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 Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides
Update 9/17: You can now open multiple instances of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (version 1.22.342.08.90+) to view them side by side. However, getting them to this state is a bit of a manual process.
You open the first document, then return to the Docs/Sheets/Slides app (using the system’s Recents multitasking menu) to launch the second. Reopen Recents and drag the first file to launch split screen. It’s not as simple as Drive’s “Open in New Window” button, which has been renamed “Open in Split View” (and only works on folders).
Update 8/3: Google announced last week that Drive and Docs/Sheets/Slides would get tablet optimizations. Some of the features have been rolled out, including the ability to:
- Drag images/text from another app (like 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 keyboard shortcuts in Drive, Docs, and Slides to select, cut, copy, paste, undo, and redo.
—Google Drive and Keep widgets
Update 9/13: Google optimizes widgets for Android tablets by making them larger given the extra screen space available. Drive (with version 2.22.357.1) adds a row of shortcuts to the Drive quick actions widget that creates a new document in Docs, Sheets, or Slides. This home screen object is also notable for introducing a new circular layout.
Meanwhile, the Google Keep Notes List widget (5.22.342.03.90) removes the right sidebar for a fake bottom bar in narrow setups. This matches the Gmail widget and lets you see more notes. However, you can still get the old design by increasing the width.
Update 8/28: Google TV was one of the apps slated for a redesign at I/O. A version optimized for tablets is now available, but without the Material You styles featured on stage. The main change is a navigation rail with centered tabs that replaces the bottom bar. We see this new look with version 18.104.22.168, which is not yet widely deployed, on a Chromebook.
In May, Google Slides was a much wider rail with oblong indicators showing your current tab. Meanwhile, the Material You iteration is looking to redesign the app bar so it’s more seamless. The existing design is an issue in the Your Stuff page where the top tabs are used.
Update 6/6: The tablet optimization announced for YouTube Music at I/O 2022 is now rolling out. He sees the Android app on large screens getting a revamped playlist view, which is a big part of the service. There is a two-column user interface where cover art and other details appear on the left and the song list is on the other side. [Update 6/30: The redesign was introduced to albums later on.]
This is just the latest tablet update for YouTube Music, with this team starting earlier this year on the home feed to let you see more content in carousels (Listen again, Your favourites, Mixed for you, etc.) without having to scroll. Further optimizations exist in Now Playing (two-column display with controls on the left and your next queue on the right) and side-by-side settings.
Update 6/3: Google Clock 7.2 starts by introducing a navigation rail on the left side on tablets which gives the app more vertical space accordingly. The other big change is the use of two-column layouts, in landscape orientation, throughout the application.
Update 5/25: Version 8.2 of Google’s Calculator app features a two-column layout where you can always see your calculation “history” on tablets and other large-screen devices. Other parts of the user interface are reduced accordingly, which is particularly suitable for multitasking.
Update 5/18: Version 13.19 of the Google app allows Google Lens to open in landscape mode. The visual search tool was previously limited to portrait orientation on Android.
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 photo in full screen, swiping up reveals a right pane while overflowing in the upper right corner of the viewer shows actions accompanied by icons.
I’ve said before that Google Calendar is my favorite tablet app, mainly because of the excellent 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 back- plan. It doesn’t look like the company is considering any changes.
While there’s obvious website reuse, the calendar team has differentiated the app for tablets significantly, 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, it’s best for this app to be sparse and have lots of spacing, given its nature as a shared (physically) interface/tool.
—Files by Google
Google apps are getting more changes for tablets
—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 House: Centered navigation rail, although it looks ridiculous with only two tabs. A two-column layout might be better.
- gmail: Navigation rail with a 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 geared towards 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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