At I/O 2022, Google announced that it would be updating more than 20 of its first-party apps for large screens as part of its form factor commitment. This will no doubt improve the experience for existing owners and aims to encourage other developers to do the same. Here are all the Google apps on Android that have a tablet update and what’s still to come.
Google apps with tablet user interfaces
- Reverse chronological order, latest updates at the top
Google’s first tablet app on Android is Google Photos, and that update rolled out in January 2021. It’s not too different from the web UI. A navigation rail on the left edge means you can see a bit more vertical content, while more tabs can be displayed – compared to a bottom bar – without looking cramped. In addition to Photos, Search, Sharing, and Library, you have quick access to On Device, Utilities, Archive, and Trash. A little piece of hardware you’ve changed over the past few months is a pill-shaped indicator to note which tab you’re viewing instead of just highlighting the icon.
At the top of the screen, next to “Google Photos”, is a search bar with rounded corners. When viewing a full-screen photo, swiping up reveals a right pane, while overflowing to the top right corner of the viewer shows actions with icons.
I’ve opined before that Google Calendar is my favorite tablet app, mainly for the great Day and Calendar views where you see the whole month on the left with a list of events next to it, while illustrations animate the background. It doesn’t look like the company is considering any changes.
Although there is obvious re-use of the website, the calendar team has significantly differentiated the app for tablets and that’s surprisingly rare for Google.
Chrome on Android tablets is almost identical to the desktop interface considering the use of tab strips and the Omnibox layout. There is also support for multiple windows to make multitasking easier.
YouTube is pretty well optimized for tablets with two-column views everywhere, and Google’s I/O preview only showed the player screen. He could always switch to a navigation rail.
Translate already has the tablet optimizations touted on stage. In general, this app is better off being sparse and having plenty of space given its nature as a shared (physically) interface/tool.
—Files by Google
Google apps are getting more changes for tablets
Google pledged to optimize tablets for YouTube Music – on Android and iOS – earlier this year. It started by reducing the coverage in the Home tab so you could see more content in the carousels (Listen Again, Your Favorites, Mixed For You, etc.) without having to scroll. The other existing optimization is Now Playing’s two-column view with controls on the left and your next queue on the right.
In the future, playlists will adopt a similar two-column view as part of a larger package for this UI. Like YouTube, Music could switch to a navigation rail, though that would slightly limit the horizontal space available for browsing the shelves (and anything under four tabs looks odd for that UI element). Additionally, the image below shows YouTube Music retaining the bottom bar.
—Google Maps (see below)
Maps for Android already has a two-column view, but an upcoming update replaces the full-width bottom bar with one that fits in the left panel.
Future Google Tablet App Updates
- Google Translate: See above
- Maps: See above
- Pictures: See above
- Family link: Instead of a navigation rail, Family Link seems to use an always-on navigation drawer.
- Google Home: centered navigation rail, although it looks ridiculous with only two tabs. A two-column layout might be better.
- gmail: Navigation rail with drawer button at the top to see your folders and labels.
- GoogleTV: Navigation rail, while you can distinguish the next Highlights News Feed as part of this larger Material You overhaul.
- posts: Two-column layout, although it’s unclear if the UI above is more for foldables than tablets that require device pairing, like Messages for Web.
- Google One: Navigation drawer with heavy use of maps in the app body.
- youtube music: See above
- Google lens: Visual search today on tablets only works in portrait orientation.
- Google Duo: Centralized controls.
- google play: Like Photos, there is a navigation rail and a top search box. Cards are used to display various listings and promotions.
- Google Calculator: Two column layout
- Google Clock: Navigation rail associated with a two-column layout
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