Although it isn’t exactly the one Google OS to rule them all, Chrome OS has long been able to run both of Google’s preferred platforms and then some. It did take a while before it could properly handle Android apps and, even then, there are still a lot of rough edges thanks to the wide variety and quality of those apps. Years after there have been tablets, many Android apps still live in a phone-only world, but that’s, fortunately, changing with Google’s latest push for big-screen Android devices and, of course, Chromebooks.
Android apps that have been made only with phones in mind behave unpredictably or undesirably on large screens. On tablets, they often force a portrait orientation, which can be awkward and unusable for tablets 10 inches or greater in size. On Chromebooks, the app’s UI gets stretched, delivering a very suboptimal experience.
Some Android apps let windows be resized on Chrome OS, allowing users to select what best works for them. Not all apps support this, however, and it’s often a guessing game that people shouldn’t have to play. With the upcoming Android 12L changes, they won’t have to.
As spotted by Chrome Unboxed last month, Google has been working on a compatibility mode for Android apps on Chrome OS and, apparently, on Android tablets, too. This will add a very conspicuous button in the middle of an Android app’s window title bar, indicating that a certain app’s UI is optimized for a certain form factor. More importantly, this feature automatically resizes an app’s window to make it look and behave better on Chromebooks and even lets users switch between different form options.
This is part of Google’s newly-announced push to support large-screen Android devices, what it calls Android 12L. Ideally, developers would design their apps to support different screen sizes and form factors, including foldables, but this Compatibility Mode at least offers a stop-gap measure for apps that don’t.