Simple ideas are really the best. Just look at the Google Pixel Tablet with Charging Speaker Dock. It's a head-slappingly obvious pairing, one clearly inspired by the Google Nest Hub. I think someone at Google looked at that three-year-old smart speaker and display combo and said, "What if we deconstruct it?"
I just wish Apple would look at what Google is preparing to launch in 2023 and say, "Why don't we build that?"
Google unexpectedly included the Tensor-G2-running slab during its Made By Google Pixel 7 smartphone event. Granted, we know that the Brooklyn-based product launch extravaganza wasn't just about Android 13 smartphones. Along with the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, there was the new – but completely expected – Google Pixel Watch. Rumors about a new Pixel Tablet have been swirling for more than a year and did – with numerous leaks – reach a crescendo last month. Even so, none predicted this smart combo.
What is this Google Pixel Tablet dock thing?
I understand that what we're looking at here is a mostly dumb speaker base with charging contacts and some very well-placed magnets to hold the tablet in place. But the combo is also an undeniably savvy move on Google's part.
During the launch event, Google said that it recently discovered that tablets are for homebodies. Okay, not the biggest revelation.
I'm pretty sure my wife's iPad – which she uses every day – hasn't left our house in five years (except for vacations). When she's not using it, it's usually plugged into a wall outlet. One of its chief uses is Pinterest and the bazillion recipes she's added to boards. She uses the iPad cover to prop it up on the counter when she cooks. After that, it's back to the counter and that outlet.
Google's Pixel Tablet and Charging Speaker Dock seem purpose-made for that scenario but instead of fumbling with a plug and settling for just-OK tablet speakers, you just plop the tablet on the dock and get the kind of robust audio only possible with more space.
Apple can, should, and must do this and can probably one-up Google.
Building the perfect Apple device for the home
As I write this, I'm staring at the lovely, little Apple HomePod mini. I love these little smart speakers. Not just because they're cute. They have excellent far-field microphones to hear me when I whisper, "hey Siri," and the speakers are quite powerful and clear for their size.
I also have an iPad Air 4. It's currently docked on a nice, albeit somewhat expensive Magic Keyboard. The benefit of this is that I get an almost full-sized keyboard and a nice magnetized stand for the tablet that lets me position it so the display is facing me. It's great for watching streaming TV and video calls. The iPad's built-in speaker is decent, too.
Still, Apple puts the iPad camera on the left edge, which has always confused and frustrated me. I usually forget that it's in that spot and end up looking in the wrong place. People on video calls probably think I'm always distracted. Google's Pixel Tablet, by contrast, smartly positions its front-facing camera dead center along the top edge.
There's also the simple fact that I don't use the Magic Keyboard's keyboard and its trackpad very often and my wife would not want this kind of stand for her beloved iPad.
What if, though, Apple took the HomePod mini, shaved one corner off to make a flat edge, added some magnets, and let us dock our iPads on it? Right, it would topple over because the HomePod mini is too small.
The point here, though is that Apple can make a new HomePod mini or hub that has a larger, and more iPad-supporting design.
This combo would one-up Google's Pixel Tablet and charging speaker because the Apple device would have a smart speaker. Without the Pixel tablet, Google's speaker charger is not much smarter than a regular speaker (it does enable hands-free Google Assistant use). Apple's product would, when you dock the iPad, transfer audio features to the dock, and the dock could work with the tablet to display Siri requests.
Without the tablet, though, the HomePod hub would still be a Siri smart speaker. Google's charging dock won't have Assistant built-in.
For now, there's no indication – aside from rumors and supposition – that Apple is planning this. On the other hand, many of us believe October is Apple's iPad month. If we see a new set of Apple tablets this month, wouldn't now be the perfect time to surprise us (and Google) with a combo that outdoes the Google Pixel Tablet and charging speaker? Of course, it would.
Hurry up, Apple.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.