2023 saw Google’s first push into bigger screens in its Pixel lineup and with that, some growing pains. As 2024 beings, it’s the Pixel Tablet that Google has the most room for improvement on out of its current lineup, and arguably the one that needs it the most.
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In our Google Pixel 2023 Year in Review last week, I called the Pixel Tablet the “one you probably forgot,” because really, it feels like Google’s first Android tablet since 2015 should have been a bigger deal. The Pixel Tablet is the product I think is most underrated out of what Google put out in 2023, but it’s also the worst product the company released this year.
It’s pretty easy to point out the bad with the Pixel Tablet, so let’s start with the good.
Google’s efforts with this device took a different approach from the competition. Instead of just throwing out a big screen running Android, the Pixel Tablet integrated the core ideas of the Nest Hub series, one of Google’s most successful products. And, while it can be a little buggy, I think this was well-executed and a smart play. Having the Pixel Tablet docked and serving a function when not in use as a tablet gives the product way more utility in the home, somewhere that other tablets really seem to struggle.
But, at the same time, that added utility leads to the biggest downfall of the Pixel Tablet. Google’s focus on this new use case led to the company ignoring a lot of the reasons people actually buy tablets. People buy tablets to consume media at home, definitely, but they also buy this form factor for productivity.
Google’s decision to completely skip out on a keyboard accessory, a stylus, and other popular tablet accessories was a mistake. Skipping those accessories it takes away one of the biggest utilities a tablet can serve. Sure, this device is great for consuming content at home, but even if it’s just occasional, I’d like to take the product outside of the home, too. Originally, I thought this strategy was a good idea, and I still believe Google’s decision to lessen emphasis on productivity use cases was smart, but it’s something the sequel needs to change.
Similarly, I think Google made some missteps due to this singular focus of how the Pixel Tablet should be used.
For instance, the 60Hz display is fine in the idea of using this as a Nest Hub or for watching content, but in anything else, it feels outdated. Battery life is also a bit less than ideal, and Tensor G2 is a bit underpowered for the price range in terms of parents buying this so their kids can use it for games. It works, but it could and should be a little better. Bundling in the speaker dock was compelling at launch, but several months later it’s rather frustrating that you still can’t buy the two separately.
Those aspects are frustrating because, really, the Pixel Tablet does get a lot right.
Google’s clean software build is a delight to use, and also something that just doesn’t exist elsewhere. OxygenOS on the OnePlus Pad is cluttered, One UI on Samsung’s Galaxy tablets is feature-rich but busy, and tablets from Lenovo and other Android brands are often full of bloat which cuts down on the already underpowered hardware. The Pixel Tablet could have struck a balance that really only Apple has, with an “it just works” tablet experience, but it’s just held back from really delivering on that.
With all of that in mind, I think there are two paths forward.
The first is to improve on the existing Pixel Tablet. There’s a fair bit Google can do here. Start selling it without the bundled dock, release a keyboard and a stylus, and continue to build on the already-solid software experience.
The other option, and I think the better one, is to release a sequel.
If we get a “Pixel Tablet 2” in 2024, and I hope we do, it’s the product I think Google has the most room for improvement on. The core ideas here are good, they just need better execution. I’d love for a new Pixel Tablet to drop with the same basic design, but with a new display, Tensor G3, and a keyboard accessory. And here’s the great thing, these two paths are not mutually exclusive. Google can release a sequel to fix hardware problems while still making improvements to the existing generation, and I hope that happens!
What 2023 Google product do you want to see improved in 2024?
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