Google is paying attention to its Android Tablet apps

The company has announced that Google is rolling out some much-needed upgrades to its Android tablet apps as it attempts to make them work better on devices with larger screens.

Updates for apps including Sheets, Slides, Drive, Docs, and Keep, and Google’s announcement says they should come over the forthcoming weeks.

Docs, Sheets, and Drive are being updated to sustain drag and drop, letting you easily pull elements like text and images from one app to another. Meanwhile, Drive can extend two files side by side, identical to the functionality Apple brought to the iPad with 2019’s iPadOS update.

Keyboard shortcuts are also arriving to Drive, Docs, and Slides, making them much more efficient for anyone with a Bluetooth or wired keyboard connected to their Android tablet.

The updates are arriving as Google has renewed interest in Android tablets over the past year. Early in 2022, it released Android 12L, an update to the operating system optimized for large-screen Android devices like tablets and foldable. In addition, at its I/O developer conference in May, the company said it was working to improve the app ecosystem for Android tablets.

It said it was working with third-party developers to better optimize apps like TikTok, Zoom, and Facebook and that it would release updates for over 20 of its apps — some of which we’re seeing today.

There are a couple of approaches to why Google is now paying more attention to Android on tablets after arguably letting this development area sit on the back burner for years. First is the fact that Google is planning to make a significant return to the Android tablet market next year, releasing a tablet of its own for the first time since 2018’s disappointing Google Pixel Slate.

Investing in its Android Tablet apps ecosystem will inevitably help this tablet’s chances when it’s released. It will also benefit other Android tablet manufacturers who’ll see the software on their devices improve. There’s also the steadily growing market for foldable, which rely on having software optimized for large-screen devices to get the most from the increased screen real estate.

Although they’re still niche devices in the context of the broader smartphone market, interest is growing. For example, Samsung recently announced that the industry shipped 10 million foldable devices last year, a 300 percent increase over 2020. And there have been persistent rumors that Google is developing a foldable device.

The Pixel Slate, a 12.3-inch tablet, is driven by Chrome OS. It was created by Google and released on October 9, 2018, at the Made by Google event. However, in June 2019, Google declared it would not expand the product line further and canceled two models under development. As a result, the Pixel Slate was extracted from the Google Store in January 2021.

The Pixel Slate was revealed on October 9, 2018; before the Pixel Slate, the last tablet offered by Google was the Pixel C, raised in 2015. Unlike the Pixel C, which operated on Android, the Pixel Slate used Chrome OS. Matching keyboard and stylus accessories also were available at launch, although the stylus was a decorative variant of the current stylus that had been dismissed with the Pixelbook.

Preorders for the Pixel Slate were extended on November 6, 2018, with shipments envisioned to begin in late November. Unfortunately, the entry-level $599 and $699 Celeron-based models were documented as “out of stock” momentarily after release, creating the $799 m3-based model the de facto entry-level model. As a result, the Celeron-based models were officially suspended in June 2019. In addition, a temporary price cut of $200 was applied to all models, making the m3-based model available at the initial $599 entry-level Celeron price point. Google Hardware Senior Vice President Rick Osterloh assured us that Google was discontinuing first-party tablet development.

Prices were cut by $350 for each prototype for the Black Friday sales in 2019, associated with the keyboard and stylus. Almost half in March 2020 cut the costs of the remaining three models. Again the keyboard and stylus are included at lowered prices. The Pixel Slate was documented as “no longer available” or “out of stock” in December 2020, and on January 20, 2021, every Pixel Slate list was sacked from the Google Store. Google has announced the Pixel Slate will continue to receive automatic Chrome OS updates until June 2026.

The Slate features Intel processors running from a Celeron processor to an 8th-generation Core i7 and RAM obtainable in 4, 8, and 16 GB. All models contain a Titan C security chip. In addition, it is exclusively available in a “Midnight Blue” color, and all prototypes feature a side-mounted fingerprint scanner.

I/O incorporates two USB-C ports, one on each side of the device; either can be used for charging its 48 Wh battery and media transfer. The front camera carries an 8-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.9 and a 1.4μm pixel size. The rear camera also has an 8-megapixel sensor, though it has a negligibly wider f/1.8 aperture with a 1.12μm pixel size. Both are competent in recording 1080p video at 30 fps. Sony makes both camera sensors; the rear-facing Pixel Slate camera is the same one operated by the front-facing camera in the Pixel 3 mobile.

The Pixel Slate is Google’s first tablet powered by Intel processors, making it more comparable in hardware to the Chromebook Pixel and Google Pixelbook. It has five hardware configurations available, commencing with a Celeron CPU and up to a Core i7 Y-series CPU, with RAM alternatives varying from 4 GB to 16 GB. The Celeron model was discontinued in June 2019, leaving the m3, i5, and i7 models available until its formal discontinuation in January 2021.