The traditional smartphone display has changed a lot over the years. What started as small displays flanked by giant bezels has evolved into futuristic-looking devices with huge displays and tiny bezels. The next big change in displays is poised to be something completely different. We’ve been hearing a lot about “foldable” displays, and now Android is ready to support these devices.
While Samsung is having a developer conference (which will include a foldable device), Google is having their own Developer Summit. VP of Engineering, Dav Burke, announced details on how Android will support these new flexible devices. The goal is to make Android take advantage of the form factor “with as little work as necessary.” Right now, that mostly includes tools that are already available.
We just announced support for foldables at #AndroidDevSummit, a new form factor coming next year from Android partners.
Android apps run seamlessly as the device folds, achieving this form factor's chief feature: screen continuity. pic.twitter.com/NAfOmCOY26
— Android Developers (@AndroidDev) November 7, 2018
Android has had to adapt to a multitude of screen sizes for about a decade now. So that’s really not a new problem. The existing screen continuity API that allows apps to know when the screen size has changed is being employed here to support “foldables”. It works every time you rotate your phone or use an app in Chrome OS. Folding a display open into a larger size is another use case for this tool. Apps will be able to adjust to the screen size change just as they do now.
Unfortunately, not all apps have implemented this API to support the myriad of form factors and screen sizes out there. I run into this problem on my Chromebook where certain apps don’t have a widescreen UI for tablet mode. So not every app will magically look great on these foldable devices from day one—it’s up to developers to update their apps to be ready for the foldable phone future. Google is working with OEMs to ensure that developers have a consistent experience modifying their apps to support the new foldables category. It’s important for Google to be on the forefront of this to limit fragmentation and ease the work that developers have to do.