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What’s new in foldables, tablets, and large screens

Posted by Posted by Oscar Wahltinez, Developer Relations Engineer, Google

Users are seeing more value in larger screens, and the benefits of doing more
with a single device. Apps designed for large screen devices increase those
benefits even further.

The ability to fold a screen offers better ergonomics for large devices. When
folded, you can fit a tablet-sized screen in your pocket — unlocking
utility that was previously unavailable on a portable device. Thinking about
our app ecosystem, we’re excited because this is a hardware shift that
is driving new expectations around what you can do from a handheld device. We
see the demand for larger screens extending to tablets too, which have greatly
increased in popularity, given the similar app experience.

Technological breakthroughs and our understanding of ergonomics have played a role in device form factors.

In this blog post, we’ll explain what you should do to prepare your apps for
large screens, and how recent updates have made developing your app easier.
But first, let’s talk about what we’re seeing with large screens —
and why you should optimize your app.

There are many ways to use foldable devices, including a number of postures illustrated here.

Over the past year, we’ve seen device makers release exciting new
foldable and tablet devices. Demand has increased as users are doing more than
ever from these devices. Altogether, developers can reach more than 250
million active foldables, tablets, and Chromebooks by building for Android
large screen devices today. Sales of tablet devices grew 16% in 2020 with
analysts expecting more than 400 million Android tablets by 2023, and
foldables are redefining what’s possible on premium devices. Android
apps can also run on ChromeOS, which is now the
second most popular
desktop OS.

Larger screens are changing how users interact with their device. These
devices allow you to edit slide decks while looking at notes, look up
restaurant recommendations while planning a night out, or watch a video while
chatting with friends. Let’s talk about base-level support —
features an app must support to be “large screen ready”. There are
three main areas of focus when it comes to large screen readiness:

  1. Designing for large screens
  2. Multitasking
  3. Input modes

They’re summarized below, but make sure to check out our
large screen app quality guidelines
for the full details.

Design for large screens

The first step is to ensure that your app is designed for large screens. To
make this easier, we’ve defined specific window size breakpoints and
device classes for you to optimize for. Add tablet layouts for displays where
the shortest dimension is >600dp, and ensure your apps
go edge-to-edge. Developers should also plan for their app to be used in both portrait and
landscape modes, since larger screens are more likely to be used in landscape.
We’ve got material adaptive components that we’ll be talking about
to help developers make better use of the increased space.

Since foldable and large screen devices have a variable window size, adaptive
layouts work better than splitting experiences based on screen size.

Multitasking

Going into split screen (or multi-window mode) and gestures like drag and drop
are starting to become natural interactions that users expect to work
seamlessly in their large screen devices. Your apps should handle multitasking
seamlessly by being resizable. Handling folding and unfolding events and
planning for your app to be in multi-window mode prevents your app from
becoming letterboxed.

Drag and drop can be a natural interaction in large screen layouts, even within the same
app.

By enabling multiple instance support, users can run multiple copies of your
app side-by-side. The let’s users compare two products, reference notes
while writing a document or maybe keeping your calendar in view as you are
planning an event.

Input modes

Since many people use larger screens for productivity, tablets should support
basic keyboard, mouse and stylus usage.

Users of Android apps on ChromeOS devices often have a keyboard; apps should ensure that standard keyboard navigation and shortcuts are available to provide improved accessibility.

Several UI components across Jetpack and Material Design libraries have been
updated to help you build a flexible user experience to scale your phone’s UI
to a larger screen.

SlidingPaneLayout

One of the most common adaptive layouts to optimize your app for large screens
is implementing a list-detail UI. For example, a messaging app that lists
messages on one side with the message detail on the other.

SlidingPaneLayout automatically adapts to configuration changes to provide a good user experience across different layout sizes.

UIs that would be one top of each other on a smaller screen can now easily lay
out side-by-side. For this, you can use the updated version of the SlidingPaneLayout library — updated to support a two-pane style layout, SlidingPaneLayout uses the width of the two panes to determine how to lay out the UI. It does
that by automatically determining if it can lay out side-by-side based on the
content width and available space. For example, if the list pane is measured
to have a minimum width of 200dp and the detail pane needs 400dp, then the SlidingPaneLayout automatically shows the two panes side by side if it has at least 600dp of
width available.

SlidingPaneLayout is used in our sample application
IOSched.

We have updated the library to recognize and adapt to
folds and hinges . For example, if you are on a device with hinges that blocks part of the
screen, it will automatically place your content on either side.

We have also introduced lock modes,which allow control over
the swipe behavior when panes overlap (programmatically switching is also
supported). For example, to prevent users from swiping to an empty pane you
may want them to have to click on a list item to load information about that
pane, but allow them to swipe back to the list. On a foldable device or tablet
that has room to show both views side by side, the lock modes are ignored.

NavRail

A
vertical Navigation Rail
is functionally equivalent to Bottom navigation, and provides a more ergonomic
navigation experience on larger screens. As you scale your UI, NavRail supports better reachability, since larger screens tend to
be held by the side, whereas on the phone users are probably holding the
device from the bottom.

NavRail automatically changes the location of the navigation menu depending on configuration changes.

For example, NavRail can help if vertical scrolling is key to your app. In
those cases, a bottom navigation bar decreases the amount of content
that’s visible, especially when tablet devices are being used in
landscape orientation.

Other Components

We’ve also made updates across multiple other components. One of the biggest
pitfalls when apps move to a larger screen is when UIs are stretched
edge-to-edge across the whole screen. To help prevent this, we’ve added
default Max Width values to certain Material Components where this commonly
happens, for example:

  • Buttons
  • TextFields
  • Sheets

We will add more components to this list in the future. These changes provide
opinionated defaults to help your apps adapt and look better out of the box on
large screen devices. Find more information about using size constraints with
components in
the Material Design guidelines.

Most foreground UI elements should have a maximum width value.

WindowManager Jetpack library

Beyond component updates to help you scale your UI, we also have the
WindowManager Jetpack library to help you build better experiences on these devices. This library is now
available in alpha and it provides a common API surface for supporting
different device types, starting with foldables and tablets.

You can use WindowManager to detect display features such as folds or hinges.
It also gives information about how the display feature affects your app, so
you can create an optimal experience. For example, reacting to the foldable
device state changes when the device is folded into tabletop mode while the
user is watching a video.

Applications should seamlessly adapt to a growing number of device configurations.

WindowManager also provides a couple of convenience methods to retrieve the
current and maximum
WindowMetrics
information in a backward compatible way, starting from API level 14.

Display API deprecations

Your app needs to determine the screen or display size in order to render
content appropriately for each device. With the introduction of the
WindowMetrics API, a number of methods related to display size have been deprecated. For a
backwards-compatible replacement, you should use the
Window Manager Jetpack library.

Exclusive resources

Android 10 introduced the possibility to have multiple resumed apps running at
the same time, with a single “top resumed” application. Most
applications benefit from this change without the need of updates. The most
notable exception is if your application uses an exclusive resource like the
microphone or the camera. See
our previous blog post
for more details.

Optimizing your app for large screens can improve the experience for your
users, as well as deliver on business results. We’re seeing an increased
number of apps take advantage of the opportunities with large screens on
Google Play. As an example,
Google Duo
implemented tablet and foldable support to enhance their user experience, and
saw an increase in app ratings and user engagement.

Google Duo’s optimized experience for foldable devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2

In addition to Google Duo’s enhanced user experience, we’ve modernized many
additional apps to use adaptive layouts so they can take advantage of large
screens and foldable devices:

  • Chrome added improved tab navigation for larger screens
  • YouTube redesigned its UI to improve usability in foldable devices
  • Google Photos displays more UI elements, like a search bar, in larger
    screens
  • Google Calendar provides a more ergonomic UI in larger screens

Learn more

To learn more about foldables and large screen devices, see the following
resources:

Source: Android Developers Blog

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