Apps chrome

Google’s proprietary Android tablet apps are disappointing

I want to use a tablet. In this fantasy, I would use a large screen to quickly skim through tweets, emails, news, and other torrents of information during the more casual times of the day (breakfast, lunch, etc.). With the launch of Android 12L and the imminent launch of updates and/or new devices, I tried to live this dream. All the while, I was aware of Google’s track record, but I wasn’t ready for its proprietary apps to disappoint me as much as it did.

The bad |

Google Keep

While you might assume that Keep’s ‘multi-column view’, which is a more interesting way on phones to look at lots of notes than a list, naturally scales to larger screens, it’s actually overwhelming on the tablets. You get four columns which makes reverse chronological order difficult to understand. Instead of the index cards on the bulletin board analogy, a simple two-column approach with a list on the left and the contents of the notes next to it would have been much better in this case.

Meanwhile, the actual note-taking view is a pain that, like on the web, doesn’t take up the whole screen, but instead pops up in the middle with the background grid still visible. It’s just a fuzzy experience that complicates what should be a simple task.

Google Voice, Home and more

Too many first-party Google tablet experiences are still just extended phone apps. Google Voice is guilty of this even though the desktop website and the iPad app have two columns. Extended phone apps just shouldn’t exist in 2022.

Other apps guilty of this include Google Home (and its ridiculously elongated two-piece bottom bar), Contacts (main view), Duo, Fit and One. Having extended content is difficult to read in landscape orientation.

Google Clock

While tablets don’t serve as a morning alarm for most people, I found Google Clock’s layout choices to be a real lost opportunity. In most tabs, Google places app content on the left, while there’s a kind of right sidebar for the Floating Action Button (FAB). As seen in the Alarm, Timer, and Stopwatch tabs, this FAB takes up just an odd space.

The Clock tab is even weirder with your current time zone taking up the first of three columns. In the middle is a list of different cities, while the FAB is again the last one with lots of padding. The list was the least imaginative way to show lots of cities.

The tablet versions of these apps are just not good. They look good but are just too busy to the point of being useless (Keep) or they just require playing from the left end of the screen to the right (Voice). In both of these cases, I prefer using my phone or, if offered, using the app in letterbox format, which Android 12L introduces for non-optimized apps. This way the app fulfills the requirement to be comfortable with nearby touch targets. An expandable tablet app, in my opinion, is no better than a phone client with everything working as expected.

The basis |


Chrome on tablets is just like the desktop version, and I’m generally fine with that. The tab strip becomes unwieldy when you have a lot of pages open and Google should probably have added a grid view by now.

Google App, Drive, News, Podcasts

Luckily, these apps list articles/stories, files/folders, podcasts, etc. with two columns rather than one big list.

play store

Google Play’s tablet optimizations only exist on the home screen with a variation of the navigation rail. Of course, this is clearly just the bottom bar, while the main big screen optimization comes in the form of all top tabs fully displayed below the search box. Like Photos, it feels more like the Play Store website than an optimized tablet experience. Meanwhile, the lists are pretty much extended.

There is nothing exceptional in these applications. Two-column layouts should be a bare minimum to take advantage of the increased screen space. Other than Chrome, the apps on the list above apparently have no other optimizations that reflect a big commitment to the tablet experience.

The voucher |


Gmail is one of Google’s flagship apps and one that I consider recently, if not actively, updated. Besides Material You, the company integrated a full chat client last year.

It features a simple two-column layout with a list on the left and email content on the right. This interface is so obvious that Google shouldn’t receive points for it in an ideal world, but the work has clearly been put in place.

Clever design touches include the way a toolbar emanates from the search field when you tap on a sender’s avatar to reveal ever-present buttons for archive, delete, mark unread, and unread. “move to folder” in the upper right corner.

That said, it’s not without bugs, with the message list not highlighting the current email you’re viewing after archiving and the aforementioned “move to folder” button sometimes disappearing in the overflow menu .

Google Maps

Google Maps is simply a good app for navigating the literal world. The home screen is light on the UI with just a search bar on the left and the layer switcher on the top right, although the bottom is a bit inelegant for the amount of space it consumes. Touching the field to search loads a column of results and lists that disappears when not needed.

Google Photos

Like Maps, content informs the main view of Google Photos. There is a navigation rail on the left instead of a bottom bar that deviates. If there’s one small detail, I can’t help but think I’m using the desktop website every time I use the tablet client. It boils down to an app bar that just doesn’t look like Android.

youtube music

YouTube Music is in the good list – not the basics – because of its Now Playing screen which is split between controls and your next queue. That said, there is a troubling lack of lower padding on the player half.

The Home tab which displays carousels of suggestions is fortunately divided by layouts of shelves of different sizes which breaks the monotony. Additionally, the YTMusic team hints at more tablet updates in the future.


Like the Music version, the player screen with its list of additional videos on the right which is also used to display the video description is quite good. It’s basically the website, down to the docked mini-player when browsing the feed tab. That said, YouTube avoids the overly desktop feel that Google Photos suffers from.

The great |

Google Calendar

My favorite Google app on Android tablets is Calendar. For starters, the Month and Week views have the space they need to show events at a glance. The size here doesn’t hurt.

However, the real star of the show is the Day and Calendar view where you can see the whole month – which acts as a date picker – on the left, while there’s a list next to it. The background is animated by Calendar’s iconic monthly illustrations, which are unique to mobile.

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.

And after

Beyond the simple idea of ​​how to use the extra screen real estate, developers of apps listed in the bad and basic sections would do well to think about what large touch surfaces allow. It can’t just be about showing more information. This display needs to be done thoughtfully and intelligently, which is delicious.

Google needs to ensure that its proprietary tablet apps serve as a guide, if not a model, for third-party developers. The company’s broad application portfolio covers many classes of experiences (flows, navigation, tools, etc.) and good implementations of each would go a long way in inspiring others to create their own.

Similar to how quickly Google rolled out Material You for its larger apps, such a push is needed for tablet experiences. This is necessary for any proprietary device or rebranded push that calls “tablet apps” that take advantage of styluses. Google has to walk before it can work, and its proprietary apps are a pretty good indicator of their tablet conviction this time around.

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