Evidence says the Pixel C wasn’t designed to be an Android device

by: Derek ScottDecember 11, 2015

pixel c first look aa (9 of 12)

When the Pixel C surprisingly hit stores on Tuesday, initial reviews came out pretty glowing. The hardware looked impressive, after all, and many users praised the sturdy construction and gorgeous 10.2-inch display. They physical keyboard promised that this tablet would be the kind of machine you could really get work done on as well.

However, software issues soon began to make themselves apparent, and public perspective of the Pixel C rapidly shifted. It almost seemed like the software hadn’t been finished, and the development team held a Reddit AMA in order to try to explain the devices shortcomings. The team promised that the software was going to continue to be developed, but they didn’t really offer any answer regarding why the Pixel C was rushed into release with so many problems still present.

Now a new theory has arrived that seems to completely explain the Pixel C’s shortcomings. Specifically, the device wasn’t supposed to be an Android tablet at all, but rather a Chrome tablet.

pixel c first look aa (2 of 12)See also: Google Pixel C hands-on and first look59

In a piece of damn fine journalism, Ron Amadeo over at Ars Technica wrote up an exposé detailing development of the Pixel C and organizing a body of evidence that’s very difficult to argue with. It seems the tablet was originally conceived to run as a flagship for a touch-centric version of the Chrome OS codenamed “Project Athena.” The hardware aspect of the device, called Ryu, was left stranded in no-man’s land when Project Athena was cancelled in December 2014. After an arduous attempt to combine Chrome OS and Android to create a dual-boot “Frankenboard,” the development team seems to have given up and flashed Android to push the device out before Christmas.

pixel c first look aa (11 of 12)

So perhaps the reason the Pixel C is something of a disappointing Android tablet is because it was never supposed to be an Android tablet. It was supposed to be a flagship Chrome tablet. The result is software living in the wrong hardware, a reanimated corpse doing its damnedest to pass itself off as human. Maybe over the coming months, tweaks to the software will let Android take better advantage of the Pixel C’s hardware capabilities, but in the mean time, we’re left with a device that seems to fall in the tablet version of the uncanny valley.

Any Pixel C owners care to chime in here? Does this explanation match your experience with the device so far? Let us know in the comments.

Next: 10 best Android tablet apps that all tablet owners should have

  • Count_Iblis

    Typical Google, half baked.

    • 404

      unfortunately so. apple seems to fully develop everything before release

      • sacredjunk

        Like Apple Maps :)

        • Ichibanmugen

          I guess he meant the hardware..

          • Jimk4003

            Like battery cases…

          • Ichibanmugen

            I’m not talking about their accessories. All their accessories are crap. They either break or die.

          • Jimk4003

            Fair enough.

            The comment that ‘Apple seems to fully develop everything before release’ is still a bit wide of the mark though. Antenna issues, poor battery life, phones that bend, or arrive out of the box with chips in the aluminium are all issues that have affected iPhones.

            This isn’t having a pop at Apple per se, as loads of Android devices have issues too (bendable Nexus 6P, back panel flex in Nexus 9, poor battery life on Nexus 5 etc.), rather I’m taking exception to the premise that Apple are somehow immune to design or manufacturing flaws.

            There isn’t a perfect device, despite Apple’s exceptional marketing efforts to convince people otherwise.

          • Ichibanmugen

            There are indeed a ton of Quality Control issues. I do not disagree with this fact, unfortunately many seem to be doing this by rushing everything out to the market. Most if not all brands are affected by this.

            There are also things on purpose done by Apple like the quality of their is below average compared to trash. You’ll be lucky if their power cords will last through a month, same with their headphones.

            I think there is a line between “fully develop”and “quality control”. First time I hear about out aluminium chips, I’m familiar with the others.

            Seems that people who buy apple don’t mind spending more money down the drain :)

          • EasyCare

            Such as aluminium construction.

        • Faux Restes

          And antennas

        • 404

          some products at least

      • Anothermuse

        I’m mostly a pretty big Google fan, but the reality is that Google is more likely to push something through not quite fully baked. Apple is far from perfect, but with their limited product line and walled garden they often do a good job with making the products fit their designed need a little better.

        The Pixel C from what I read seems to be a good tablet. But there are other good tablets and the Android world doesn’t seem to get the tablet space much love. We don’t really have a surface pro competitor right now, which to be honest maybe we don’t need. The greatest need for a pumped up tablet would be work productivity and if MS has a good product in the Surface, Chrome or Android will still be second choices due to lack of native windows/office support.

        There’s nothing I’ve read or seen that differentiates the Pixel C dramatically from it’s Android brothers (okay everyone raves about build quality) and it seems to fall short of the Surface/iPad Pro products. While I seem to be alone in this thought I do think digitized stylus support, including a top level fast and accurate handwriting support that provides a simple input alternative to a keyboard could dramatically change the business case for tablets. That is the ability to handwrite straight into documents versus keyboard input.

        Tablets seem to have hit a wall at this point. Good for consumption, okay for work in a pinch, and that’s where we’ve been for 2+ years.


    It will shine when Android N is released to better fit tablet use with things such as multi window and other features they’re working on the

    • Lord_Paimon

      Which will be next year by that time this will be outdated …

      • Will Antici

        Completely untrue, this is a tablet that will almost certainly stand up to the test of a few years with ease. Look back at the Nexus 5, still popular and running Android well, even though the battery isn’t substantial. The tablet has a giant battery and enormous amounts of processing power. I give it 4 years till its truly obsolete. (Minimum of fourm)

      • ScratchC

        The nexus 7 & 10 are still running strong. I don’t think longevity is something to worry about.

  • I don’t get it – all Nexus tablets run same Android OS and there are physical keyboards for them also (folio) – what is different here?

    • Guest123

      Same i wonder too. Android works with mouse and keyboard pretty well lol

      • Martin Lane

        True you need a need USB Type C OTG cable or hub for them to work though. Google should have put some USB 3 ports on here, would have really helped out.

        Not a bit deal but a little annoying.

      • Yes, nothing new here and all complaints (no split screen) are true for most of other Android tablets (except Samsungs)…

  • Guest123

    The fun part about this is this tablet will get tremendously support :D

  • Diskus1

    Seriously, what is all the negative fuzz about!? Google has launched the best Android tablet ever. There is no other Android tablet on the market that has some magically better version of Android. There is nothing that makes it a worse tablet than a Sony, Samsung etc. (Except perhaps some people prefer details like SD card). Googles only mistake her is to sell a keyboard with it!

    It’s a tablet, a damn good one. I’m buying it. (without keyboard of course)

    • Hyung-Woo Jung

      I agree. It’s not cheap and the software would’ve been better with features like Multi Window, but it looks far from being a lackluster product in its position as an Android tablet, and the Tegra X1 should deliver amazing performance in gaming.

    • Martin Lane

      I really don’t get it, I received my PIxel C yesterday and it’s a fantastic tablet, amazing display and performance, probably the best build quality I’ve seen in a tablet.

      I don’t really care how it came to be using Android, it’s the best Android tablet I’ve ever used.

      As for the issues, what issues? I understand there is no multi window support but otherwise what are they talking about?

    • Anothermuse

      I think the criticism comes from the fact that a great versus a good Android tablet doesn’t seem to offer much value for the average user. While nothing makes it worse than the other higher end competitors, it seems to be a struggle to decide why it’s substantially better.

    • sluflyer06

      They don’t sell it with a keyboard, the keyboard is entirely separate. ;)

    • My Galaxy Prime

      I’ve never used the Pixel but I do agree with you about Android Tablets. I purchased an Asus Transformer Prime a few years ago and the day that I got it, I had to return it because it pretty much showed up dead. I sent it back and they kept it for a month before sending it back to me. It was buggy and slow. They sent an update, which I jumped on because of the bugs. The update killed my tablet and it wouldn’t turn on. I sent it back and when I got it back, I gave it away to get the newer version of the Asus Tablet. That was just as buggy and slow. I stopped using it and have never purchased another Android tablet or a tablet, period, after that. I love Android phone but I gave up on the tablet and just bought a Macbook Pro

    • jbelkin

      in case you missed the reviews, it runs apps one at a time slowly and the keyboard drops out and then comes back so you type the same letter 14 times in hopes it reconnects. Typical android OS though.

      • Diskus1

        As I said, Googles mistake was selling it with a keyboard option. Stick to tablet only = success. So what’s wrong in the tablet… nothing that separates it from all other Android tablets!

  • Roby

    With the Microsoft Surface around there are little to no reasons to buy the Pixel instead, be it running Android, Chrome OS or both. At least for me.

  • alexander96

    am i the only one here who is excited by the pixel c? just buy it without the keyboard and uses it as a damn fine tablet. Beside’s it’s just about the same size as the ipad air or nexus 10 or the tab s 10.5.. it’s got solid build quality, great screen, beastly specs, and (most likely) same fast software update like nexus phone.. if i’m in the market for a replacement tablet for my ipad 4 i think i will give this a huge consideration..

    • Martin Lane

      That’s what I’ve done, ordered the PIxel 64GB

      As a tablet it’s bloody good, I won’t be buying the keyboard.

      • Mark Armitage

        You should get the keyboard – it is fantastic!

    • Ben

      I’ve also ordered one, receiving it today. I’ve been looking forward to a 10+ inch pure android tablet for the past 3 years (since N10) and am very excited about this tablet. Yes, it could be cheaper. But if the quality is there, I don’t mind paying the same price as I would for an iPad Air 2 anyway. And if I wanted a laptop replacement, I’d dish out a few 100$ more and get a Surface Pro 4.

      • Martin Lane

        You won’t be disappointed, it’s beautiful tablet, mostly use my Android tablet for gaming and surfing and this does both jobs very well indeed.

        The display radio might take some getting use too but so so I’m really liking the Pixel.

  • Ryan Neely

    There is no excuse to have 3 GB of RAM in it. It’s priced a lot more that it should be, without even counting the keyboard.

  • jbelkin

    Typical android mismatch of OS not caring about the hardware and the hardware people not caring about software, UI, or actually using apps.

  • whaattttttt

    I think I browse the wrong website… The iPhone Authority

  • Randall Buchanan

    People just wait for the OS updates, everybody is going mad about the lack some features but the reality is that All of that can be change on a new firmware version, come on guys… I will buy it just for the potential that this baby have… Remember this is Google that we are talking about this tables is going to get at least 3~4 years of OS updates… I’m buying this bad boy.

  • ScottinWinterHaven

    Why doesn’t Google just improve the Chrome software instead of using Android software? I think a Chrome Tablet will be cool and that function perfectly like an Android device.
    Any time you see new electronics pushed out just before Christmas is going to have problems because of the rush to market. However those that wait awhile can can read the bad reviews from those that bought it in the first week and can wait for a company to provide improvements on there next new builds.

  • Mark Armitage

    I bought one despite negative reviews and have no regrets at all. I also got a keyboard which really enhances the experience, as it is great to type on and I get none of the dropped and repeated key issues mentioned by others. It did apply a system update as soon as I turned it on, so maybe that was to get rid of those bugs. I also fail to comprehend the negative comments about the Android software’s appearance. Perhaps my software selection is unusual but virtually evry app I have is tablet friendly and only a few have empty spaces that don’t look quite right. Even then they are perfectly usable and preferable to the iPad idea of iPhone apps being doubled in size to fit. I’m glad it turned into an Android tablet rather than Chrome, as the former has a much better range of software in my opinion. They are certainly equal to if not better than iPad versions and the OS is so much better than the uninspiring Apple interface. What no widgets???

  • Ted Varias

    The problem with the Pixel C is that it can’t be a high-end tablet without NFC, LTE, and GPS.

    I was hoping to replace my Nexus 9 with the Pixel C, but without the above mentioned feaatures, it will always fall short.