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

google pixel folding exterior hinge

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

TL; Dr.

  • Google recently updated Android to support placing apps in a left-right split.
  • This feature supports “folding portraits”, such as the upcoming Pixel 9 Pro Fold.
  • We spotted code that not only suggests this feature is being tested on the Pixel 9 Pro Fold, but also reveals the foldable device’s screen resolution.

Although the small screens of most Android smartphones aren’t really conducive to multitasking, there are still situations where you might want to have multiple application windows in view. That’s why Google introduced split-screen multitasking in late 2016 in Android 7.0 Nougat.

Android’s split-screen mode lets you place two apps side-by-side, in either a left-right or top-bottom configuration, depending on the orientation. If your phone is in portrait mode, for example, then Android assumes you can only place two apps in a top-down configuration. This assumption holds true for the vast majority of Android smartphones on the market, but it doesn’t work for some foldable phones with an almost square aspect ratio. Fortunately, Google quietly updated Android’s split-screen mode to allow apps to be placed in a left-right split even when the device is in portrait mode, most likely in preparation for the launch of the Pixel 9 Pro Fold. own.

With the release of Android 14 QPR2 in March, Google introduced code to add support for left-right splits in “foldable portraits”. While these patches don’t explicitly say that this feature is meant for the Pixel 9 Pro Fold, it’s pretty clear that’s the case. Almost all rumors point to the Pixel 9 Pro Fold having an almost square aspect ratio. The leaked images and renderings strongly suggest that this is the case.

Additionally, searching through AOSP where config_leftRightSplitInPortrait has been determined reveals something surprising: A “goldfish” configuration for pixel_fold2 that is Pixel Fold 2, which is what everyone assumed would be the name of Google’s second-generation foldable phone. In Android application development, the “red herring” is one of the targets for which platform developers can compile AOSP builds. Specifically, Goldfish builds are intended to run on the Android Studio emulator. Goldfish configurations essentially help developers mimic the display settings and system configurations of the physical hardware they’re testing apps for, which in this case is the Pixel Fold 2 (which will almost certainly launch as the Pixel 9 Pro Fold).

Given what we know about the Pixel 9 Pro Fold, it’s no surprise that config_leftRightSplitInPortrait will be set to “true” on the device. If it wasn’t, then in the phone’s default portrait orientation, users wouldn’t be able to split apps left-right, as shown below.

Another potentially interesting finding from the goldfish setup for the Pixel Fold 2 is the screen resolution. from config_display_features value, we can conclude that the Pixel 9 Pro Fold’s screen resolution will be 2,076 x 2,152 in its default portrait orientation. Because of this, config_leftRightSplitInPortrait must be set to true in order for the device to support left-right split-screen multitasking in its portrait orientation.

The left-right split in portrait mode isn’t the only recent improvement Google has made to split-screen mode. In Android 15, the company finally added the ability to save pairs of split-screen apps to the home screen. And, with work on revamping Android’s desktop mode, Google has significantly improved the free-form app windows, which is something that greatly benefits larger-screened devices like tablets and book-style foldable tablets.

The Pixel 9 Pro Fold is set to be unveiled at the upcoming Made by Google 2024 hardware event on August 13, so we’ll have to wait and see if Google has any other multitasking improvements up its sleeve.

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