At I/O 2022, Google announced that it will update more than 20 of its first-party big-screen apps as a sign of its commitment to the form factor. This will undoubtedly improve the experience for existing owners, and is intended to encourage other developers to do the same. Here’s every Google app on Android that has a tablet update and what’s to come.
Google apps with tablet UIs
- Reverse chronological order, latest updates at the top
Google’s first tablet app on Android is Google Photos, and this update rolled out in January 2021† It’s not much different from the web UI. A navigation rail on the left edge means you can see a little more vertical content, while allowing more tabs to be displayed – compared to a bottom bar – without looking cramped. In addition to Photos, Search, Share, and Library, you have quick access to On Device, Utilities, Archive, and Trash. One little material that Google has adapted to you over the past few months is a pill-shaped indicator to show you which tab you’re viewing rather than just highlighting the icon.
At the top of the screen, next to “Google Photos,” is a search bar with rounded corners. When viewing a photo full screen, swiping up reveals a right pane, while the overflow in the top right corner of the viewer shows actions with associated icons.
I have already thought how Google Calendar is my tablet app of choice, mainly because of its great day and schedule views, where you see the entire month on the left with a list of events next to it, while illustrations enliven the background. It does not appear that the company is planning changes.
While there’s obvious reuse of the website, the Calendar team has meaningfully differentiated the app for tablets, which is surprisingly a rarity for Google.
Chrome on Android tablets is almost identical to the desktop interface, considering the use of tab strips and Omnibox layout. There is also multi-window support to help with multitasking.
YouTube is pretty well optimized for tablets with two-column views, and Google’s I/O preview showed only the player screen. It could always switch to a navigation rail.
Translate has already touted the tablet optimizations on stage. In general, it’s better for this app to be sparse and have a lot of space in between, given its nature as a (physically) shared interface/tool.
—Files by Google
Google apps get more tablet tweaks
Google is committed to tablet optimizations for YouTube Music — on both Android and iOS — early this year. This started with shrinking album art on the Home tab so you see more content in carousels (Listen again, Your favourites, Mixed for you, etc.) without having to scroll. The other existing optimization is the two-column view of Now Playing on the left and your Up next queue on the right.
Going forward, playlists will adopt a similar two-column view as part of a broader general for that user interface† Like YouTube, Music could go to a navigation rail, though it would slightly limit the horizontal space available for browsing shelves (and anything under four tabs looks odd for that UI element). In addition, the image below shows that YouTube Music keeps the bottom bar.
—Google Maps (see below)
Maps for Android already has a two-column view, but an upcoming update will replace the full-width bottom bar with one that fits in the left pane.
Future app updates for Google tablets
- Google translate† See above
- Cards† See above
- photos† See above
- family link: Instead of a navigation rail, Family Link seems to use a navigation drawer that is always displayed.
- google Home: Centered navigation rail, although it looks ridiculous with only two tabs. A two column layout would be better.
- gmail: Navigation rail with drawer button at the top to see your folders and labels.
- Google TV: Navigation rail, while you can see the coming News Feed Highlights as part of that wider material that you redesign.
- Messages: Two-column layout, though it’s unclear whether the UI shown above is more for foldable devices rather than tablets that require device pairing, such as Messages for the web.
- Google One: Navigation drawer with heavy use of maps in the app body.
- Youtube music† See above
- Google Lens: Visual search on tablets now only works in portrait orientation.
- Google Duo: Centralized controls.
- Google Play: Like Photos, there is a navigation rail and a search field at the top. Cards are used to show different lists and offers.
- google calculator: Two Column Layout
- Google Clock: Navigation rail combined with two column layout
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