Now that the first Android Q beta is here, folks are starting to poke around and see what it can do. Google highlighted some key features related to foldable and multi-screen devices, privacy, and support for new file types. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s also a new Files app, a new way to see how much battery life you have left, the beginnings of a built-in screen recorder, new Always-on Display features (for Pixel phones at least), and much more.
One particularly interesting unannounced feature? Support for a desktop mode that makes Android work a little more like Windows, macOS, or ChromeOS.
adb shell am start -n “com.android.launcher3/com.android.launcher3.SecondaryDisplayLauncher”
You can also activate this mode on a Pixel smartphone running the Android Q beta, but the use of the “SecondaryDisplayLauncher” string suggests that Google didn’t really design this user interface for your smartphone screen.
Rather, it could let you connect your phone to an external display to see a desktop, taskbar, and support for running apps in resizable windows that you can move around the screen.
As the folks at xda-developers note, the current Pixel smartphone lineup doesn’t support display output via the USB port, but I wonder if it might be possible to use a Chromcast or similar device to use desktop mode with a wireless display.
Desktop mode could also make sense for foldable devices, possibly giving you access to a desktop, taskbar, and freeform window support when you’re using a large screen, and a smaller, full-screen view when you fold your device up to use it as a phone with a smaller display.
It’s also possible Google won’t actually make this a user-focused feature. The company first started to include support for running apps in freeform windows in an early preview of Android 7 Nougat, but the company didn’t make the feature public when the operating system launched later in 2016. It was up to independent developers to find ways to enable it.
With five more Android Q beta released to go until the operating system is finalized, it’s a little too early to say whether desktop mode will make the final release this time.