Android is an operating system designed for smartphones and tablets, but over the years we’ve seen multiple attempts to turn it into a desktop operating system with custom Launcher apps, custom ROMs, or features like Samsung’s DeX, which gives Android a taskbar, start menu, and multi-window app support when you connect a keyboard and/or display.

Now Xiaomi is getting in on the action with PC Mode software.

But Xiaomi’s software is a little different because it makes its debut on the Mi Mix Fold, a smartphone with a foldable display that can be unfolded to reveal a tablet-sized screen. And so unlike DeX, you don’t need to plug in anything to use PC mode on a smartphone if you’re using Xiaomi’s foldable device. Just unfold the phone and activate the feature with a gesture (swipe three fingers from the right edge of the display).

Mi Mix Fold with PC Mode (via xda-developers)

As explained by the folks at xda-developers, performing that gesture will rearrange the Android user interface, giving you a taskbar at the bottom of the screen with (from left to right):

  • Button that you can press to bring up a start menu/app launcher
  • Search icon
  • Icons for currently-running applications
  • Up arrow – press this to bring up volume and brightness sliders and other quick settings
  • Battery indicator
  • Time and Date
  • Notifications
  • Three navigation buttons (Recents, Home, and Back)

Xiaomi’s version of a start menu includes a list of apps, a search bar, and shortcuts for opening your device settings and locking your screen, among other things.

While the whole thing looks a lot like Windows or Chrome OS, it’s still Android under the hood. But now when you launch an Android app, it will be displayed in a phone-shaped window rather than in a full-screen view. This lets you view up to four applications at the same time and minimize apps, while still being able to see at a glance which apps are running thanks to the taskbar.

Some apps can be maximized to run in full-screen in PC mode, while others cannot. And some can be resized at a more fine-tuned level, letting you change the shape or size of the window while still viewing multiple apps simultaneously.

PC Mode wasn’t available for the Mi Mix Fold when the phone first launched earlier this year, but it is rolling out now to users via a software update.

You can find more details and plenty of additional pictures at xda-developers.

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  1. I had a Surface 3, and still occasionally use my Yoga Tab 2 and Samsung GalaxyBook 10.6. They’re all pretty nice and have a 3:2 ratio. I’d love it if some Win 10 tablets adopted the 4:3 ratio. Until then, 3:2 seems to be the best we can get. I hate that Samsung moved from 4:3 to 16:10 on their tablets. 🙁

  2. You say “unlike DeX, you don’t need to plug in anything to use Xiaomi’s PC Mode.” That’s funny, I’m in Dex mode on my Tab S5e right now. It works fine all alone on the tablet without a dock or monitor concected.

    However, given the size of the screen and my aging eyes, I don’t expect to use Dex often without a large monitor. Even with a monitor, for that matter.

  3. Aside from the folding screen (at least for the moment), this is my ideal concept for a portable device. An 8″ to 10″ screen, a desktop-oriented interface, and a tall-ish screen aspect ratio.

    Funnily enough, the only device I’ve ever owned that achieved this was the Xiaomi Mipad 2. It was a 4:3 ratio iPad-mini knockoff that ran Windows 10.

    If folding screen technology ever gets to the point where it is affordable and trustworthy enough for me to gamble on it, I would buy this exact concept. Just not from Xiaomi.

    1. I had a Surface 3, and still occasionally use my Yoga Tab 2 and Samsung GalaxyBook 10.6. They’re all pretty nice and have a 3:2 ratio. I’d love it if some Win 10 tablets adopted the 4:3 ratio. Until then, 3:2 seems to be the best we can get. I hate that Samsung moved from 4:3 to 16:10 on their tablets. 🙁