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Android Q will boost foldable handsets

The tenth major release of Android, called Q for now, is set to support foldable phones natively, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Google has revealed a handful of new features to improve the state of privacy and usability in the next version of its operating system, which is set to launch toward the end of this year.

Developers and beta users can get a copy of Android Q early, although not intended for everyday use. The beta software gives users a look at the latest features and, if they are buggy, help Google correct them before launch.

The foldability elements are mainly intended for developers that need to create foldable-ready software. Google has released native Android support for both major types of folds: the in-fold and out-fold.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is an example of an in-fold design, where the screen touches itself when the phone is folded closed. This means there is likely an outer screen that needs to be transferred to the bigger screen when folded out. On the Galaxy Fold the outer screen measures only 4.5″, and the folded out screen 7.2″.

The Huawei Mate X is an example of an out-fold design, where the screen always faces outwards. The folded screen is a regular, large smartphone screen at 6.5″, while the folded out screen is an 8″ mini-tablet. For developers, the app would need to stretch out on the same screen when unfolded.

While these tech giants are first to foldable technology, it’s likely that they won’t be only brands with foldable phones.

“With TCL’s Dragon Hinge hardware designed for foldable phones and Android Q’s software, any manufacturer can make a foldable phone,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. “We can expect them to become commonplace in the next year, and affordable to typical flagship phone buyers in the next three years or so.”

Not every developer will need a foldable phone to create or update their apps for foldables. The Android Emulator is set to be updated to support switching between display types: folded and unfolded.

The changes have happened in the resizableActivity manifest attribute, which was initially intended for desktop Android devices like the Samsung Dex. These changes will be documented in-depth for developers soon. Until then, Google is likely working with Huawei and Samsung to get the nuances of folding and unfolding right

Google’s active involvement and interest in supporting foldable form factor with Android is a very good sign of the success that should follow.

Click here to read about how Android Q will clamp down on privacy in changes to its software design.

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