Google and Samsung should take a look at how Microsoft is making sure dual-screen apps are done right

Surface Duo
Surface Duo (Image credit: Windows Central)

Wee little Android guys

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Foldables and other dual-display extra-large phone screens are already a thing. The Galaxy Fold may not have sold millions and millions of units, but after some changes were made to the initial design, the people invested in it love the thing. Motorola is slated to release one very soon. LG has something very similar with the LG G8X. And Microsoft made the internet gasp when it showed off the Surface Duo.

Foldables aren't the future. They're here right now.

Android has support for foldable screen devices built-in, but it's not very comprehensive. That's why Samsung's apps look and act better on the Fold than most apps from the Play Store do. It all hearkens back to the tablet support thing, where support means it will work, but might not work great. This is because most apps have been designed for a 5-inch or so display and there are things in an app that need to stay in the same place no matter how big you scale it up.

Google did a fine job making sure everything would work. But Microsoft is going a step further for the Surface Duo. And it's a step in the right direction.

When your building apps that stretch across one giant screen or two giant screens with a small bezel in the middle, there's a right way and a wrong way. Stretching out a "regular" app might work, but then again it might not work. When you have that much real estate to work with, you should take advantage of it. It's easy to see what I'm talking about if you've ever used a proper tablet app like Google Play Books or Gmail on a proper tablet.

Columns and rows matter. Where media is placed on the layout matters. Where controls, buttons and gadgets are matters. When your device will be two separate displays like Microsoft's will, it really matters.

An app's layout on a giant display is important, especially if it has a bezel in the middle.

That's why Microsoft has already released a preview of the SDK for the Duo, complete with an emulator preview where developers can test how things can be done to take the most advantage of all that screen space. And as a bonus, it is doing the same thing for dual-display Windows 10 devices soon, too.

This is important for Microsoft, who wants apps to look and feel the same on every product with its name on the case. Whether it's Office 365 or Angry Birds, the experience you have on all your devices should feel constant and fluid. And this is coming from a company that hasn't yet released a dual-screen anything. It's great to see ways for developers to get prepared.

Do and do not

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Of course, it's easier for Microsoft to do this for its own products. Google can hardly make an SDK that covers every folding or two screen clamshell that will ever run Android because each can and will be very different. The Galaxy Fold is one display that acts very differently that LG's clamshell solution. Motorola's vertical flip is different from either. The next phone will be different from all of those.

It would be tough for Google to offer platform-level support this way, but Google is really good at doing the tough things.

What we do know is that Microsoft is offering support — including hands-on developer days — for it's upcoming foldable Android device well in advance of its launch. There is an incentive for Google and its partners to start doing the same if we ever want a Galaxy Fold to run apps well, then switch for a Motorola RAZR Flip and have the same apps "feel" the same.

Things might be different because of how many Android OEMs there are and each does its own thing — which is exactly what Microsoft is doing, to prove my point — but doing difficult and different things is how great things happen. I want to see Microsoft's strategy copied and refined in a way where every foldable device gets a first-class experience that makes us love it.

I'm an RHCE and Electrical Engineer who loves gadgets of all kinds. You'll find my writings across Mobile Nations and you can hit me on Twitter if you want to say hey.

22 Comments
  • Hopefully, Devs will do what's necessary to make apps work on foldable screen and dual screen apps. The potential, in my opinion, is much greater on dual screen than a single folding screen. Imagine video apps like Netflix, Hulu and the likes using the second screen for film info or controls, while holding the device. Controls can be a bit more concise or even info in special director cuts. On screen controls for mobile games and so many other options, mobile game developers may have thout about, but never implemented, because of screen size and usability. Imagine being able to sing along with your favorite song, as lyrics populate the second screen to be easily viewed. Camera or video and picture editing apps could hab more on-screen options, while editing the video or pics on the other.
  • Dual screens will never be as great as a single screen that is double the size. When folding screens become mature, dual screens will be totally pointless. You could just add an artificial bezel to a single screen so it looks like a dual screen, but why would you even do that?
  • "Imagine video apps like Netflix, Hulu and the likes using the second screen for film info or controls, while holding the device" Imagine video apps like Netflix, Hulu and the likes using both screens as a single large screen. Why would I want to waste half of my screen space for controls or info - both of which will appear WHEN I NEED THEM with a single touch on the screen.
  • Let's see the Duo before we say it is doing it right. So far it looks awesome, but kinda early to praise an unreleased product....
  • That's a matter of perspective. I know, you will bring up the previous dual screen phones. But, in reality, the consumer base just wasn't ready and neither were the app developers. I think both are ready for something new. I honestly think there is room for both form-factors, because of the differences, despite some obvious similarlies. Neither form factor will fit everyone's needs, or at all. However, both have a chance at being great in their own right. It's way too early to talk about what will or will not work in the tech climate we are currently in.
  • You didn't address what I said, so I guess I will repeat it. Dual screens will never be better than a single screen that is the same size as the two together. You could even make the single screen appear like a dual screen with an artificial bezel to prove my point. Today you can try to make a durability argument, but even then I bet you anything the Galaxy Fold will beat the Duo in a drop test. When folding screens become mature and cheaper, dual screens will dissappear completely. Microsoft is betting on a form factor that is merely a stop gap that will prove to be short-lived.
  • "Dual screens will never be better than a single screen that is the same size as the two together." I'm wondering why then do people continue to use multiple screens on their desktops if one wide screen would "be better"? People will always fill the space available and then wish they had more.
  • Price, availability, desk ergonomics, and budget is why. That's easy
  • Yup. I would have an ultra-wide if they weren't also ultra expensive.
  • I think you just defeated your own argument. If ultra-wides are ultra expensive, why would foldable displays be anything less than ultra expensive for the next few years? The Galaxy Fold costs $2K. We'll see where the Duo comes in on price and how it works in general, but if it's less than $1,500, I question how many people will opt for the single foldable display if it's $500 more.
  • I said price is the only advantage, and today ultra-wide monitors aren't actually that expensive. I will probably get one for work soon.
  • Generally speaking, yes, one large foldable screen - WHEN THE TECH IS MORE MATURE - will probably be better than a foldable dual screen device. Right now that's not the case and even next year it probably still won't be the case. Also, why or how would you know the galaxy fold would do better in a drop test against the duo? That's purely speculation at this point. However, there is another side to advancing technology in general. Generally, it's hard to get the average person to engage in newer tech. Sometimes you have to go in smaller increments and sometimes the existing tech/implementation doesn't make it 'good enough' to become mainstream.
  • I wouldn't say that yet. The Galaxy Fold is looking good according to reviews. I would prefer the Fold to the Duo. The big screen is compelling.
  • Actually, I did address what you said. Your opinion on one screen being better than one is relative and a matter of perspective. So, no need to directly address it, because WE don't know. Only time will tell if one or the other or both will succeed.
  • Edit correction: "one screen being better than two."
  • It isn't a matter of perspective. A screen with no black line down the middle is better than a screen the same size with a black line down the middle. Take your laptop screen, draw a line down the middle and then try and argue it is better because it is now two screens. That basically is your argument. A dual screen phone is the low rent foldable. The only advantage is price.
  • I don't agree. I like the two separate monitors I have as is, they are separate entities in reality and in my head/workflow. I don't want an ultra-wide to have to piss about snapping screens and resizing/overlapping and the like. There's a physical gap between my monitors which helps me differentiate between the two for my workflow and my focus. I concentrate on one, then the other. An ultra-wide with or without a black line would not be the same experience.
  • Pause... That was never my argument. The argument you are assuming I'm making is like saying a Prius is better than a Hell Cat. Both are cars. Both will get you from point A to B. However, the differences in the two have their own benefits and cons. Which is better depends on which you prefer and want from a car. Which car is better? Regardless of the answer, it remains a matter of perspective. I honestly don't know which one I would prefer, because I have not used either one. However, I don't see that having two screens verses one as a better than the other, because that would imply that everyone agrees that having one folding screen is better than having two individual screens, which isn't the case. I think it will depend on the person and what they need it for. Some of us may not actually have an issue with dual screens. So, if people who decide to choose Duo over the Fold, either don't mind the seam or have other uses for it that a dual screen may work better for the idea that one is better than the other remains "subjective and a matter of perspective".
  • I wasn't replying to you. I was replying to Bleached. I actually agree with you. I was just pointing out a use case where I found two separate screens preferable to one large. You really should have read my post before jumping in. :-)
  • I know. I may have hit you response by mistake, but I was replying to Bleach, as well.
  • Remember all of the wacky designs that came with w8? I think dual screens will be the "wacky" design of this screen evolution of mobile devices. Either that or it will be viewed as the cheaper way to have more screen real estate by the general public therefore be less of a draw and nothing much for people to clamor over in comparison to single foldable screens.
    The actually arrival of this product is a couple years too late to have a HUGE impact on the tech sphere in hindsight, in my opinion
  • Perhaps not. Let those dual screens die.