A return to tablets for Google, and what it means for this iPad-dominated field.

Just when you thought Google was out of the tablet game, the company is back in. At its latest I/O developer conference, Google teased a new Pixel Tablet arriving in 2023, featuring Google’s own Tensor chip.

Google’s history with tablets has been very touch-and-go. Google’s last tablet, the Pixel Slate in 2018, tried to be a Chrome tablet and Chromebook in one. Google moved away from tablets after that, until now. According to Google hardware products head Rick Osterloh, the Pixel Tablet looks to instead bring a lot of the features of Google’s Pixel phones to a larger tablet form, which suggests an Android environment. The return to tablets is part of a response to consumer interest, according Osterloh.

The Pixel Tablet is part of a renewed push by Google towards Android tablets: the company also announced that some Android OS updates for tablets will start optimizing experiences for larger screens. The focus on tablets could also be about finding ways to maximize Android on larger folding-screen phones and devices, which are blurring the lines between tablet and phone already. 

Very little is known about the upcoming Pixel Tablet, and we don’t expect it’ll be foldable. But here’s what we do know.

A hint of Google’s next tablet. Google

It has a Google Tensor chip: Google sees its own chip as the big draw of its next tablet, offering some of the same AI features as the Pixel 6. Google’s second-generation Tensor chip will be in its Pixel 7 phones this fall, suggesting that will be what the next Pixel Tablet uses in 2023.

It’ll be a phone companion: Osterloh referred to the tablet as a companion for the phone, suggesting a lot of handing-off features and dovetailing of apps. Google’s focus on cross-device ambient computing aims to have headphones, voice assistants and other apps naturally flow from one device to another, and the Pixel Tablet may emphasize that. Maybe that also suggests that this tablet won’t have its own cellular connection?

It will be large and not cheap: Osterloh confirmed during a Q&A with reporters ahead of Google I/O that the Pixel Tablet will be on the “larger side,” and “more premium.” Samsung’s recent Galaxy Tab S8 tablets have also been on the expensive side, and work with connected keyboards. Perhaps Google will take a similar approach with the Pixel Tablet.

It has a camera on the landscape edge of the tablet: Only one brief teaser image was shown of the Pixel Tablet, and one thing stood out to me: a camera on the longer edge of the front-facing display. Apple’s iPads have cameras on the shorter edges, making for oddly off-center video chats. Google’s placement, like Samsung’s, looks to be optimized for video chat in landscape mode and when connected with a keyboard like a laptop.

We don’t know about the tablet’s price, or anything else, yet. But we’ll undoubtedly know more before the tablet’s release in 2023.

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