At I/O 2022, Google announced that it will update more than 20 of its first-party large-screen apps as a sign of its commitment to the form factor. This will no doubt 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
Update 28-8: Google TV was one of the apps slated for a redesign at I/O. A tablet-optimized version is now available, but without the Material You styles shown on stage. The main change is a navigation rail with centered tabs replacing the bottom bar. This new look can be seen on a Chromebook with version 126.96.36.199, which has not yet been rolled out on a large scale.
Back in May, Google’s slides showed a much wider rail with elongated indicators indicating your current tab. Meanwhile, the Material You iteration seems to be redesigning the app bar so it’s more seamless. The existing design is an issue on the Your Stuff page where the top tabs are used.
—Google Drive, Docs, Spreadsheets, Slides
Update 8/3: Google announced last week that Drive and Docs/Sheets/Slides are getting tablet optimizations. Some features have been rolled out, including the ability to:
- Drag images/text from another app (such as Chrome) and drop them into a document or spreadsheet cell. Similar to Google Keep.
- In Google Drive, you can upload files by dragging and dropping them.
- You can open two Drive instances side by side by opening a folder’s overflow menu and selecting “Open in new window.”
- [Not live in our testing] “You can also add links to Drive files by dragging the file into an open app like Keep.”
- Physical shortcuts in Drive, Docs, and Slides to select, cut, copy, paste, undo, and redo.
Update 6/6: The tablet optimization announced for YouTube Music at I/O 2022 has now been rolled out. It sees the Android app on big screens get a redesigned playlist view, which is a big part of the service. There is a two column UI where album art and other details appear on the left and the song list on the other. [Update 6/30: The redesign was introduced to albums later on.]
This is just the latest tablet update to YouTube Music, with that team starting on the Home feed earlier this year so you can see more content in carousels (Listen again, Your Favorites, Mixed for you, etc.) without having to need to scroll. Other optimizations come in Now Playing (two-column view of controls on the left and your next queue on the right) and side-by-side settings.
Update 6/3: Google Clock 7.2 kicks off with the introduction of a left-sided navigation rail on tablets, giving the app more vertical space as a result. The other big change is the use of two-column layouts, in landscape orientation, throughout the application.
Update 25/5: Version 8.2 of Google’s Calculator app brings a two-column layout where you can always see your “History” calculation on tablets and other large screen devices. Other parts of the user interface have been scaled down accordingly and this is particularly suitable for multitasking.
Update 18-05: Version 13.19 of the Google app allows Google Lens to open in landscape mode. The visual search function was previously limited to portrait orientation on Android.
Google’s main 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 you’ve been tweaking by Google 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 in full screen, swiping up reveals a right pane, while the overflow in the top right corner of the viewer shows actions with associated icons.
It’s already come to my mind that Google Calendar is my tablet app of choice, mainly because of the 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 doesn’t look like the company is planning any 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 support for multiple windows to facilitate 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 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 House: Centered navigation rail, although it looks ridiculous with only two tabs. A two column layout would be better.
- gmail: Navigation rail with a 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, although 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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