Long ago, before ChromeOS tablets were a thing and Samsung wasn’t quite yet poised to own the market, Google produced what was arguably the best Android tablet of the decade. Sadly, I’d wager that the majority of consumers have never even heard of the Pixel C. With its premium build, sleek aesthetics, and a really good keyboard, the Pixel C stands as a testament to what a great Android tablet should be. Fiver years after its release, there were many that still touted the Pixel C as “the best Android tablet ever made.” Unfortunately, as great as the Pixel C was, Android simply wasn’t ready for such an awesome device. (There was the issue of the Pixel C’s pricing but you can hear more about that in Mr. Mobile’s long-term re-review of the tablet here.)
Since the release of the Pixel C, Google has all but abandoned developing a tablet. Yeah, there was the Pixel Slate Chromebook but we aren’t going to talk about that… Anyway, even as Google pushed for developers to build with larger screens in mind, it appeared as if the keeper of Android had lost all interest in making a proper tablet to bear its torch. Google SVP Rick Osterloh even stated back in 2019 that Google’s only focus moving forward would be laptops.
Fast forward to I/O 2022, and Mr. Osterloh himself took the stage to announce the long-awaited Pixel Watch that will arrive alongside the Pixel 7 this fall. In a very unexpected move, Rick began talking about Android’s “huge” advances in the arena of tablet software and then, rolled right into a sneak peek of Google’s new Android-powered Pixel tablet. He went on to say that the all-new tablet wouldn’t be ready until 2023 but we were left reeling as to what exactly Google was up to with this new, unexpected piece of Pixel hardware. Check out the announcement below.
When I say “sneak peek,” that’s exactly what we got. Apart from the fact that the Pixel tablet will be powered by Google’s custom Tensor SoC, you see some brief images of device renders that show off a tablet with chunky bezels, a USB-C port, and what appears to be a pogo pin connection place squarely on the back of the device. At first blush, the Pixel tablet looks like an aging piece of hardware from 2015 and it gave me the feel of a dated iPad that somehow assimilated with a Pixel 3. The tablet itself appears to be standard fare for a “premium” Android tablet with dual cameras, Pixel-y power button and volume rocker, and what I believe is a quad-speaker setup.
The only intriguing feature of the Pixel tablet is the unusually placed pogo pin connection that appears to be towards the center of the back of the device directly under the familiar Google “G“. Now, it is possible that this could be used to connect a keyboard but that placement seems odd. The Pixel C had a great keyboard but Google chose to go with a straight Bluetooth connection in lieu of a hardware connection. If the new Pixel tablet does have a companion keyboard that uses pogo pins, I would think that they’d be on the edge of the device much like the Pixel Slate used. So, what’s the deal?
I have a theory and it’s very Home-y
A few weeks ago, 9to5Google shared some insider information that Google was working on a next-gen smart display that would come with a detachable screen. While it was presumed that this would simply be a new Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max, my gut tells me that the Pixel tablet and the unannounced Nest display could very well be on in the same. If that seems a little too far-fetched, I implore you to take a second look at the bezels on this beasty.
If that doesn’t look like a Nest display, I don’t know what does. Rick pointed out that this is a “next-generation” tablet designed to be the “perfect companion for your Pixel phone.” He goes on to say that the tablet “bridges your on-the-go life with your at-home life.” That sure sounds like a smart home product pitch if I’ve ever heard one. While traditional Assistant displays don’t run Android the OS is perfectly capable of pulling double duty. Lenovo has been just that for some with its Smart Tab M8 that can dock and turn itself into a standard smart home display with all the home control you’d expect from an Assistant-powered device.
Now, this is entirely speculation on my part but all the pieces are there and Google is definitely in a place with the Google Assistant to launch a piece of hardware like this. While I’d love to see an Android or ChromeOS tablet from Google that could be the poster child for premium tablets, this feels much more like an attempt to expand the Pixel brand into the smart home space while keeping a focus on the expansion of the Android tablet ecosystem. We have no idea when we’ll hear more about the Pixel tablet but hopefully, more details will arrive when Google holds its next hardware event in the fall. What do you think? Is this the rebirth of the Pixel C or is Google taking Android tablets in a different direction? Fingers crossed that Google’s growth in the hardware space will lead to a successful Android tablet worthy of the Pixel name.