For the past month, I have been using the Google Pixel as my main phone. And day after day, I continue to love it. It is a wonderful phone. The Pixel XL has a better display and longer battery life, but the smaller version feels more comfortable in my hand, and less of it sticks out of the back pocket of my jeans. (The little things do matter.)
Now I’d like to see Google make a tablet that’s as well crafted and smart as the Pixel phones. I’m talking about something that would represent the best of Google — not just the best of Android — and would make iOS users stop what they’re doing and ask to play with it.
If you’ve been following Google, you will know that in the past few years Google has worked with device makers to push out some tablets under its Nexus brand — the Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and Nexus 9. You will also know that last year Google came out with the first-party Pixel C.
But the Nexuses were not completely made by Google. And the Pixel C, I’m afraid, was an awkward device and ultimately nonessential. The only reason I use it these days is to test Android developer previews. The optional physical keyboard was surprisingly fun to type on, but if you gave the entire product to someone who had never seen it before — which is to say pretty much any random person — they would have had no idea how to open it until you dropped a hint. It was odd. I doubt Google sold many of them.
The demand for Pixel phones, meanwhile, has exceeded Google’s own expectations, and analyst Luke Lin of Digitimes Research expects 3-4 million Pixels to be shipped in the second half of 2016, even though the phones were actually available for fewer than three full months.
I think we can reasonably expect Google to come out with a new high-end Chromebook in the near future, now that you can run Android apps on some Chromebooks, and now that Google has discontinued the Chromebook Pixel 2. It’s only a matter of when. But the introduction of a real Pixel tablet is not so certain. It’s something that I would like to see. And it wouldn’t be that farfetched, given that Google now has a real hardware team organized under Rick Osterloh. I could imagine it coming out before the end of 2017.
Because Android natively supports multi-window mode, you really can be more productive on Android now. On phones, I haven’t found this feature to be very impressive, but on tablets, with their larger displays, it’s a meaningful addition. And it would be a hallmark feature of a new Pixel-branded tablet.
So what else would you find on this new Pixel tablet? Just for fun, let’s call it the Pixel Pro. Well, it would certainly have a rich display, perhaps AMOLED and 4K. And I guess it ought to be at least 9 or 10 inches. An attachable physical keyboard would be nice. And I’d like to see Google come up with a stylus that works well with the device — Apple has the Apple Pencil and Microsoft has the Surface Pen. (This might not be very far off, as Google did recently show off a stylus-like gadget that pairs with its Jamboard digital whiteboard.)
The tablet should come with a very powerful chip, like the Pixels and unlike the Pixel C. It should have a hefty supply of fast storage — let’s say at least 128GB — and probably more than 4GB of RAM (that’s how much you find on the Pixel and Pixel XL). All-day battery life is a must-have. It would be nice to have at least two USB-C ports, and a headphone jack, obviously.
A Pixel Pro would have front and back cameras that are as good as the ones you find on the Pixel phones. It should have more than one speaker, which would be a step up from the Pixel phones. But when it comes to microphones, it would copy the Pixel C, which has four very sensitive mics that can hear you say “OK Google” from across the room.
In terms of software, I would definitely want the Google Assistant. It distinguishes the Pixels from all other phones, and it must come to the tablet form factor — and eventually to the desktop. Unlimited storage of full-resolution photos and videos shot with the Pixel Pro would be welcome, too.
If Google were to include all these specifications in a Pixel Pro tablet, it certainly wouldn’t have a low price, as Nexus tablets have. Presumably, Google would extend its Pixel and Pixel XL pricing strategy when it comes time to figure out how much it should cost. But even if the device did turn out to be expensive, at least Google would have a shot at really competing with Apple’s very good iPad Pro.