Google released the Pixel Slate with much fanfare in late 2018, bringing to fruition its efforts to optimize Chrome OS for the tablet form factor. The device sold boatloads and finally solidified Google’s position in the tablet market. Actually, no — the Pixel Slate sold so poorly that Google has washed its hands of it. Some people did buy it, though, and now many of them are reporting storage failures that make their tablets unusable.
According to a new report from Android Police, Google’s product support forums are flooded with angry Pixel Slate owners who say their devices are running into frequent, crippling storage errors. The failures begin as brief hiccups like crashing apps and icons becoming grayed out and inactive. A reboot or factory reset (Chrome calls this a Powerwash) might alleviate the issues for a short time, but they always come back. This isn’t a software issue — it’s hardware.
After a time of worsening issues, the Slate will apparently stop accepting any new writes to the flash storage. Slate owners have captured error logs, showing the system remounting in read-only mode after repeated failures. That means you can’t write any new information to the device, which breaks almost everything.
Because of the nature of this hardware issue, there’s probably no way Google can address it in a system update. Even in the unlikely event Google could circumvent the storage glitch to make the device usable, you can’t install an update on a device in read-only mode. That’s already a lot of big “ifs” before you even consider Google’s attitude toward tablets — it gave up.
The Pixel Slate was supposed to be Google’s way back into tablets after it backed off on its Android slate plans. In advance of the release, Google beefed up the tablet features of Chrome OS, which benefited the convertibles already on the market. However, the transformation was incomplete, and the versions with decent processors cost nearly a grand when you added the keyboard dock. Without a keyboard, the Slate wasn’t in the same league as the iPad. With the keyboard attached, the Slate barely competed with similarly priced laptop-style Chromebooks.
That’s why Google doesn’t plan to make any more tablets for the time being. How much effort is it really going to expend to fix such a maligned product? Probably not much, and many of those affected are long outside their warranty period. Google is investigating the issue, but this might end up being one of those long-running class-action lawsuits that deliver a pittance to affected customers in a few years.