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Google just announced a rare exciting update for Android tablets

Published May 5th, 2021 7:08PM EDT
Google Entertainment Space
Image: Teerasan/Adobe

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The 2021 iPad Pro delivered a huge blow to Android tablet makers. The iPad Pro hardly had any competition in the market, and the M1-powered iPad Pro puts even more distance between Apple and the flagship Android tablets. The M1 processor offers performance well beyond what’s available from the best Android tablets out there, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a true iPad Pro rival from the Android camp anytime soon. That’s on top of the software differences, as Google has largely ignored Android tablets in recent years.

But Google does have a software upgrade in mind for Android tablets, having just announced a feature that many people might not even need. But it could also be the kind of feature that many others might appreciate right now. Unfortunately, it’s not the big makeover you might have wanted for your Android tablet.

With I/O 2021 just a few days away, Google chose a peculiar moment to announce Entertainment Space, the new Android feature you’ll see on select tablets going forward. For some reason, the announcement isn’t worthy of an I/O reveal. And in some ways, it might be perceived as a defeat. Entertainment Space is all about entertainment, and bringing the feature to Android tablets relegates these devices to one duty: Providing entertainment.

Comparatively, iPadOS offers a richer tablet computing experience. iPads can replace traditional computers for entertainment purposes, in addition to serving entertainment. It’s not just the iPad Pros that target more demanding consumers. The iPad Air has the same processor as the iPhone 12 series and runs the same software as the iPad Pros.

Google does say that Android tablet use has gone up over the last year, with 30% more people using these devices. The likely reason that happened is the coronavirus pandemic, which forced people to spend more time indoors and compete for screens. Tablets and laptops were used for school and work from home, but also for consuming entertainment.

Entertainment Space
Google’s new Entertainment Space for Android tablets. Image source: Google

The new Entertainment Space will look a lot like the Google TV experience you’d get on the last-gen Google Chromecast. But it’s not just access to your favorite streaming apps that Entertainment Space will offer. It also includes recommended apps, games, and books in a single place, which could be the kind of experience some tablet users might enjoy.

Google launched Kids Space last year, targeting tablet users under 9. The Entertainment Space might cater to new Android users who might appreciate accessing all their entertainment in one place, without moving back and forth between apps. It’s the kind of feature that could be quite useful to less tech-savvy individuals who are still getting used to managing smartphones and tablets.

Entertainment Space is a one-stop, personalized home for all your favorite movies, shows, videos, games and books. You’ll save time and avoid having to hop between apps to try to figure out what to do, whether it’s to watch, play or read. Once you sign in to your subscription apps, Entertainment Space will show you your content in one place and tailored for you. And if you want to share your tablet, everyone in the family can have their own personalized profile.

Entertainment Space is also a way for Google to better learn what sort of entertainment you like. Entertainment Space will include three tabs: Watch, Games, and Read. The Watch tab will include a Continue Watching row, personalized and trending recommendations, and Google TV and YouTube support. Signing into streaming apps will bring them all over to the Watch tab.

A similar interface is available for the Games tab, which includes a Continue Playing row. It also supports Instant Play, which lets you play games without downloading the entire app. The Read tab provides access to your favorite boots, including audiobook versions.

Entertainment Space will not be ready to roll out on all Android devices. It starts with Walmart onn tablets this month. It’ll then roll out globally on new and select Android tablets from Lenovo, Sharp, and others.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.