Google is paying some much-needed attention to its Android tablet apps

Google is rolling out some much-needed upgrades to its Android tablet apps, the company has announced, as it attempts to make them work better on devices with larger screens. Updates are coming for apps including Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Keep, and Google’s announcement says they should arrive over the coming weeks.

Docs, Sheets, and Drive are being updated to support drag and drop, letting you easily pull elements like text and images from one app to another. Meanwhile, Drive is getting the ability to open two files side by side, similar to the functionality Apple brought to the iPad with 2019’s iPadOS update. Keyboard shortcuts are also coming to Drive, Docs, and Slides, which should make them much more efficient to use for anyone with a Bluetooth or wired keyboard attached to their Android tablet.

The updates are arriving as Google has taken a renewed interest in Android tablets over the past year. Early in 2022, it released Android 12L, an update to the operating system optimized for large-screen Android devices like tablets and foldables. Then, at its I/O developer conference in May, the company said it was working to improve the app ecosystem for Android tablets. It said it was working with third-party developers to better optimize apps like TikTok, Zoom, and Facebook and that it would be releasing updates for over 20 of its own apps — some of which we’re seeing today.

There are a couple of different theories about why Google is now paying more attention to Android on tablets after arguably letting this area of development sit on the back burner for years. First is the fact that Google is planning to make a big return to the Android tablet market next year, releasing a tablet of its own for the first time since 2018’s disappointing Google Pixel Slate. Investing in its tablet app ecosystem now will inevitably help this tablet’s chances when it’s released. It will also benefit other Android tablet manufacturers who’ll see the software on their devices improve.

There’s also the steadily growing market for foldables, which rely on having software that’s optimized for large-screen devices (aka tablets) in order to get the most from the increased screen real estate. Although they’re still niche devices in the context of the broader smartphone market, interest is growing. Samsung recently announced that the industry shipped 10 million foldable devices last year, a 300 percent increase over 2020. And there have been persistent rumors that Google is developing a foldable device of its own.

Regardless of whether these bigger plans pan out, Android tablet owners will no doubt be thankful for these more practical upgrades in the here and now.