After years of leaving Android tablets weak, Google is finally upping the ante again with Android 12L, a surprise release of Android 12 that focuses on improvements for tablets, foldables, and other big screens. Although this version has just been released in stable condition, it hasn’t actually made it to any related device that it can really take advantage of, but Google is just getting started. The company shared a YouTube video on its Android developer channel, talking about how tablets and other big-screen devices are committed to taking over laptops in shipping numbers, and how developers should rethink their mobile approaches first.
Rich Miner, Android co-founder and chief technology officer for tablets, talks about how early Android tablets were often used as media consumption devices rather than content creation machines, with usage and shipments stagnating over the years as this has remained largely the only use case for Android devices. on the big screens. Miner reports that in 2019, there has been a shift in Android tablets. Screens were bigger and keyboard accessories became more popular, making Android tablets more productivity-friendly than ever.
Miner acknowledges that without any improvements on the part of Google but instead from third-party manufacturers, these growing tablets with keyboard extensions came into use for creativity and productivity, as the Covid-19 pandemic acted as an accelerating factor. “Tablets turned out to be very capable and less expensive than a laptop,” he says, all while providing portability.
With Android 12L, Google is finally back in the same game and bringing some unified tools to developers and device manufacturers alike, giving them guidance on how to design app interfaces around large landscape screens. In fact, the company hopes to offer the tools to make apps expand well in both horizontal and vertical directions across tablets and foldables, with the Android 12L taskbar allowing for quick switching between productivity apps and offering an easy way to get into the split screen.
As the Android tablet market grows, Rich Miner hopes to bring a shift in focus for developers. “I actually think there will be another wave of apps that think of the tablet first,” he says in the video, in contrast to the mobile-first logo we’ve been accustomed to for years. “What can I do with this bigger screen that I can’t easily do with something that’s physically attached to a keyboard?”
While Google could have started taking advantage of this trend quite early on, it didn’t do much to help third-party manufacturers until recently. The company neglected tablets and large-screen devices for so long that Google stopped selling its own and not adding any groundbreaking new features to the Android tablet platform. While the company still doesn’t offer its own foldable tablets or devices, Android 12L represents a clear shift in its priorities, being the company’s first release targeting large screens almost exclusively, like the 2011 Honeycomb.
Let’s just hope that after 10 years, the company has actually managed to gain a foothold in the tablet market – and not leave it to Apple and its excellent ecosystem of existing applications for tablets. Apple really is years ahead of Google when it comes to apps and workflows designed with tablets in mind, even if many people still prefer to work on laptops.
It’s probably worn out, but hey, you have the earbuds you’re using now
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