Google is finally taking Android tablets seriously


There is a reason why the word Tablet is synonymous with iPad. Every year, Apple makes small changes to the user interface of iPadOS, its tablet operating system, to optimize the large-screen user experience: two-column views, a persistent taskbar and cursor support, not to mention the respectable number of first- and third-party apps that use up the extra space. You won’t find the same improvements on tablets running Google’s Android.

Most Android tablets look like an enlarged version of a Android smart phone, and Google’s focus on experience optimization has gone up and down over the years. There was Android Honeycomb in 2011, which had resizable widgets; and Android Nougat in 2016 added the ability to apply split-screen apps to make multitasking easier. Now there’s Android 12L and Android 13. The latter is currently in beta, but both bring the biggest changes we’ve ever seen to the interface.

Why now? There are nearly 270 million active large-screen mobile devices running Android. But this change to create a better Android tablet experience looks like a reaction to the huge growth in the IT industry that has happened during the pandemic, due to the demand for screens for remote work and the virtual education. In 2019, manufacturers shipped around 144 million tablets, but this figure rose to 163 million in 2020 and 168 million in 2021, according to IDC.

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Google Maps

Photography: Google

Android 12L, introduced in beta at the end of 2021, creates a refreshed interface for large-screen devices. With larger screens, you will now see separate columns in the notification drawer; there’s now a persistent taskbar at the bottom of the screen that lets you quickly open apps in split-screen mode; and apps will automatically adjust to use the extra space on the screen. It’s expected to make its way to more devices this summer.

These improvements carry over to Android 13, which is expected to launch even later. The next version adds even more for tablets, like better stylus support and palm rejection, optimized screensavers and new widgets, and faster and more efficient profile switching, making it easy to switch the tablet over to your child’s account when you hand it over to them. . Android 13 will also make it easier to open multiple instances of the same app at the same time.

Scott Blanksteen, senior director of product management at Google, says the demand and use of tablets has grown for both productivity and entertainment, and that’s why Google rushed to make Android 12L in the first place. instead of waiting to roll out these tablet improvements in Android 13. It’s slightly faster This could mean more devices will roll out Android 12L before the end of the year, when Android 13 will probably land on most tablets in 2023, given how long it takes companies like Samsung and Lenovo to roll out Android updates.

Applications also play a major role in this refocusing on tablets. “App experiences have to be great, and it has to start with Google,” says Blanksteen. That’s why the company will be updating more than 20 Google apps with tablet optimizations in the coming weeks, from a redesigned YouTube Music app to a more space-conscious Google Maps app.


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