Android tablets may have been in decline, but it seems like the pandemic made us care about them again. According to Google, in the last year, "we've seen over 30 percent more people start using Android tablets compared to the prior year." To make these devices potentially more useful, the company is announcing a new feature today called Entertainment Space that serves as a portal for all the media apps you've installed.
In a blog post, product manager for Google Play James Bender wrote that Entertainment Space is "a one-stop, personalized home for all your favorite movies, shows, videos, games and books." During a virtual demo, Bender showed Engadget how to access the new feature on a Lenovo tablet. On supported devices, Entertainment Space is the "minus one" page, meaning it sits on the left of the home screen where the Discover feed typically is on Android phones.
At the top of the page are three tabs: Watch, Games and Read. Each of these will feature a carousel that spotlights what Google believes are timely recommendations based on your interests, followed by rows of suggested content from the company's own services or apps you've installed. You can go into Settings to prevent an app from showing up in the recommendations.
Those who have used Google TV will find this interface familiar. In fact, the Watch page is very similar — it pulls suggestions from streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max and Disney+, but also brings in Android apps like Twitch, for example. The layout is the same for the Games and Read sections, and though I didn't see any recommended titles apart from those from the Play Store at the moment, Bender told Engadget that Google is working with third party partners to get their feeds into the system. That means that in time, you should see suggested books from Marvel Unlimited, Amazon's Kindle and Audible in addition to the Play Books store.
With Entertainment Space, Google promises "you’ll save time and avoid having to hop between apps to try to figure out what to do, whether it’s to watch, play or read." Of course, you'll have to go through an initial setup process involving signing in to your accounts on the apps you want to give Entertainment Space access. Those whose tablets are shared with others can create personalized profiles for each user to maintain the relevance of their recommendations.
Entertainment Space will be available in new devices coming from Lenovo, Walmart and Sharp. Though Google didn't have details as to when these products will all arrive, it said the Walmart tablet is expected this month. An over-the-air update is coming later this year to bring Entertainment Space to those who currently own an Android tablet from one of the three brands. If you don't want Entertainment Space to replace whatever is currently sitting to the left of your home screen, the ability to turn it off will depend wholly on whether the company that made your tablet (i.e. Lenovo, Walmart or Sharp) allows that option. Those who have an Android tablet from another brand and want to get Entertainment Space may be able to get it later — Google told Engadget that other unnamed OEMs are expected to bring the feature to their devices later this year too.