Android quietly enhances split-screen mode in preparation for the Pixel 9 Pro Fold

Google’s latest Android update enables an enhancement to the split-screen multitasking feature, making it suitable for portable foldables with nearly square aspect ratios, such as the rumored Pixel 9 Pro Fold.

With Android 7.0 Nougat’s introduction of split-screen multitasking in late 2016, users have had the ability to open two apps side-by-side on their devices. Although the smaller screens of most smartphones might not allow for extensive multitasking, this feature comes in handy in various situations. The feature is capable of supporting either left-right or top-bottom arrangements based on the orientation of the device. However, a problem arises when dealing with foldable phones due to their almost square aspect ratios, as traditional assumptions for placement no longer hold true.

In order to resolve this issue and get ready for upcoming devices like the Pixel 9 Pro Fold, Google added support for left-right splits in portrait mode to the latest Android release – Android 14 QPR2 – back in March 2023. While Google does not explicitly specify the intended purpose for this feature, its applicability to “portrait foldables” leaves no room for ambiguity, as almost all rumors suggest the Pixel 9 Pro Fold’s almost square aspect ratio.

Examining the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code for split-screen configurations led to some exciting findings, specifically the existence of a goldfish configuration named “pixel_fold2,” assumed to be Google’s upcoming second-generation foldable device – the Pixel 9 Pro Fold (although it might actually be released as the Pixel 8 Pro Fold, since we’re already in 2024). In app development, the term “goldfish” denotes one of several targets that AOSP build platforms can use, primarily used in Android Studio’s emulator. By offering goldfish builds, developers are able to create software configurations mimicking real device characteristics and configurations for efficient app testing.

One particularly noteworthy piece of information gleaned from the Pixel Fold 2 goldfish config is its default display resolution: 2,076 x 2,152 in its landscape mode. Given that configuring the left-right split capability to be available in the portrait orientation requires support, the screen resolution inference sheds more light on why left-right split functionality needs to be active in portrait mode.

Although it remains unconfirmed if Google will have further enhancements in store for split-screen multitasking with the launch of the Pixel 9 Pro Fold on August 13 at the upcoming Made by Google 2024 event, past developments demonstrate continued support and dedication from the tech giant. Among other advancements in multitasking functionality, users will benefit from being able to save split-screen app combinations directly onto their home screen starting in Android 15. Furthermore, as Android continues its shift towards desktop mode functionality, app windowing flexibility – already popular with larger screen devices – has undergone substantial improvement on tablets and book-style foldables.

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