18 Jul 2011

Android Tablets Get an iPad-Like "2x" Mode with Android 3.2

On Friday, Google officially announced the Android 3.2 platform, which offers a handful of enhancements, including one that will let you run smartphone apps on larger devices. A new compatibility display mode will provide an alternative to the UI stretching available today, and instead lets you "zoom" in on an app on a simulated low-res screen.
Essentially, it's like the iPad's 2x mode, but for Android.

Smartphone-Sized Apps Get New Zoom Mode

According to Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK Tech Lead, the new mode provides "a pixel-scaled alternative to the standard UI stretching" for apps that were not designed to run on larger screens.
More simply put, it means that the 200,000+ Android applications designed for smartphones can now work on tablets. (How well the mode works may be another story.)
Still, it's good news for Android tablet makers, as previously, the number of tablet-only apps was embarrassingly low. The New York Times did a little digging in July and found that there may have been just 100 apps specifically designed for Android Honeycomb at that time. Yikes! Compare that with the 100,000 native iPad apps and it's clear that getting developers to build native apps for Android tablets has been a challenge, to say the least.
Now developers have an alternative - and one they don't have to code for. In fact, only the 100 or so Honeycomb app developers will have to make any changes, if they choose, and disable the zoom option on their native tablet apps.

Other Updates in Android 3.2

Other highlights from Android 3.2 include the following:

  • Optimizations for a wider range of tablets. A variety of refinements across the system ensure a great user experience on a wider range of tablet devices.
  • Media sync from SD card. On devices that support a removable SD card, users can now load media files directly from the SD card to apps that use them.
  • Extended screen support API. For developers who want more precise control over their UI across the range of Android-powered devices, the platform’s screen support API is extended with new resource qualifiers and manifest attributes, to also allow targeting screens by their dimensions.
Google also recently released a new version of the SDK Tools (r12), the Eclipse plug-in (ADT 12) and updated the NDK to r6.

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