Google is steadily preparing for the upcoming Pixel tablet launch, and now we’re able to show off a fun video recreation of what it’ll be like to use the tablet.
Next year’s Pixel tablet is Google’s first Android tablet since the Pixel C in 2015, which preceded the entire Pixel line of phones. With Android having changed so much since then, especially with the big screen advancements of Android 12L and 13, Google had to adapt a number of areas of the software to be ready for a tablet.
Our team has watched these changes pile up over the past year, dutifully covering changes in Android betas and monitoring new tablet-ready designs for Google apps. That said, it’s also important to step back and look at the bigger picture that the company’s many teams are painting.
Latest Android Beta — Android 13 QPR2 – is currently estimated to be stable in March. Considering the next plausible launch event for the Pixel tablet would be Google I/O (usually held in May), it’s likely the tablet will also launch with Android 13 QPR2 out of the box. That means the Pixel software we can preview today may be relatively close to what the final tablet experience should be.
To take a closer look at the Pixel tablet experience, we’ve created a few Major changes to the settings of a Pixel phone, and our APK Insight team forcibly enabled some additional features in apps that might not be seen today. Specifically, we did more than just increase the DPI of the screen to make this reconstruction possible.
As many of the things we’ve enabled are still in progress, we can’t guarantee that everything shown in this video will be ready in time for the Pixel tablet launch or look exactly the same. So, take that with a grain of salt. Without further ado, on to the video!
The first thing to notice is the lock screen, which features a clock that slides left to reveal a list of notifications on the right. Much like Pixel phones, the Pixel tablet’s lock screen features the ubiquitous At A Glance widget in the top left, along with a Google Home shortcut in the bottom left. In the top right corner, there’s a new switch user button that makes it easier for a family to share the Pixel tablet.
It’s likely that the real Pixel tablet will have additional features on the lock screen that we can’t preview today. For example, Google has confirmed that you’ll be able to stream videos and music to the Pixel tablet just like you would to a Nest Hub or Google TV.
Once unlocked, you’ll find a new tablet-ready layout for the home screen with a wide 6×5 grid for apps and widgets. At A Glance is still permanently affixed to the front page, but it doesn’t use the entire top row as seen on smartphones, just the left half. Below the grid, there’s a permanent row with the Pixel Launcher search bar and six slots for pinned apps.
The Google Assistant is always ready on Pixel devices, whether it’s tapping the microphone icon or saying “Hey Google.” Calling the assistant on the Pixel tablet displays the same user interface as on phones today, but the response is now displayed in a sheet on the right side of the screen.
As always, swiping up on the launcher reveals the full app drawer, which slides up like a sheet in the style of Material Design. Pixel Launcher also uses this same design to browse home screen widgets.
Swiping down you’ll find a revamped notifications shade and quick settings area. Similar to the lock screen, notifications sit on the right side, while a 3×3 grid of Quick Settings tiles sits on the left.
Scrolling past the leftmost homepage, Google Discover has been redesigned for the tablet. As it stands, large-screen Android devices already get multiple columns in Google Discover, with tablets even getting a third column. For the Pixel tablet, Google enhanced this with a welcome message such as “Good afternoon, Kyle”.
As an exclusive feature for the Pixel tablet, Google Discover is also now separated into two distinct sections. “From your apps” displays movie and TV recommendations from Google TV and other apps, fulfilling a similar role to Android”entertainment area.” Meanwhile, “From Around the Web” is Google Discover’s usual collection of news articles and YouTube videos.
Back on the home screen, you can long-press an app to see two new ways to open it: “Split Left” and “Split Right.” Choosing one will place the app icon on the appropriate edge of the screen, giving you plenty of screen space to choose a second app. Once you open this second app, both will appear in a vertical split screen.
Notably, the inside corners of each app are given a steep, material-like curve, likely meant to match the curve of the Pixel tablet’s own corners. A thin bar appears between the two apps, allowing you to allocate more space to one or the other. In the Recent Apps view, these two apps are treated as a single activity that can be dismissed or closed.
In one app (or several), a quick swipe up reveals a new design for the taskbar that was introduced in Android 12L. As always, you’ll find your current pinned apps and a shortcut to open the app drawer. Cleverly, the drawer can even be opened more than your current application, without returning to the home screen. Using the same “Split right” option as before, you can add another app to your current app.
Swiping up a little further brings up the Recent Apps view, which features a zoomed-in view of your current task and two rows of past activities you can quickly return to. Next to the usual options for “Screenshot” and “Select”, there’s a bigger button to “Split” the app and join it to another.
Moving on to individual apps, Google has done quite a bit of preparation over the years, both for its own Pixel tablet and for the larger market of large-screen Android devices. One commonality you’ll likely notice is the repeated use of the dual-pane design, putting separate content on the left and right sides of the screen, perfect for tablets and foldables.
For starters, Google Messages on tablets is able to match the web app’s ability to mirror your phone’s entire message history, receive notifications, and respond to conversations. Just like the web app, there is a list of conversations on the left and a view of an individual conversation on the right. It’s already possible today on all Android tablets, but it certainly helps to make the Pixel experience more consistent.
Meanwhile, Google Contacts is preparing its own design overhaul ahead of the launch of the Pixel tablet, with similarly separated columns for your contact list and a specific person’s information. Keep Notes uses a similar approach on shelves and foldable, making it easier to cross-check notes.
Other apps, like Chrome, choose to make the most of the Pixel tablet’s extra screen real estate. There, you’ll find a full desktop-like experience, including the familiar tab bar at the top. You can even open a “new window” of Chrome like you would on a desktop computer. Less exciting, Google Docs uses the extra width to provide more options for the text editor.
Putting it all together, it’s clearer than ever that Google has put a lot of effort into preparing for the Pixel tablet. Thankfully, much of this effort will also benefit other Android tablet makers like Samsung and Lenovo, between improvements to Android itself and redesigns to Google’s app library.
Hopefully, the Pixel tablet will help push Android tablets forward the same way Google has done before with Pixel phones. And, if nothing else, the Pixel tablet should be a great companion to Google’s phones, with handy split-screen tools to get the job done and delicious new ways to be entertained.
What do you think of this first recreation of the Pixel tablet experience? What do you want Google to improve before the tablet is released next year? Let us know in the comments.
Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.
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