Google messages on your Pixel tablet are unacceptable

Google messages on your Pixel tablet are unacceptable

On the Pixel Tablet, the Google Messages app is installed by default. It’s the same APK as the phones, but launching takes you to the PWA version found at messages.google.com/web with a QR code to scan using your phone. The company told us this is the expected experience on the Pixel Tablet (and other Wi-Fi tablets).


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Once set up, there’s a two-column layout with the conversation list on the left and an open thread on the right. You can send RCS chats, while expressive features include dedicated selectors for emojis, stickers and GIFs. Given the size, the dialing UI is better and less crowded than on phones.

This experience might be fine on the web, but it’s no longer acceptable on Android tablets. Fun fact: if the overflow menu is open, you can’t scroll through the message history until the menu is closed for the first time (with a separate tap). This is just one of many annoyances in addition to general performance and the occasional animation stutter (try closing a thread) that screams non-native.

The incoming message alerts you receive on your tablet don’t have direct or smart notification response options. There’s no Magic Compose within the app, and it’s unclear if that will be possible even once the AI ​​feature comes out of beta. You also can’t react with the full range of emojis, direct reply or timed send.

Meanwhile, on the paired phone, a device pairing notification appears and turns off, seemingly randomly.

In an ideal world, Google would facilitate this QR code pairing process. The WhatsApp experience is quite good in this regard, with its native app optimized for large screen on Android tablets with a navigation rail and quite snappy. It’s really simple to use and on par with iMessage on the iPad.

Honestly, I’d be happy with Google replacing the PWA experience with a native app like Messages on Wear OS even if I had to deal with QR codes. At I/O 2022, Google showed just that, and today you can force this UI on phones by boosting the DPI.

Web usage here is so jarring, especially when compared to other third-party messaging options that took time. PWA reuse is a good fallback and efficient reuse, but it may not be the permanent or intended solution. I think going native is the bare minimum, with Google grappling with this as it continues to push Messages and RCS, as well as build for Pixel Tablets and Android big screens. As it is, this app is nothing more than a home screen shortcut for the web.

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