After years of sidelining Android tablets, Google has finally stepped things up again with Android 12L, a surprise release for Android 12 that focuses on improvements for tablets, foldables, and other large screens. While this release has just launched as stable, it hasn’t arrived on any relevant devices that can actually benefit from it, but Google is just getting started. The company shared a YouTube video on its Android Developers channel in which it talks about how tablets and other large-screen devices are taking over laptops in shipments, and how developers need to rethink their mobile-first approach.
Rich Miner, Android’s co-founder and now CEO of tablets, talks about how the first Android tablets were used as media consumption devices rather than content creation machines, a single use case as use and shipping stagnated over the years. for Android on big screens. According to Miner, 2019 marked a breakthrough for Android tablet hardware. Screens have gotten bigger and keyboard accessories have become more common, making Android tablets better suited for productivity than ever before.
Miner even admits that the growing number of tablets with keyboard accessories, without any optimization by Google, but instead by third-party manufacturers, are being used for creativity and productivity, serving as an accelerator of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to him, “tablets are more capable and cheaper than laptops.”
With Android 12L, Google is finally back in the game and providing standardized tools for developers and device manufacturers to guide them on how to design app interfaces around large landscape screens. In fact, the company hopes to provide tools to make apps scale well in both landscape and portrait orientations on tablets and foldable devices, with the Android 12L taskbar allowing quick switching between productivity apps and offering an easy way to access split screen.
As the Android tablet market continues to grow, Rich Miner hopes to gain traction for developers. “I think there’s going to be another wave of apps that are tablet-first in mind,” he says in the video. “What can I do with a bigger screen that I can’t easily do with something physically attached to the keyboard?”
Even though Google started this trend earlier, it hasn’t done much to help third-party manufacturers until recently. The company has long neglected tablets and large-screen devices, with Google no longer selling its own hardware and not adding any new features to the stock Android tablet. While the company still doesn’t offer its own tablets or foldables, Android 12L marks a definite shift in its priorities, the company’s first big-screen release since 2011’s Honeycomb.
Let’s hope that in 10 years the company actually has some kind of foothold in the tablet market — not just leaving it up to Apple and its wonderful ecosystem of tablet-first apps. Even though many people prefer to work on their laptops, Apple is really years ahead of Google when it comes to apps and workflows developed with tablets.