He Pixel C tablet has had a difficult existence. Under its code call of “Ryu,” the Pixel C commenced lifestyles within the Chrome OS open supply repository, seemingly indicating that at one factor it changed into meant to run Chrome OS. Google become experimenting with a touchscreen interface for Chrome OS to the point that an on-display screen keyboard (which is normally vain on a computer) shipped within the solid version. A completed model of an “all-contact” Chrome OS by no means materialized, even though, and we ended up with a Pixel C strolling everyday Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
The Pixel C became likely in no way alleged to run Android OS
The result become a “productivity” device that couldn’t multitask. You should kind like a champ with the Pixel C’s keyboard, but the one-app-at-a-time nature of Android made things like referencing information whilst typing quite a good deal impossible. The Pixel C became all the more disappointing because we knew a cut up display screen mode became coming—a “incredibly experimental” model of the characteristic debuted in Marshmallow’s developer preview.
Split display wasn’t geared up for the Pixel C’s launch, though, which just fueled the sensation that the C turned into a 1/2-baked tool with software program that wasn’t ready for the hardware it became running on. There had been other bad signs, too—the pill had a whopping four microphones on pinnacle, which seemed to indicate it was built for a few kind of killer voice popularity gadget, but it didn’t even help continually-on Google voice commands at release.
In a Reddit AMA hosted rapidly after the release of the Pixel C, the improvement crew’s reaction to questions turned into something along the strains of “simply wait until Android N!” With the patron version of Android N—Android 7.Zero Nougat—sooner or later out, let’s take every other study the Pixel C. A full 8 months after its release, can Nougat save the Pixel C? What’s the popularity of Android tablets now that cut up display has arrived? Is Android genuinely equipped for a tool with a hardware keyboard?
We’re nevertheless now not certain about hardware troubles
This is my 1/3 Pixel C. The first tablet had limitless connection issues among the keyboard and tablet, and soon after the assessment, we received a alternative unit that finished an awful lot higher. After a few months of possession, unit #2 began randomly rebooting after a protection replace. Some long threads in the legitimate Google boards get into this, so mine wasn’t an isolated case.
Numerous OTAs arrived or even the N developer preview, however the random reboot trouble by no means went away. It was later located that the only manner to fix the random reboot trouble is to have the hardware replaced. I omitted this and manually updated the Pixel C to the final version of Android 7.Zero Nougat, and it promptly died, refusing to boot past the restoration display.
Time for replacement #3! So a ways, things were first-rate.
Do Android pill apps still suck? (Spoiler alert: Yes)
The hooked up expertise is that the app state of affairs on Android tablet is awful, but I hate repeating the installed knowledge year after yr with out at the least checking in on things now and again. So allow’s investigate.
In the 12 months 2016, do Android tablet apps nonetheless suck? To answer this, I established the pinnacle 2 hundred apps on the Pixel C and gave all of them a brief check force. I checked out apps handiest—not video games—the use of this “Top Apps simplest” Play Store list. The concept is that games scale simply exceptional on drugs; it is apps that are the challenge.
Of the pinnacle 2 hundred apps:
Nineteen have been not compatible with the Pixel C
Sixty-9 did now not assist landscape in any respect
Eighty-four had been stretched-out cellphone apps
Twenty-eight were, with the aid of my judgment, actual “pill” apps
That there are not many tablet apps isn’t a wonder to most of the people. What changed into a surprise was the shortage of landscape help in so many apps. More than 33 percent of the top two hundred had been all portrait, all of the time, and lots of extra (even some Google apps) had interstitials and different single screens that failed to help landscape.
Pixel C review—New hardware ignores an Android tablet’s center problem: software program
Android apps are in general used on telephones, which might be frequently used in portrait mode. The Pixel C basically lives in panorama mode, though—the cameras, physical buttons, microphones, and audio system are oriented with the expectation of landscape, and the tool should be in landscape as a way to use the physical keyboard. When compared to the cellphone marketplace, this is a completely rare configuration that creates a problem in apps that the general public won’t note.
Most of the “cellphone” apps fall into three classes on a pill: there may be the scary stretched-out app, which makes no layout issues for a tablet. Then there are the “Card” apps that wish to scale nicely on pills via sticking the whole thing right into a card field, which then just receives slotted right into a grid that suits your screen. There’s additionally the “pillar container” app, which puts large margins at the left and right facet of a cellphone app, relieving a chunk of the “stretched out cellphone app” issues. But none of those apps are extra powerful on a pill the manner a multi-pane, pill-native app is.
One of the excellent pill app makers in the top 200 is Microsoft. Seeing why is simple. Google’s layout technique is to view tablets as massive phones, however Microsoft views them as tiny computing device computer systems. As a end result, you get killer variations of Word, Excel, Outlook, and Skype, with statistics-dense, multi-pane layouts.
Side-via-facet telephone apps aren’t bad, however want updating
So even as the experience of Android on a tablet continues to be one made from apps with smartphone-centric layouts, going for walks of these apps aspect by using side isn’t always too terrible. Cut the Pixel C screen in half of and also you get tall, skinny app areas which can be very near a cellphone. The layouts work, you may multitask, and the entirety feels herbal. Your pill is going from running one large app at a time to being two smartphones duct taped together.
The largest problem with cut up display on the Pixel C is the identical one we talked about in our standard Android assessment: developers have not especially up to date their apps to be like minded with break up display. This often effects in apps being seen on-display screen, but now not updating. When you’ve got apps open aspect by using facet, simplest the app you touched final counts as the “foreground” app. In beyond variations of Android, simplest one app changed into visible on-display right away, so how apps replied when they were not on the top of the app stack did not count—nobody ought to see them.
Now that you can see multiple app, builders need to account for being the “secondary” on-display app—you are not the “foreground” pastime, however you still want to preserve the UI going for walks. Most apps don’t account for this but, so the second one you tap from the left app to the proper app, the left app stops updating a few or all of its user interface. This kills a number of cut up display use instances that might be high-quality on a pill. Here at Ars’ digital HQ, having Slack open on one aspect of the display screen at the same time as writing an article on the other facet could be high-quality. But Slack might not replace the UI with new chat messages until you are interacting with it. Right now, I do not see new messages whilst I’m typing in some other window. I should periodically tap on Slack to make it the foreground app, which updates the UI with a flood of messages I missed whilst I turned into typing. Thanks to the lack of developer aid for split display screen, we have not long gone to 2 energetic applications on-screen. We’ve long gone from one energetic utility and one frozen screenshot.
Android’s core tablet interface peaked in Honeycomb
When you are not in split display screen, Android tablets are nevertheless a mess, in particular in terms of the middle person interface created by using Google. Let’s just say it: the tablet Android interface peaked in Android three.Zero Honeycomb. Honeycomb became the primary time—and it seems like the ultimate time—that a dressmaker sat down and said “What is the first-class viable tablet layout for this app?”
In Honeycomb, Google brought a gadget UI interface that blended the navigation and status bar into a unmarried bottom bar, which made the UI appear designed around two-passed pill use. The navigation buttons had been within the backside left nook in which they can be utilized by your left thumb, and the notifications had been inside the backside proper wherein they may be accessed with the aid of your right thumb. Recent Apps had a custom pill interface, too, with a listing of small, scrollable thumbnails that were designed for a bigger screen. Dual-pane layouts had been the same old, with a new “Fragments” API that allowed developers to recycle their telephone layouts by using placing a couple of layouts on-display screen immediately, like an e mail inbox view on the left and a message view on the right. Google even experimented with more effective apps that allowed you to do more with a larger display screen, like with Honeycomb’s built-in movie editor, designed from the ground up for pills.
Since Honeycomb’s preliminary release, Android tablet layouts have visible regression after regression, as “What is the satisfactory possible tablet layout for this app?” has given manner to “Now that the phone layout is achieved, if we’ve time perhaps we’ll upload larger left and right margins for pills.” The pill System UI format turned into replaced with a blind port of the cellphone UI. Ditto for Recent Apps, which shows as plenty records on a 10-inch screen as you’ll get on a five-inch smartphone, because it’s the precise identical UI. The Play Store, Contacts, Settings, and Google Talk/Hangouts misplaced their dual-pane pill UI. Now they are just blown-up or pillarbox smartphone UIs. With their huge display actual property, the tablet notification panel will be an excellent do-it-all command middle, providing you with all of the context and controls you need to respond to a notification. Instead, it’s only a copy of the telephone interface. And that institution-up design of a film editor particularly for pills looks like an impossible undertaking for Google these days.
Google seemed to care about drugs at some point of the initial release, however it in no way accompanied up with the ones ambitions. Maybe terrible sales of Honeycomb tablets made the agency considerably rethink its pill approach, with the shape factor plummeting down Google’s listing of priorities. Google continues producing and marketing flagship capsules, though, and it continues looking to escape with a blown-up cellphone UI. Even if you seek out correct tablet apps from pill-fanatic builders, there’s no fixing the center interface without Google’s help. Absolutely not anything in Android is constructed from the ground-up for drugs. Android feels like an afterthought on capsules due to the fact it is an afterthought. There’s no denying it.
The Pixel C has a bodily keyboard, which, like “being frequently landscape” and “being a pill,” is some other rare function for an Android tool that exposes a whole host of rarely seen problems. A fundamental difficulty is the default typing cognizance—when you open an software or a internet site, the keyboard must automatically be “lively” inside the textual content container that makes the most logical sense. Consider how things work on a laptop computer: if I open Chrome and begin typing, the letters mechanically cross within the address bar. This is because the address bar is the “default” enter field in Chrome—while you open Chrome, you may mechanically see the little blinking enter cursor within the deal with bar, indicating that Chrome is ready to get hold of your keyboard input. Additionally you can kind in “Google.Com” and hit “input,” and, whilst Google masses, the typing cognizance will routinely jump to Google’s seek box.
If you open Chrome on Android and start typing, nothing happens. Well, now not pretty “not anything”—the refresh button will highlight, due to the fact, as the first button within the UI, it has the default keyboard consciousness. Default keyboard awareness normally simply does not paintings on Android. Why it would not work is simple to apprehend—for devices with out a physical keyboard, placing a text container because the default awareness object way the on-screen software program keyboard will pop up as quickly as you open the app. Most apps like Chrome don’t want half of of the UI to without delay be protected by the keyboard. Users would possibly need to tap on a new tab thumbnail instead or hit the menu and take a look at bookmarks, or just examine the modern-day web page. So no default keyboard recognition is set.
As an app designer, you always need the bodily keyboard to kind into the maximum logical text field. But if a user does not have a actual keyboard, you commonly do not need to without delay display an on-display screen keyboard to them. Android does not appear to have the equipment to separate physical keyboard and on-screen keyboard awareness into separate settings. Since cellphone customers substantially outnumber physical keyboard users on Android, bodily keyboard users get left out in the cold. So with a bodily keyboard, most input boxes might not have attention except you faucet or tab over to them.
The physical keyboard also brings up an extraordinary worry regarding spell test and autocorrect. Spell correction on Android happens in places: 1) in the input field, in the form of purple underlines, and a pair of) in the software program keyboard autocorrect. The bodily keyboard does not have autocorrect, since you’re much less probably to make a typo, however now you’re counting on the enter field’s spell check.
The problem? There are several exceptional varieties of textual content field on Android. Some have spell test, and some don’t, and which text box style an app makes use of seems quite random. For instance, with a bodily keyboard, you get spell check in Gmail, however not in Google Keep. Spell test works in Hangouts, but not in text bins on Google Chrome or Firefox. This is simplest a small inconsistency when you additionally have the software program keyboard autocorrect. But while you depend on the app for spell test, it is a bigger deal.
The Pixel C nonetheless seems like “aspirational” developer hardware that isn’t always ready for clients
The Pixel C almost seems like a useful demonstration of the matters Android is bad at. It’s a group of very uncommon device configurations which might be poorly supported through Google and the app environment because they are very rare. Try the Pixel C for a couple of minutes, and you will speedy locate that Android’s interface is not cut out for a huge screen, bodily keyboard support is not that precise, and Android apps aren’t built to work with break up screen, or constructed for pills, or even built for landscape. As a bit of demonstration hardware, the Pixel C is notably beneficial in coming across these flaws—you cannot aid hardware with software except the hardware exists first. You’ve were given to wish people outside and inside Google are dogfooding the Pixel C and pronouncing “See? Look how awful this all is! Fix it.”
Android 7.Zero Nougat evaluate—Do more for your gigantic cellphone
The Pixel C has been out for a full year now, and development is sluggish. Nougat’s split screen function is a exquisite addition now not only for multitasking, but especially as it fixes the problem of no person being concerned approximately Android pill apps. Splitting the Pixel C down the middle gives you cellphone-like app areas, that’s fantastic because you’ll be strolling apps designed for a phone most of the time. The await break up display screen aid in the OS is over for the Pixel C, and now the watch for builders to fully guide break up display has started. Apps need to be up to date to guide a stay, continually updating UI despite the fact that they aren’t presently being tapped on. It’s extra waiting, even a yr after release, and I fear the Pixel C hardware will be out of date by the time all this waiting is over.
There’s no telling if this developer help will really show up, although. Not many builders or agencies appear stimulated to make Android capsules remarkable, and all of it starts offevolved on the pinnacle with Google. I nonetheless haven’t seen some thing inside the core Android UI or in app improvement that says Google is ready to take drugs seriously.
Expecting a employer that sells tablets to also provide pill-orientated interfaces for the OS and primary apps isn’t unreasonable. But Google hasn’t proven it is willing to offer the ones interfaces. My Android pill recommendation nevertheless stands—I’ll take Android drugs severely once Google does.
All the interface regressions seeing that Honeycomb nonetheless make Android tablets sense like an afterthought. While the Pixel C is a remarkable demonstration of those problems, it’s nevertheless no longer a first rate productiveness tool compared to the opposition.