In my recent post about the best digital music readers for 2022, I mentioned several Android tablets – all by Samsung.
Shortly after that post went live, a friend of mine asked why I didn’t recommend any Chromebooks.
The reason why I didn’t recommend those products is because of one of the long-standing complaints I (and many others) have with Google. There’s simply no telling when they will arbitrarily kill or remove functionality from their products. They’ve done it with tablets before, after all.
Android Tablets→ ChromeOS → 12L → ???
The biggest clue is a beta version of Android 12 called “Android 12L”.
According to the Android 12L Developer page:
12L is a special feature drop that makes Android 12 even better on large screens. We’ve optimized and polished the system UI for large screens, made multitasking more powerful and intuitive, and improved our compatibility support for apps so they look better by default.https://developer.android.com/about/versions/12/12L/summary
We plan to release 12L in a feature drop in early 2022, in time for the next wave of Android 12 tablets, Chromebooks, and foldables.
You may notice that Google specifically mentions that 12L will be released in time for the “next wave” of Chromebooks. Since Chromebooks typically have a fairly transparent update from one version of ChromeOS to the next, I don’t know if 12L will have any special requirements that preclude current devices from getting the new 12L tablet-focused features.
The same update issues could be present for tablets, but Samsung seems to be doing okay with updating those. Plus, most of the tablets I recommended were powerful enough to be able to handle 12L’s new features. There are a lot of Chromebooks that are not.
Finally, while Google hasn’t said it, I wonder if they are shifting their focus to creating a tablet-optimized Android OS, rather than tacking on tablet support to ChromeOS devices.
The Future of Tablet Apps on ChromeOS
Right now it seems like tablet mode support on Chromebooks (for apps that have it) is fine. Not great, but serviceable.
Much like the support for tablet features on Android tablets, actually.
And while it looks like there may be some better features heading to some current Android tablets, I’m not sure how many Chromebooks are going to get the same level of support and I would hate for anyone to buy a product that becomes obsolete within months of purchase.