Tuesday , June 5 2018

Google’s Pixel C is officially history, and the biggest shame was that it ran Android

With news this week that Google’s Pixel C tablet is officially finished, it’s time to reflect again on the state (or non-existent state) of Android tablets. Considering there are basically no decent Android tablets being made these days, those wanting a high-performance tablet are left with an iPad, or going down the path of Windows 10 instead (which actually is rather good).

The Pixel C hardware itself was fairly incredible; a tablet with companion keyboard that didn’t require separate charging and was held in place with magnets alone, and that charged from the tablet body itself. In fact, everything about the Pixel C was great, except Google’s baffling decision to put Android on it instead of letting it be ChromeOS (as was rumoured).

Could Android tablets have become a thing? No, not really.

The Pixel C was Google’s last real attempt to convince us that Android could run alright in a tablet, and well .. now we know that really it can’t. Android tablets are all but a thing of history — they’re still made, but those that made frankly aren’t very good. We’re years past major manufacturers making a big song and dance about Android tablets.

If you want an Android tablet experience these days, you’re (in my view, far far) better off buying a ChromeOS device and running your Android apps on that. I do precisely this with Google’s Pixelbook, which runs Android apps, and it does it better than any tablet. Multiple windows, friendly and familiar user interface, and the underlying power of ChromeOS to make it bearable.

The Pixel C had great hardware … but shit software

I enjoyed Google’s Pixel C, a hell of a lot actually, but there were baffling decisions which just rendered it mostly useless. The add-on keyboard wasn’t included – you had to pay extra for it. Even if you did, there was no trackpad area; you could use the keyboard but still had to poke at the screen for touch input, a horribly jarring experience. The hardware was great, but as an early adopter of USB-C, there wasn’t really much you could do with it. Equally, it didn’t have built in LTE, so you had to have some other device in order to get online on the go.

The most stupid decision, though, was tarring this hardware with Android. At launch, with only Android Marshmallow, it couldn’t do split screen. Some apps that weren’t tablet optimised ran sideways (Instagram, for one). There wasn’t a stylus option (though you could buy a capacitive stylus and use that if you must). The OS didn’t feel polished, and it was slow.

You get the feeling that Google kind of knew that the Pixel C would bomb; it didn’t sell widely, and in Australia at least, it mostly disappeared from sale a year ago.

The Pixelbook is what the Pixel C should’ve been

Fast forward to the end of 2017 (and remember the Pixel C was announced in September 2015) and Google’s Pixelbook feels like what the Pixel C should’ve been. It runs ChromeOS (which the Pixel C should’ve), it runs Android apps in multi-window (which the Pixel C should’ve), it comes with a good stylus (which the Pixel C should’ve) and though it’s more expensive, it’s significantly more useful (which the Pixel C should’ve been).

See a trend emerging?

The Pixel C was a product / solution for a problem which didn’t exist, and it didn’t solve it well. The Pixelbook is a high-end laptop which blends the best of ChromeOS and Android, making a product that is far, far more than the sum of its parts.

Keep an eye out in January 2018 for our Pixelbook review … and though it isn’t sold here in Australia, you’ll wish it was.

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. He saw the transition from AMPS to GSM, loved the Motorola StarTac, and got into Palm technologies in a big way. The arrival some years later of the original iPhone, and then the early Androids, awoke a new interest in mobile technology, and Chris has been writing about it since.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.


  1. I’m still pretty happy with my Galaxy Tab S2 and use it regularly, primarily for reading books, watching videos and web browsing. As such the android tablet-optimised app issue hasn’t had much of an impact on my use case. I’m hoping to replace it with a Chromebook eventually, but not unless it has a tablet form factor, OLED screen and 64gb+ storage.

  2. The Note range of tablets away shat on its ipad contemporary of the day, but because jobs died it allowed apple to catch up slowly with larger and larger phone screen size. By the time apple copied the pen for ipads, tablets of all types became less neccessary for prolonged content consuming.
    Maybe if the price was kept as low as possible but with specs for tablets to change to more for casual viewing where the focus is on screen resolution to match your HD or UHD tv experience rather than just being faster than the last model.
    Also stick to 8′, 16*9, reasonable stereo sound and rugged enough to carry room to room, a kick stand case to put it down while you work. It just has to be re-positioned with reasonable pricing and purpose then more focused marketing to point out where it fits. Apple is trying with its new ipad ad campaign to try to push the ipad as a laptop replacement but you could still ptobaby buy 2 useful laptops for the same price. (sorry for the ramble)

  3. Android tablet and android wear are ready to die. So iPad and Samsung gear are alternative choice

  4. The problem with the pixelbook for me is that the screen doesn’t detach as a standalone tablet. This is a deal-breaker. I was throwing up between a pixelbook and a surface book 2 and ended up getting the surface book 2 since it offered what I think all high-end touchscreen devices should offer.

  5. I don’t get it… Android on a tablet is no worse than Android on a phone. Most (key word “most”) Android apps are tablet aware and change their UI accordingly if they detect a display over a set size. There doesn’t have to be a dedicated tablet version like with iPad as its built into the Android app framework. My biggest gripe with my Galaxy Tab S2 is it’s somewhat weak specs compared to a phone released around the same time…

    • I wouldn’t say most. I’d say some. There are still a good many apps that are really only designed for phones and while they’ll render OK on a tablet, they still look like a hat full of shit. Granted, there aren’t too many apps like this, but Android apps could – as a whole – work a lot better on tablets than they do. Honestly I just don’t think that Android is really optimised for a larger screen use. Not as much as it could (or should) be.

    • I use an Android tablet (Tab S2 8.0) every day for things like YouTube, IMDB, browsing websites, a bit of Gmail, viewing and editing photos, Hangouts messaging and my personal favourite, Instagram. I like Chromebooks but I find they are just too large for these touch centric type of uses. I want a Chromebook but it doesn’t fit me. An 8 inch tablet is perfect for use while lounging at home or in a coffee shop – I have an excellent case to prop it up at various angles.

      Fun fact: I sat next to a friend with an 8inch iPad in the coffee shop the other day. We both love Instagram and spend lots of time there. I was showing him an Instagram photo on my tablet. I was shocked to hear that he wished he could have Instagram on his iPad. I started looking through the Apple app store. Guess what? It’s not there!

      So, for the things I do, an Android tablet is significantly more useful than a Chromebook or an iPad. I think there must be more people like me that want the flexibility of Android on a tablet. I suppose we are not in the majority but we are still a market that I hope doesn’t die. Bring on the small powerful Chromebook for entertainment and I’ll buy one!

  6. I still have mine and there’s a lot of stuff that still works better on a tablet due to the larger screen size and two handed usage.

    Most games work well on a tablet because of this combination (pinball games in particular). The only real exception I can find is games that use the device gyros for controls (the Temple Run games spring to mind here) because of the unwieldy nature of trying to rotate a tablet).

    Streaming video will always be more comfortable to watch on a tablet than a phone due to the larger screen size.

    • Agree in part… but only because I’m old. I dislike playing games / watching videos on a tablet, because holding that weight in my hands constantly can be a bit painful. I prefer to watch videos on a laptop or convertible tablet that can hold itself up on my lap (for example).

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