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Why now is the perfect time for the OnePlus Pad

OnePlus, the popular smartphone brand, is dipping its toes into the tablet market with the launch of the all-new, gorgeously designed OnePlus Pad. The move comes at a time when Google is making significant changes to Android to improve the tablet experience for users (plus laptops and foldables, too!).

With the launch of the OnePlus Pad, OnePlus is poised to benefit from these changes, while also feeding into its own broader ecosystem of devices and services. At the same time, the launch coincides with slowing growth in the tablet market, making it a risky move for the company — but one which could pay off well.

The back of the OnePlus Pad tablet.

With Google’s recent changes to Android 12, 13, and 14, the big-screen tablet experience is set to improve dramatically. In particular, Android 13 added cross-device functionality that mimics Apple’s, making it easier for other Android phone and tablet makers to pull together a cohesive hardware ecosystem. Google has been laying the groundwork for this since 2021.

It introduced Android 12L and rolled it out in March 2022 with a more thoughtful, better-designed interface that took advantage of larger form factors. With Android 13, it furthered that work and also rebuilt the vast majority of its Android apps to reflect the big screen interface. Alongside that, the company incentivized tablet development by adding cross-device functionality. Your iPad and your iPhone can work well together? So can your Android phone and your Android tablet, irrespective of brand. Well, potentially, anyway.

Android app scaling for large screens
These are samples of how Google imagines apps making the best of large screens. Google

With Android 14 ready to launch, Google has also doubled down on cross-functionality. In other words, though tablets were once seen as a risky investment and a side-play, Google has helped reduce the barrier to entry for all comers. It’s worth noting that Google is getting back into the tablet game, and the rise of Chromebooks means that convincing developers to build out their apps for larger displays is something that’s shifted to a top priority for the company. It also means that smaller, resource-constrained companies like OnePlus don’t have to build a tablet-optimized version of Android complete with their own apps. Google’s done all the work. It’s the promise of Android but finally remixed for tablets.

Maurice Klaehne, a senior research analyst at Counterpoint Research, told Digital Trends via email, “OnePlus is making small but steady strides to diversify its portfolio which is a good move if it can keep its messaging and product experience consistent. It realizes that some of the markets it wants to penetrate necessitate a broader approach to capture mind and market share, which is why it’s going for this 1+4+X approach outlined in the Cloud 11 event. We’ve seen other Android OEMs feature the interconnectivity piece already, and OnePlus entering this space now is table stakes.”

OnePlus is making small but steady strides to diversify its portfolio.

According to IDC’s Jitesh Ubrani, “The OnePlus Pad launches at a time where growth is slowing within the tablet market. Google’s work on improving Android for larger screens combined with the efforts to ensure a cohesive experience across device types goes a long way in improving the tablet experience for any user and helps brands create stickiness amongst their various products. It also helps parent company Oppo create a broader ecosystem of devices and services while potentially reducing software development costs since some of Oppo can leverage Google’s work rather than build their own solutions. That said, the OnePlus Pad won’t be the only beneficiary as every other tablet maker stands to reap the same benefits.”

The OnePlus Pad tablet with Stylo stylus and keyboard cover.

At the same time, it’s worth questioning if this could really be a resurgence of Android tablets. Notable Android tablet maker, Samsung, shied away from introducing the Galaxy Tab S9-series of tablets alongside the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Ultra. The S22 saw the debut of the Tab S8, for comparison. Some reports say that it’s due to economic reasons (and the delay of the Tab S7 was linked to COVID lockdown and the accompanying supply chain crises), but if someone big like Samsung couldn’t create compelling tablets, then maybe it’s a lost battle. Of course, tablets don’t have fixed launch cycles like phones. Even Apple’s tablets launch on a schedule that can be best described as “when they’re ready.”

“When it comes to the tablet launch cycle, Samsung has recently been on an 18-month cycle for its Galaxy Tab S. The Galaxy Tab S7 launched in August 2020, while the Galaxy Tab S8 line was introduced in February 2022,” According to Techsponential’s Avi Greengart.”If the pattern continues we should see a Galaxy Tab S9 this summer/fall, likely alongside a new foldable.”

Galaxy Tab S8 sitting at an angle above the tenth generation iPad.
Nadeem Sarwar / DigitalTrends

Kleahne added: “The current tech market is sluggish, making it challenging to launch new devices. Many OEMs are looking towards H2 for a resurgence in demand, especially since many tech products get launched prior to the holidays. The tablet market declined in 2022 due to supply chain issues and macro-economic pressures, and we are still seeing the effects now in Q1 2023.”In other words, success for the OnePlus Pad is definitely something that should be graded on a curve, primarily due to external conditions.

The OnePlus Pad couldn’t have come at a better time.

Overall, the launch of the OnePlus Pad couldn’t have come at a better time. Android wasn’t ready for tablets in the past — despite the best efforts of manufacturers, and cobbling together an Apple-style integration operation was something that would be costly with little benefit.

Google has done a lot of software work behind the scenes to mitigate those two flaws, and it’s clear tablet makers have been paying attention. The OnePlus Pad could be the first of many, if successful. Of course, as with Google’s other software initiatives, follow-up is crucial. As Google works on its own tablet and foldable, there’s no need to worry in the short term.

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