(Pocket-lint) – Google’s hardware division announced a move away from tablets in 2019, concentrating its efforts into laptops instead. The news came from Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of devices and services at Google.
Hey, it’s true…Google’s HARDWARE team will be solely focused on building laptops moving forward, but make no mistake, Android & Chrome OS teams are 100% committed for the long-run on working with our partners on tablets for all segments of the market (consumer, enterprise, edu)
— Rick Osterloh (@rosterloh) June 20, 2019
At Google I/O 2022, howwever, Google announced that it was moving back towards tablets, with the Google Pixel Tablet. This wasn’t a launch announcement, more of a long-term tease as the tablet is due to launch until 2023.
Here’s a run-down of the tablets that have graced Google’s shelves through the Nexus and Pixel programmes in the past, as well as a look to the future.
Google Nexus 7
Android tablets existed long before Google directed its Nexus programme at it. The Nexus 7, built by Asus, was launched in 2012, looking to show Android tablet manufacturers how it was done. Priced cheap – as was the Nexus way – at £159 the 7-inch tablet had a lot to offer for the money. It was also powered by Nvidia Tegra hardware and came with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. At the UK launch there were plenty of holes – no Flash support meant many streaming services didn’t work – and Google hadn’t yet fully released all its rental services.
Google Nexus 10
The Nexus 10 always felt like the spiritual successor to the Motorola Xoom, taking Google tablets to 10-inches. The larger tablet was built by Samsung, powered by Exynos and also launched in 2012. One of the interesting features was a removable back panel allowing you to clip in a cover. The display was a cracker, with 300pp, a higher resolution than the current Apple iPad, but even through Android Jelly Bean made some changes to accommodate tablet use, the lack of apps that could really use the resolution – or just work in landscape – highlighted Android’s biggest problem.
Google Nexus 7 (2013)
The update of the Nexus 7 in 2013 gave Android fans some hope that this was going to become a trend. It again came from Asus and was competitively priced, but moved to a hard plastic build. Again it was the display that impressed with a 323ppi resolution and we loved it for streaming Netflix. It was powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, but didn’t offer a huge change from the 2012 model.
Google Nexus 9
The following year, Google obviously decided that it was going to make its big tablet more compact and the Nexus 9 was the result. Built with HTC – very much at the top of its game – the Nexus 9 arrived with Android Lollipop, 64-bit software, and Nvidia Tegra 64-bit hardware. HTC also packed its BoomSound speakers into it. While the display resolution remained high, it moved to a 4:3 aspect, but there was still a lack of apps to really take advantage of the screen size.
Google Pixel C
Google tore down the Nexus programme and the Pixel was born. The Google Pixel C followed just a year later in 2015, but Google was now at the helm. The Pixel C was focused on productivity rather than out-and-out entertainment, with an accompanying keyboard. Again it was Nvidia Tegra powered, running Marshmellow, but despite the premium build, the software let it down. Connectivity to the keyboard was patchy and the lack of splitscreen saw it less useful than rival tablets.
Google Pixel Slate
Google’s next tablet was a more serious stab at productivity. It switched to Chrome OS, more than doubled the price of previous Google tablets looking to compete with the Surface or iPad Pro. While the design was pretty good, some questioned the Intel hardware powering it, and it never really felt like a tablet – it felt like a laptop. Fortunately, the keyboard was excellent and Chrome provided a great browser experience – but while the Surface supports desktop apps and the iPad has many high-profile productivity apps available, it always felt like the Pixel Slate couldn’t be your sole working device.
Google Pixel Tablet – the future
A surprise announcement at Google I/O 2022, it has been confirmed that the Pixel Tablet will be launched in 2023. We’ve seen various tweaks to Android to support more dynamic display use, while the only real detail we know is that it will be powered by Google’s own Tensor hardware. We suspect this is a move to offering apps better suited to a bigger screen environment.
Writing by Chris Hall.