Android update tackles apps resizing for tablets

The forthcoming update to Android 'Honeycomb' helps apps display properly on tablet devices

Google is working on an update to its Android "Honeycomb" mobile platform that would help applications resize to the tablet screens becoming more prominent lately.

In a post to the Android Developers blog on Monday, Scott Main, lead tech writer for developer.android.com, said the update would accommodate applications that do not resize well on tablets. "To keep the few apps that don't resize well from frustrating users with awkward-looking apps on their tablets, a near-future release of Honeycomb is introducing a new screen compatibility mode to make these apps more usable on tablets."

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With the upcoming release, any application not targeting Android 3.0, which is Honeycomb, or that does not explicity set android:xlargeScreens="true" in the <supports-screens> element will include a system bar button allowing users to select between two viewing modes on large-screen devices: "Stretch to fill screen," for normal layout resizing, or "Zoom to fill screen," which is the new screen compatibility mode.

"When the user enables this new screen compatibility mode, the system no longer resizes your layout to fit the screen. Instead, it runs your app in an emulated normal/mdpi screen (approximately 320dp by 480dp) and scales that up to fill the screen," Main said. The result is everything is bigger but more pixelated because the system does not resize a layout or use alternative resources for the current device.

With cases where an application does not properly resize for larger screens, the screen compatibility mode can improve visibility by emulating an application's phone-style look but zoomed in to fill the screen, said Main. Most applications, though, look fine on tablets without screen compatibility mode, he said. For applications designed to resize for larger screens, screen compatability mode is probably offers an inferior user experience and developers should prevent users from selecting it, said Main: "The easiest way to make sure that users cannot enable screen compatibility mode for your app is to declare support for xlarge screens in your manifest file's <supports-screens> element."

Android "Honeycomb," which was geared to tablets, debuted early this year.

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