The Pixel tablet could be the future of smart home displays

Google IO 2022 pixel 2 tablet design

When the Pixel tablet was first unveiled at Google I/O 2022 earlier in May, most people were understandably focused on how Google planned to evolve Android’s lackluster tablet segment. . While devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 have their fans, Android as a whole hasn’t had enough tablet-optimized apps, and aspects like multitasking have been in dire need of attention. Google’s announcements were promising.

Those of us who follow the smart home world have noticed other unique things about the Pixel tablet, ones that could be related to rumors about Google’s smart display plans. If this thinking turns out to be correct, the Pixel tablet could signal the future of the smart display industry.

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Evidence on the Pixel tablet

Google IO tablet 2022 pixels

In the few images Google has shared so far, the Pixel tablet looks mostly indescribable. There’s a single camera on the back, and its overall design resembles a hundred other Android tablets, not to mention Apple’s budget iPad model.

The front of the product, however, looks a lot like another Google device: the Nest Hub Max, its premium smart display. This could simply be attributed to minimalist screens, rounded corners and landscape-oriented front cameras that make sense in both the tablet and smart display realms. But the company seems to have consciously chosen a white bezel, which isn’t so popular on tablets and makes more sense in pursuit of the Nest Hub aesthetic.

zoom on google nest hub max

A Nest Hub Max.

What’s really unusual about the Pixel tablet is a series of four dots on the back, which look a lot like the magnetic smart connector on some iPad models. Apple’s technology allows users to connect accessories without using Bluetooth or USB connections, or even using separate charging.

Until now, the iPad’s smart connector has been used primarily for keyboard cases, and if that’s all the Pixel tablet uses its connector for, it’ll still be welcome. But given the rumors about smart display plans, there’s a chance that Google has higher ambitions.

After: The best accessories you can get for the iPad

The smart display rumors

google nest hub max smart display interface update

In March this year, 9to5Google reported that Google was working on a Nest Hub with a “dockable tablet form factor” in which the screen “detaches from a base/speaker”. This would solve the biggest problem with smart displays, which is obviously the limited use of plugged-in displays. They might be perfect as bedside, desk or kitchen companions, but beyond several meters they’re reduced to being smart speakers.

Said report claimed that Google was aiming to launch its product later in 2022. On the surface, that would seem to doom any connection to the Pixel tablet – which isn’t expected to ship until 2023 – but release windows change frequently, and there are A hypothetical possibility, we’ll see a scaled-down version of the Pixel tablet design for a Nest Hub.

Related: The best smart speakers

Something similar has already been tried several times by Lenovo, an example being the Smart Tab M10 HD. However, this product called Google Assistant ambient mode when docked, instead of a real smart display interface, which is what people probably expect from a Google-made device in terms of usability.

Google could bridge the gap between tablets and smart displays by integrating its Nest Hub UI into future versions of Android, or vice versa.

Notice that the company seems to be taking existing Nest Hubs in a more tablet-like direction. Over the past few months, Google has updated its user interface with an app bar that’s opened by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, as well as a more comprehensive web browser, including an on-screen style keyboard. gboard.

It’s even more speculation, but it could be that Google is hoping to bridge the gap by integrating its Nest Hub interface into future versions of Android, or vice versa. Something like the Pixel tablet might default to Nest Hub mode when docked, but switch to standard Android when picked up.

Related: The best Android tablets to spend your money on

Why tablet + screen hybrids could be the future

An Amazon Fire tablet in View mode

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

A Fire tablet running in Show Mode in Amazon’s old Show Mode charging station.

Above all, it’s hard to deny the practical appeal. While a (quality) hybrid product isn’t cheap on its own, it kills two birds with one stone, offering both a smart display and something you can use for portable entertainment and productivity. If the Pixel tablet goes as “premium” as Google suggests, it could actually kill three birds, serving as a true laptop replacement.

Leaving the poor birds alone for a while, Google could be under pressure to beat Amazon to the punch. Amazon is its main rival in smart displays via the Echo Show line, and has long offered “Show Mode” on Fire tablets, including Alexa voice commands and a corresponding visual interface. And it once offered a Show Mode charging dock without a speaker. It may only be a matter of time before Amazon rounds up two and two, when Google is already struggling to reduce Amazon’s share of the smart home market.

It may only be a matter of time before Amazon brings together its Echo Show and Fire lines of tablets.

More ambiguously, Apple is also rumored to be getting into the smart display game. It’s thought to be heading in a different direction – perhaps with a TV-connected product similar to Meta’s Portal TV – but the mere threat of taking on Apple and Amazon simultaneously could ignite a fire under Google executives’ feet. . Luckily for them, there’s no indication yet that Apple is considering a speaker dock or smart display mode for the iPads.

Would a smart docking option (adding a speaker and power supply) make the Pixel tablet more appealing to you?

39 votes

Will hybrids take over the smart display market?

A morning view of the second-generation Google Nest Hub.

Jimmy Westenberg/Android Authority

Not completely, I expect them to be the future, they could easily become a niche option. Static displays are likely to stay cheaper on a specific basis, so they’re bound to appeal to buyers who don’t have a high budget and can get away with something fixed. A second-gen Nest Hub is just $100, and the one I have has a permanent place on my bedside table for sleep tracking, smart home control, and bedtime videos. It would only complicate matters if I had to worry about my four year old son running with it.

Where I see hybrids taking share is in the high-end market, represented by devices like the Nest Hub Max and Echo Show 10. These products cost over $200 each – which is a lot less pricey than the Pixel tablet, but that’s a threshold where you start to wonder if a static smart display is the best use of your money. A $300, $400, or even $500 hybrid doesn’t sound so bad if you can first justify it as a standalone tablet purchase.

Where I see hybrids taking share is in the premium market.

The Pixel tablet might cost more even without a speaker/charging station. But adding the option – I don’t expect an option to be bundled – would make Google’s ecosystem more attractive. In theory, you could buy multiple docking stations and just carry your tablet wherever you want to sit instead of buying two or three screens. Guess we’ll see what Google actually has in store in the next few months.

Continue: The best smart home devices you can buy

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