The idea of Google getting behind a 7-inch tablet has been dormant for some time. And worse than that, the entire Android tablet market has looked like it is on life support.
Google released Nexus 7 tablets in 2012 and 2013, but since then enthusiasm for the 7-inch form factor has waned amongst manufacturers.
So far in 2016, there have been no flagship tablet releases from the two stalwarts of the Android tablet market, ASUS and Samsung. In the past couple of years, both companies have made big tablet announcements around June/July, but this time round they have been silent.
It was widely expected that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 would be announced at IFA this year. But the trade show took place at the start of September, with no sign of a new tablet series from Samsung.
The one bright spot for Android tablet fans has been provided by Huawei, with the announcement of the Huawei MediaPad M3, at IFA earlier this month.
The Huawei MediaPad M3 is a very impressive 8.3-inch tablet, with versions available priced between €349-€449 (approximately £290-£375/$395-$505, not accounting for taxes and other market factors).
The 2016 Google 7-inch tablet
When Google launched its mobile hardware in 2015, the appearance of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P were not a surprise. But the search engine giant had kept one trick up its sleeve, unveiling the Pixel C hybrid.
Google is expected to show off its 2016 hardware on 4 October. Two handsets, manufactured by HTC, have been known about for some time, but once again the company’s smartphone could be joined by a surprise piece of hardware.
According to a reputable industry insider, Google is effectively working to revive the ‘Nexus’ 7.
Renowned leakster Even Blass has tweeted about the new device, stating:
“Google’s Huawei-built 7-inch tablet, with 4GB RAM, [is] on track for release before the end of the year.”
No 2016 ‘Nexus’ 7
The new tablet is unlikely to use the Nexus 7 name of its predecessors, given that it is expected that Google will drop the Nexus branding this year.
Android Wafer has written in the past about how Nexus started out as a brand for affordable hardware, but Google’s recent products have offered a more premium feel (and price).
It is easy to see, therefore, why Google might feel that the Nexus brand has served its purpose, but is not currently an appropriate badge for the company’s hardware.
So a new slate built by Huawei may be named the Pixel 7, or perhaps Google Tablet 7, rather than utilising the Nexus brand.
It is noteworthy that Blass has stated the new tablet will feature 4 GB RAM.
This is the same amount of memory contained in the Huawei MediaPad M3. The 2016 7-inch Google tablet might be a smaller version of this, albeit with Google’s flavour of Android, rather than Huawei’s EMUI.
Huawei have a reputation for creating great hardware, but as EMUI is not to everyone’s taste, a device from Google could potentially attract a lot of interest.
Price and release date – Google 7-inch tablet 2016
As recent Nexus devices have moved away from the budget sector, and given the expected rebranding of Google’s mobile devices, it is unlikely that the 2016 Google 7-inch tablet will be quite as affordable as the old Nexus 7 slates.
In addition, Huawei’s involvement increases the likelihood that this will not be a budget device.
Huawei has been very careful in its recent marketing efforts to position itself as a maker of good quality, premium hardware. It has even gone to the effort of setting up Honor for its more affordable products, ensuring that Huawei is not strongly associated with mid-range devices.
Even though Huawei branding is unlikely to feature prominently – if at all – on a 2016 Google 7-inch tablet, the Chinese company would still probably not be too keen to get involved with high-profile budget hardware.
Using the cost of the as-yet-unreleased Huawei MediaPad M3 as a guide, a starting price of around €299 (which as a straight conversion is around £250/$335) would make sense.
At this relatively speculative stage in proceedings when the product itself has not been confirmed, there is obviously no official release date available for the 2016 Google 7-inch tablet.
Bass mentions the tablet being made available “before the end of the year”.
If its 2016 smartphones are launched on 4 October, then it would be logical to announce the tablet alongside these.
Last year the Pixel C was made available to buy for Christmas, but this was some time after the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P smartphones went on sale, despite all three products being announced at the same time.
It is possible we may see a similar sequence of events with Google’s 2016 hardware.