pixel Tablet a stable home base and more items around the house should solve both of these problems.

It’s all about the form factor

Morning view of the second generation Google Nest Hub.

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Interestingly, I often wanted to catch the Nest Hub sitting next to my desk. Instant access, a screen that’s centered around the house control, and a good set of speakers make it more useful to me than a tablet. Use a web browser and support basic apps, and the Nest Hub will cover most of the use cases I need a tablet for. Apparently, someone at Google had the same chain of ideas.

The dock-based form factor of the Pixel Tablet encourages accessibility and intermittent access.

The Pixel Tablet and its docking station are clearly designed for accessibility and intermittent access. Pick it up when you need to adjust the smart lights, then drop it back on the dock. Drop it off the speaker whenever you want some Netflix time and unwind, then head back to the charger.

Furthermore, as much as I love the Nest Hub, I found it hard to justify placing multiple units around my connected home. The smart home inclinations of the Pixel Tablet make it easy for me to sell it right away. Being able to carry it with me across the various living spaces makes it even more useful as a smart hub, and I’m willing to bet many others would be happy to pay a premium for it.

The modular approach is great for those looking to solve and solve two problems with one machine.

I don’t know about you, but I all work to reduce clutter in my living space, and between my Nest Hub and tablet, I know which one benefits the most. Combine the two, and you get a perfect modular approach.

Addressing a medium-sized gap in the market

Correct profile Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Google’s approach to solving two problems with one solution has one distinct advantage. The global tablet market is on opposite ends of the spectrum. Apple’s iPad Wallet is clearly aimed at a more discerning audience. However, the maximum sales tend to be in the bare-bones budget tablet segment. There’s a mid-size gap in the market that Samsung has tried to fill without serving a real purpose, and the Pixel Tablet can be a great tool — just like the Pixel 7.

The Pixel Tablet could easily fill the gap between Samsung’s premium tablets and a wide range of budget options.

Pixel Tablet could motivate buyers to splurge outside of budget tablets. It doesn’t claim to be a high-end machine with a professional focus, nor does it need to. The Pro tablet is just a high-end Netflix without a strong professional app ecosystem – something the Android tablet has struggled with. The only reason why Samsung Galaxy Tabs stands out is because of Samsung’s software ecosystem. Instead, the Pixel Tablet is all about giving the audience what they want. By focusing on normal cases, everyday use cases give it a chance to be different where that matters.

Google IO 2022 Tablet Design Pixel 2

Looking at the broader Pixel series, today it’s clear that Google is happy to play between the mid- and premium price segments. If Google can replicate the same pricing strategy with the Pixel Tablet, it may have a winner on its hands.

Despite its dual-purpose design, the Pixel Tablet will need to be pricing in to have any chance of success.

Google’s hardware strategy is that it’s guaranteed to sit in the main sub-tablet space. Using the same Tensor G2 processor as the Pixel 7 smartphones will allow it to take advantage of economies of scale and use the same machine learning techniques that featured its phones. Likewise, the large bezels, the polycarbonate build, and the lack of multiple cameras all point to a device designed to hit a certain price point. In my opinion, this is the right approach to have a Pixel Tablet any chance of success.

The timing, too, works great. Previous tablet efforts have suffered from a lack of software developed primarily for a large screen. Google needs the Pixel Tablet to be a top-notch Android tablet; It already claims that the Pixel Tablet will be the best way to experience Android on a big screen. With Android 12L improvements focused on the tablet, we hope it has the software needed to support that claim.

The Pixel Tablet is Google’s best (last) chance to make a mark in the tablet space

Pixel Tablet screenshot from Pixel 7 launch

From what we know so far about the Pixel Tablet, it looks like the Google product team has finally got the memo. Connecting the Pixel Tablet with knowledge of the Nest ecosystem brand and secondary use case makes the affordable product even more attractive.

Familiarity with the brand of the Nest ecosystem can give the Pixel Tablet a much-needed shot in the arm.

With a clear, curated direction and a more specific focus on everyday usability, the Pixel Tablet seems to have all the right ingredients for success, especially for someone like me who is still skeptical about needing a dedicated tablet.

As a bigger and better Nest Hub, it can be the hub of my smart home system. When I need a tablet, I no longer need to look for it on the bookshelf and hope it’s charged. On paper, the Pixel Tablet ticks all the boxes for me as a normal user. I have a feeling it would be suitable for many other users as well.

Continue reading: The Pixel Tablet could be the future of smart home screens

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