Early reviews of the newly launched Google Pixel C seem to agree on two things. First is that it’s an awesome kit as far as hardware goes. The second is that it is somewhat ironically hampered by Android. To many, it felt like Google simply slapped on Android on the tablet hybrid without preparing it or designing it to fit the hardware. Based on the recent Reddit AMA, that almost seems like the case. The good news is that almost all those criticisms will be addressed in future updates. The bad news, it might take a while, even up to Android N, whatever its name might be.
To be fair to Google, it didn’t really have much of a choice. They had a very small window of opportunity left to get the Pixel C out the door before the holidays and just after Apple launched the iPad Pro. While it might have been working on the hardware for a long time now, it probably didn’t have time to tweak Android to fit the new use case. And since Google is vehemently against custom changes that aren’t found in the base Android code, unlike some OEMs, preparing Android for the Pixel C would have taken a lot longer to finish.
That said, Google developers claim they have been working precisely on those features that many reviewers are complaining about, particularly the lack of split screen and even multi window functionality. As reported before, this feature is actually already in Android Marshmallow, just labeled as experimental. The implication is that it will be released as a stable feature by the next major Android version, N, whenever it comes.
Google’s AMA also touches on other things like the use of a Type-C USB port and updates. Although not a Nexus device, the Pixel C will be updated on a regular monthly basis as well. DisplayPort over USB C is also being worked on, hinting that, again, this is a software limitation rather than a hardware one. And for modders, Pixel C’s bootloader can be unlocked, allowing alternative ROMs to be installed.
One thing that’s not coming, however, is an active stylus accessory like the Apple Pencil or the Microsoft Surface Pen. At least not yet and not directly from Google. The developers say that they have opted to focus more on the Pixel C’s core mission of being a productivity machine, which meant focusing on keyboard input rather than stylus. As if those who draw or scribble notes on tablets aren’t being productive. However, Android 6.0 did add support for Bluetooth active styluses, which leaves the door open for third party accessory makers like Wacom or Adonit to fill in the gap that Google has left.