Android Q Desktop Mode Brings Multi-Instance Use, Extended Displays


More details about changes to Android OS in the upcoming version "Q" continue to stream out from last week's Google I/O Developers conference and among those is new information about the long-expected desktop mode. Spotted by XDA Developers in one of the search giant's many half-hour long video sessions posted to YouTube, the company recently outlined some features that will enable better support for a wealth of display types.

Developers who take advantage of the incoming changes will be able to build apps that are better suited for foldable panels and larger screen sizes. Of course, that's big news for tablets and folding smartphones, providing a deeper look into how each panel on those is handled, but the biggest changes may just be those associated with 'extended' displays.

The desktop mode in Android Q was spotted well ahead of Google I/O 2019 but the video session provides a much deeper look at how that will probably work when it lands. The focus here is to build a way for Android apps to be displayed on external screens in a way that's similar to but will go beyond Samsung's DeX.


Making use of the new feature

Some of the biggest details provided by Google include that Android Q's desktop mode will support multiple instances of a single app on multiple displays as well as the ability to move the keyboard off of either as needed.

That means that developers will be able to enable the keyboard on a smartphone or tablet while using the entirety of the other display's real estate for content. Conversely, the keyboard could be shown on both.


Since apps can be run on two displays simultaneously in different instances, users could feasibly have the same app running two completely different things at the same time or even split functionality between the two.

An easy example of how that might be used might be seen in a variety of cases involving media playback such as a video streaming application. The developer could enable the playback on one display such as a television with a smaller version of the playback on the smartphone or tablet. A user might also be able to display something entirely different on the larger display. By connecting a keyboard, the two might be able to be controlled separately too.

That's made possible via some new attribute flags that can be added such as 'NEW_TASK' and 'MULTIPLE_TASK', enabling what the company calls "multi-resume behavior."


The same concepts will take things much further than that as well. Wallpapers and other customizations, including launcher applications, will be usable on the secondary display separately from the first display, enabling 'extended desktop' style use cases for improved productivity.

Android edges closer to Chrome OS

The ability to use a smartphone like a desktop computer will very nearly make Android devices nearly identical to Chrome OS computers. In effect, any Android device running the newest version of the OS could be plugged into a display with access to all of Android's apps, Chrome, and web apps. The only feature missing would be Linux apps, which can be run using certain apps to varying degrees.


That could ultimately be just another step in Google's push toward implementation of its from-the-ground-up operating system "Fuchsia" but it's not only going to benefit mobile users.

The new feature will, in fact, benefit Chrome OS since a significant focus for its use is to bring apps to larger screens in a more native and usable format. So, instead of the commonly seen stretched applications with an abundance of wasted real-estate, Chromebooks could see a rise in apps designed expressly to take advantage of the extra space.