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Android 3.2 getting new 'zoom' mode for small apps on big screens

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Platforms live and die by the quality and quantity of apps written for them. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 to 350 Honeycomb-optimized apps available right now, developer buy-in continues to be a challenge for Android 3.x-based tablets -- but it's a problem Google looks to be trying to solve with "the upcoming release" (in all likelihood, version 3.2).

Apps running on the platform will now be user-switchable between "stretch" and "zoom" modes. Stretch mode is the same functionality that's available today: the layout of controls within the app is stretched to accommodate the additional screen real estate available on a tablet -- so if you're using an app that was designed with phones in mind, the stretched layout can look bad or render the app entirely unusable. Zoom mode is new, and it's simple enough; it just simulates a low-res display and zooms in to make it take up the entire screen, similar to the 2x mode available for iPhone apps on the iPad. It still won't look great -- it'll be pixelated, just as it is on the iPad -- but if the alternative is a crazy, illogical layout, this is the better option. Developers can disable the zoom option altogether if they've explicitly designed their apps to natively accommodate tablet-size screens.

Clearly, this move is designed to allow Honeycomb users greater access to the beefy, well-stocked Android Market than they have today. It certainly goes a long way toward addressing the quantity issue, but quality still remains a challenge here -- a stretched phone app will never look or work as well as its tablet-optimized equivalent. Hopefully, Ice Cream Sandwich will have a few more answers for us.

Source: Android Developers Blog