At the Android Developer Summit this week, Google announced support for “foldables” — phones with screens that crease in half like a notebook. The Mountain View company said it’s working with a number of device manufacturers, including Samsung, to optimize Android for flexible, bendable form factors.
Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android, told The Verge that Google is “enhancing Android to take advantage of this new form factor” with as little work as necessary. “[We’re] already working closely with Samsung on a new device they plan to launch early next year.”
But the changes are less under-the-hood than over-the-top.
Google is pointing developers to screen continuity, the Android API that informs apps when the screen’s size or orientation has changed, and encouraging them to properly implement it.
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
Basically, Android app developers create multiple app layouts and assets so that apps scale properly across smartphones and tablets with different resolutions, screen sizes, and screen densities. To optimize an app for a foldable device, all that’s required is adding a new layout — Android treats bendable screens as single displays in software.
“This new form factor is therefore simply adding new use cases to this existing pattern,” Sagar Kamdar, director of product management at Google, told The Verge. “[We’re] exploring many different ways to ensure a seamless foldables experience for users. More to come, but nothing to announce today.”
It’s an evolution from foldable devices of old like Kyocera’s Echo, Sony’s Tablet P, and NEC’s Medias, which had proprietary APIs and SDKs that required developers to custom-tailor apps on a per-device basis. And with any luck, it’ll kick off foldable device software development in earnest.